LITTLE VILLAGE — A spot offering churros, funnel cakes, milkshakes and more is on its way to Little Village.
Aldo Rios, a Little Village native, and wife Ana Maciel are opening El Churro Shop at 3536 W. 26th St., promising to bring a variety of sweets and drinks to the neighborhood.
Rios’ churros will be the flagship item for the brick-and-mortar shop. It’s an extension of a pop-up business he started during the pandemic, All Doh’z Churros. Starting in fall 2020, Rios sold homemade churros through social media, then moved into having a stand on West 26th Street and at various pop-ups.
Rios and Maciel said they are excited to make their mark with a permanent location on West 26th Street.
“We don’t have a coffee shop [in Little Village]; we don’t have an actual churro shop … something where we could just hang out and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, sit down, use the internet,” Rios said. “We need something more in this neighborhood to keep our neighborhood people in here.”
Rios said he considered opening in another neighborhood, either in Pilsen or somewhere farther north.
“But my biggest thing was, ‘No, if we do something, it has to be here in Little Village,’” he said.
The storefront is under construction. Rios and Maciel said they anticipate a soft opening in four to six weeks.
Rios — who had 14 years of culinary experience — said he had some knowledge of the traditional dough used to make churros, but the free time he had during quarantine gave him time to experiment with something of his own. Through trial and error, he came up with his own dough, as well as recipes for dipping sauces.
Maciel and the rest of Rios’ family have pushed him to do something on his own, he said. Prior to the pandemic, he had cooked in kitchens in Texas, Mexico City and Chicago.
When Rios asked himself what he could make on his own, churros were one of the first things that came to mind, he said. It was something no one else was doing at the time, and it had ties to his Mexican heritage.
The name of Rios’ pop-up was a play on his first name and a joke of all the doughs he experimented with to get the final recipe.
Maciel said her husband converted the basement of their Little Village home into his “lab,” spending countless hours working on his recipes.
“All the time, he was trying different dough, like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to change it. This one is too soft. This one is too hard.’ Until he got to the perfect recipe,” Maciel said.
While Maciel doesn’t have the same background in food as Rios, she said, “It’s easy to fall in love with whatever the person you fell in love with loves.” She said she’ll work more on the administrative side of the business.
Rios said he credits the response and feedback from the community as the reason why his churro business was able to grow from a pop-up to a brick-and-mortar operation.
Rios said that when he started selling his churros on the corner of 26th Street and St. Louis Avenue, “People would just stop and be curious, like, ‘What are you doing, what are you cooking?’ … We started realizing a little more seriously about how this has a lot of potential.”
On top of providing people with a delicious churro, Rios wanted customers at his pop-ups to have the experience of watching the churro be made in front of them. He would fry the churros in oil in a large cazo de cobre, a copper pot traditionally used in making carnitas.
Rios said he plans to continue having this open kitchen in his store so people can watch their churro being fried and then drizzled in their chosen sauce.
“We really want to have views for the guests to come in and see what is being made, how it’s being prepared, kind of like a show at the same time,” Rios said.
Rios and Maciel said they hope the shop appeals to a wide variety of people in the neighborhood, from grandparents to young kids.
“The whole idea with this is bridging the gap between the older generation and the new generation via churros, and having a space where we could just come sit down … have something small and sweet,” Rios said.
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