WICKER PARK — Picante Taqueria, long a destination for tacos and other Mexican staples in Wicker Park, has closed.
Owner Felipe Caro confirmed the restaurant at 2018 W. Division St. had its final day in business this month. Picante has been operating in the neighborhood since 2001.
“It’s bittersweet, but it needed to be done,” Caro said. “A lot of people think it’s a sad thing. It’s not sad at all. It’s been good to me, and it’s time we put it to an end and do something else.”
Caro said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on business, especially as late night crowds barhopping on Division Street have shrunk.
He’s also struggled to adequately staff the restaurant — part of a larger trend across the hospitality industry.
“Staffing issues were honestly an issue prior to COVID, but COVID put it over the top,” Caro said. “But kudos to those are still in it. We need a place to go to, everybody’s gonna still need that.”
Caro is planning to open a yet-to-be announced breakfast restaurant in Picante’s place, hopefully by mid-February to capitalize on Valentine’s Day.
The restaurant will feature “bagels with a Latin twist, coffee and treats, bagel sandwiches, breakfast tacos … breakfast burritos, things like that,” Caro said.
Picante Taqueria was one of several restaurants once operated by Caro in Wicker Park. He also owned Authentaco, Flip and other ventures around the neighborhood.
Caro said he’s grateful for his more than two decades in business on Division Street, and is excited for what’s next.
“It’s a double-edged sword but mostly in a good way. Again, many accomplishments, I’ve met great people because of this, I’ve been involved with a lot of projects because of this,” he said. “I’ve met kids growing up when they’re just babies and now they’re adults, it’s been a privilege and I want to thank the community.”
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