LITTLE VILLAGE — Pilsen-based Carnitas Uruapan is in the early stages of opening its third restaurant, this one inside the vacant building that once housed La Concordia restaurant in Little Village.
With help from a city grant, the beloved Pilsen restaurant known for its authentic carnitas will rehab the building at 3801 W. 26th St., said owner Marcos Carbajal.
“We are very much in the early stages, but we are excited to see it take shape,” Carbajal said.
Carbajal received $250,000 for the project in the latest round of Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants. The restaurant was among 27 businesses that received funding.
“It’s a great city program,” Carbajal said. “I think it [helps] businesses to take a lot of risk off the table when it comes to expansion.”
Carbajal’s father, Inocencio, worked at a family butcher shop before emigrating from Mexico in the ’60s; he then worked at a West Loop meatpacking plant. He opened the first Carnitas Uruapan location at 1725 W. 18th St. in 1975.
In 2019, father and son opened a second location in Gage Park. It’s nearly double the size of their original location.
Carbajal, who took over the restaurant in 2013, has looked to expand into Little Village for many years.
After a different spot fell through, Carbajal walked through the space at La Concordia and liked the layout. Because of the bigger footprint, Carbajal will be able to offer a larger indoor dining area, and he wants a sidewalk cafe for outdoor dining during the summers.
In addition to the restaurant’s signature carnitas menu, Carbajal hopes to offer a few tequila or mezcal cocktails, a selection of microbrews and Mexican beers at the Little Village location.
Before finding out about the city grant, Carbajal said they were budgeting and finding ways to bring the third space together.
“The city grant goes a long way that we aren’t going to get stuck with a budget shortfall,” Carbajal said.
Carbajal hopes other businesses owners take advantage of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to revitalize buildings and open businesses in commercial corridors.
“I feel like the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is underutilized. … But hopefully other [business owners] can follow suit,” Carbajal said.
Barker/Nestor Architecture and Design, which helped design the Gage Park location, will take on this project. The exterior of the 1920s building will be preserved.
In the process of building out the space, Carbajal hopes to collect memories from folks who used to visit the restaurant and music venue.
“It definitely has good vibes, and good times were had there. … It’s nice to be able to bring that back,” Carbajal said.
Carbajal hopes to open the location in 2022.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: