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HQ Restaurant Wants To Be Irving Park's Date-Night Headquarters

By Patty Wetli | February 27, 2015 5:45am
 Eduardo Quintero and Philip Howard are the owners behind Irving Park's new HQ Howard Quintero restaurant, which is celebrating its grand opening Friday.
Eduardo Quintero and Philip Howard are the owners behind Irving Park's new HQ Howard Quintero restaurant, which is celebrating its grand opening Friday.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

IRVING PARK — The owners of HQ Howard Quintero restaurant, opening Friday, admit they took a backward approach to planning their new venture.

"We decided once we found the place, we'd decide what [kind of food] to do," said Philip Howard, the H in HQ.

Once they saw the space at 4114 N. Kedzie Ave., chef Eduardo Quintero, Howard's partner in the enterprise, had his inspiration for the restaurant's culinary direction: contemporary American with global influences.

"I look at the neighborhood, I see a lot of young people with good incomes," said Quintero, who lives across the street from HQ. "There's nothing like this here, until now."

Hibiscus beet salad, beer braised pot roast sandwich, bacon studded meatloaf and Szechwan barbecued salmon are just a few of the dishes diners will get their first taste of Friday during HQ's grand opening.

"Every salad and entree has a different flavor component," Quintero said. "Everything is made fresh and in-house," down to the bread used in HQ sandwich wraps and the dressings for its salads.

In developing his menu, Quintero, 43, drew on his nearly 30 years of experience working in kitchens.

"I started as a dishwasher and became a chef," he said.

His gigs have ranged from hotels to country clubs and included a stint at the dearly departed Spruce. Quintero met Howard, 23, at his most recent gig, Hel's Kitchen catering in suburban Northbrook.

"He's definitely got the energy," Quintero said of his young partner.

Howard will handle front-of-house business while Quintero focuses on HQ's food, but in the run-up to the restaurant's opening both have taken on the role of contractor, decorator, painter and whatever else was called for to transform the storefront's interior.

"I can't even count how many times we've been to Home Depot," said Howard.

They took possession of the restaurant back in September and thought they'd be open in three months, but wound up making more changes than planned, he said.

The two reupholstered HQ's banquettes themselves and the restaurant's textured walls were the pair's solution to covering up imperfections in their paint job.

"We're not professionals," Howard noted.

The results are anything but amateurish.

Though HQ presents an unassuming face at street level, inside it gives off a warm, casually elegant World Market-meets-supper-club vibe.

One of the few features Howard and Quintero retained from HQ's former occupant — a restaurant called Crazy Margarita that didn't even have a liquor license — is a zinc bar that looks like something straight out of a Rat Pack movie. Sinatra playing on HQ's wireless speakers only enhances the mood.

"We want to create a nice date-night experience," Quintero said. "We want this place to really invite people in."

A father of three himself, Quintero also emphasized that families are more than welcome at HQ, with seating designed to accommodate larger groups.

A kids menu is still in the works, as is weekend brunch and a liquor license — so it's BYOB for now. Plans are to add daily specials and more vegetarian options but while they train staff, Howard and Quintero said they're trying to keep things streamlined.

Flexibility is the key to their approach.

"We're going to play with different flavors and see what the neighborhood likes," said Quintero, who intends to change the menu seasonally. "We want the neighborhood to shape us, to see what people like."

As Friday's 5 p.m. grand opening approached, Quintero admitted to being nervous, excited and "more tired than anything."

"It's been a really long process," said Howard. "We're finally ready to start the fun part."

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