Sometimes things don't work out as planned, which is perfectly OK with Cochinito Taqueria chef and co-founder, Travis Dickinson.
"Forever, I thought I wanted to open this little 30-seat fine dining place," says Dickinson, who got his start in the restaurant industry washing dishes at The Coeur d'Alene Resort and as part of the kitchen staff who opened the former Hot Rod Café.
After graduating from Post Falls High School with Cochinito co-founder and business partner, Justin Curtis, Dickinson moved to Portland, Oregon, for 15 years. He attended the Western Culinary Institute and worked for several restaurants.
He credits several chefs with teaching him "not just about food, but how to run a restaurant as a business, how to take care of your people and how to take care of yourself in this industry," says Dickinson.
Armed with that knowledge, Dickinson returned to the Spokane area, taking an executive chef position at Clover Restaurant in 2014.
During that time he started a family and continued to pursue the idea of opening his own place: the 30-seat fine dining spot of his dreams.
But the plan changed as he and Curtis were drawn to a new idea.
Though Cochinito incorporates features found in fine dining such as inventive food combinations, locally sourced and seasonal products, expert plating, and as many scratch-made items as possible, their idea was to simplify things by having customers order at the counter and grab their own drinks.
"Cochinito was always the project I wanted to do, taking a cuisine I love, applying fine dining sourcing and technique, but doing it in an approachable and affordable way," says Dickinson.
The result has earned them raves from all angles: including Best Tacos in the 2021 Inlander readers Best of the Inland Northwest poll.
The menu is inspired by Dickinson's reverence for the culinary traditions of Mexico.
"My trips to Mexico to both travel and visit family have been huge for what I am doing now," says Dickinson, whose elote or grilled street corn (see recipe page 31) is typical of the kind of food served by Mexican street vendors he encounters in his travels.
"I tend to eat to a point of 'uncomfortable' every night we are there — trying to find the perfect version of every taco in the city," he says.
And then, of course, he brings that knowledge back home and applies it to the menu at Cochinito, sharing the best tacos he's ever eaten with his hometown. Sounds like a win-win.