LOGAN SQUARE — Dos Amigos, a Mexican restaurant that has called Logan Square home for nearly 35 years, served its final customers over the weekend.
Owners Salvador Lopez and Benny Barrios recently sold the building at 2320 N. Milwaukee Ave. The new owner wanted them out by Oct. 1, Lopez said.
Sitting in the restaurant Monday morning, Lopez’s eyes welled up as he talked about letting go of the restaurant at the center of his life for more than three decades.
“I feel bad for my customers and for my myself,” Lopez said. “But I think the more important things in life [are] that you’re healthy, your family.”
Lopez, 63, said he would’ve liked to keep the restaurant open for another five or 10 years, but Barrios, 66, wanted to retire and move on. Barrios wasn’t immediately available for an interview.
Lopez and Barrios are both originally from Mexico. The two met many years ago in Chicago through Lopez’s brother-in-law, Lopez said.
Now that he’s out of the restaurant business, Lopez said he’ll spend the next few months visiting his ailing mother in Mexico. Once he returns, he plans on opening a restaurant of his own in Chicago. He said he’s not ready to retire.
“In life, you gotta do something,” he said.
The new restaurant, Lopez said, likely won’t be in Logan Square because the neighborhood has gotten too expensive, he said. Lopez is hoping to find a space nearby.
Dos Amigos sits on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that has changed dramatically in recent years. When Lopez first moved to the block in 1985, when the restaurant was located across the street, Logan Square was riddled with gang violence, he said.
Today, the stretch is lined with trendy bars, restaurants and other shops catering to millennials. Those changes mirror demographic changes: Logan Square’s white population has now surpassed its Latino population, according to a 2018 WBEZ analysis
Lopez said he bought the Dos Amigos building for $174,000 over the course of several years by giving the then-property owner some money each year until they reached the sale price.
He said they sold the building for much more than that to a person who is looking to open a new establishment in the Dos Amigos space, but declined to get into specifics. The sale was not listed in Cook County records Monday.
“I don’t like it because money — it’s not anything for me,” he said.
Lopez said one of his daughters died from lupus a few years ago, and his perspective on material things forever changed.
“Money maybe come and maybe not, but life. …,” Lopez said, trailing off, his eyes wet.
It’s been an emotional few days for Lopez. The restaurant’s last day was Sunday. Lopez is spending the week clearing out the restaurant. He’s thinking about giving away some of the traditional art pieces that hang on the walls.
Over the years, Lopez has forged special bonds with his customers, some of whom have been dining at the Mexican restaurant since it opened in the mid-’80s.
“They don’t feel like my customers — they feel like my friends,” he said.
A homeless man has been going to Lopez for free food for about seven years. Sunday Lopez had to tell him that it was the last time he’d be getting a free burrito.
“He don’t believe me,” Lopez said with a laugh. “He said, ‘I’ll check tomorrow.’ That’s the thing that’s very hard for me.”
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.