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Chicago restaurateur coming to Center City

Alfredo Sandoval is bringing Mercadito and Double A to 2116 Chestnut St.

New York restaurateurs have been parachuting into Philly of late.

Here's one from Chicago, and this deal is a big one for Rittenhouse Square.

Alfredo Sandoval, who owns the upmarket Mexican restaurants Mercadito in Chicago, New York and Miami, will install a branch - twinned up with his cocktail bar Double A - at 2116 Chestnut St., the new high-rise at 22d and Chestnut Streets. (And less than two blocks from Stephen Starr's El Rey.)

Both Mercadito and Double A are now paired in Chicago's River North, with Double A set up speakeasy-style in an underground space accessible by a door with a peephole.

The project will have the stamp of the Tippling Brothers, the cocktail consultants who have done some work locally. The duo now works almost exclusively with Sandoval's Mercadito Hospitality.

"This is more than a Mexican restaurant," Sandoval told me. "It's more of an experience. People make it a night here. They come in for dinner and drinks, hang out, and move to Double A."

Sandoval's chef brother Patricio will spend the first six months here to get the kitchen up to speed.

The Philly Mercadito will seat 130. Double A - tucked behind Mercadito but also accessible by an alley entrance - will seat 40.

Put down the fork. Sandoval does not get the keys till February and opening is expected next summer.

Oh, and one other piece of out-of-town intrigue: Alfredo Sandoval's brother Richard is rumored to be inches from signing a deal of his own in Center City, Alfredo simply laughed when I asked him about it.