ALBANY PARK — After years of planning and one year in business, a husband and wife team have moved their startup restaurant showcasing Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine into the Albany Park neighborhood.
Las Palmas, which started near Foster and Spaulding avenues in North Park, is now located nearby at 4959 N. Kedzie Ave. — and winning over new customers.
Co-owner Osmar Carreto worked in kitchens for the past 11 years and gained a lot of practical experience. A few years ago, he came home and told his wife, co-owner Maria Chiguil, he was tired for working for someone else and one day they’d have a restaurant of their own.
“Unfortunately, not every job treated me well. I told her we’re not going to spend the rest of our lives working for someone else,” Carreto said in Spanish.
The couple opened their initial location last year to test out the market.
Confident in their skills, the couple decided to relocate to Albany Park once the space became available. It’s near River Park, North Park University and across the street from a laundromat. They’ve been open for about three weeks at the new location, Carreto said.
“We’re doing good and, little by little, the neighborhood is getting to know us,” Carreto said.
Carreto and Chiguil are Guatemalan, but during his time working at other restaurants he mostly prepared Mexican food. He decided Las Palmas would serve Mexican dishes alongside food from where he grew up.
“I saw an opportunity to give people a mix of food they won’t find anywhere else. People who are familiar with one country’s food but not the other can experience both here,” Carreto said. “You’ll see restaurants that are either one or the other. But you don’t really see places that mix the two or have both on the menu.”
Las Palmas isn’t a fusion-style restaurant, but its menu has dishes like bistec a la Mexicana alongside Guatemalan-style tamales, which are larger than the Mexican variety and typically wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks.
“I’ve tried them from other places. But the woman we have here who makes them, she has a unique seasoning from Guatemala … that I’d say is very special,” Carreto said. “It’s a … different flavor you should try.”
The Guatemalan food at Las Palmas mostly comes from the dishes found on the western coast of the country and includes enchiladas that use corn tortillas made from scratch and covered in Guatemalan-style mole as well as a rustic, ranchero-style chicken soup.
The name Las Palmas — which means “palm trees” in Spanish — has caused some confusion among customers who think the couple’s restaurant is a relaunch of the Las Palmas that closed last year in Wicker Park or the Las Palmas Mariscos Mexican resultant in West Lawn, Carreto said.
“I tell them this is a new business that my wife and I named after a place in Guatemala that’s very beautiful,” Carreto said. “And our plans are, God willing, to not just have one Las Palmas but one day open more locations.”
Las Palmas is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday at 4959 N. Kedzie Ave. Its menu can be found on its website.
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