LITTLE VILLAGE — Mi Tierra Restaurant made a quiet return this week after its abrupt closure last year that took many Chicagoans by surprise.
The business had 30 years of history in the community. The original owner, Manuel Nuñez, was known for transforming the facade of the entire block on Kedzie to make it look like a Mexican hacienda, and every weekend the restaurant had live mariachi who brought visitors from all over the city and suburbs.
“I had been a customer of Mi Tierra for a long time, and when I heard it closed I became interested in the possibility of bringing it back,” said the new owner, Ezequiel Fuentes.
He and his wife, Guadalupe Fuentes, own a small chain of Mexican restaurants Downstate in Champaign where they live. They decided to buy the 22,000-square-foot Mi Tierra building and its two adjacent parking lots for $2.7 million.
The Fuentes are opening the restaurant one section at a time to ensure excellent customer service, they said.
“We are keeping the same concept because we want to respect the legacy,” Guadalupe said. “We have the same menu and are adding new things.”
Their specialty will continue to be parrilladas — grilled meats and seafood. And their margaritas will come in lime, strawberry, mango, guava, and tamarindo flavors, blended or on the rocks.
[Photos by DNAinfo/Jackie Serrato]
The Fuenteses called back 60 percent of Mi Tierra’s original staff, including most of their chefs and bartenders. They plan to re-hire members of the old band, Mariachi Angeles de Puebla, and also introduce new types of live musical performances.
Ald. George Cardenas said in a statement that "the historic restaurant has been an anchor for traditional Mexican celebration of culture in dining. ... The 12th Ward continues to flourish due to the strength of our residential business owners and loyalty of neighborhood customers. Little Village is a major cornerstone of Latino culture in Chicago."
Despite the restaurant's “soft opening,” the word has gotten around, and the employees expect a large turnout for Mexican Mother’s Day and upcoming first Communions and graduation celebrations. They also get regular foot traffic from Volkan, the Mexican nightclub across the street.
The restaurant will likely host the Mexican Independence Day Parade pre-party for elected officials in September, a tradition of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce.
Mi Tierra Restaurant is expected to run in its full capacity by the end of the month. Parking is free.
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