CHICAGO – FOX 32 Chicago is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with profiles on people and places in the Latino community and the impact they are having in our city.
In a special report, Sylvia Perez takes us to Little Village, where one family-owned restaurant is serving up more than just delicious Mexican food.
In the heart of the Little Village neighborhood, just steps from the iconic arch that’s known as the gateway to the Mexican capital of the Midwest, sits a family restaurant that’s been a mainstay for 50 years.
Los Comales was started in the early 1970’s by Camerino Gonzalez Valle, a hard-working immigrant who was missing the authentic food of his homeland.
“He kept looking for Mexican restaurants, but there was nothing around, and he wanted a taqueria, which is a diner. It’s a diner that specialized in quick casual fast food for the working man – blue collar family man – and that’s what he replicated here,” said Christina Gonzalez, his daughter.
He passed away in 2021 of cancer, but his children – including Christina Gonzalez, Larry Gonzalez and his grandchildren – carry on the tradition of what is said to be the first taqueria in Chicago. They offer dishes you couldn’t find anywhere else that still separates them today.
“From a certain part of Mexico which is a salted beef taco, beef cheek taco and cow tongue. Those inspire a lot of people to come here for these types of meals,” Larry said.
Larry and Christina describe their father as humble man with a big vision. That’s why 50 years later, they celebrate his meager beginnings with this mural that surrounds the entire restaurant building.
“It’s a representation of my father’s journey and beginning from his small-town humble beginnings to Chicago,” Larry said.
But this restaurant serves much more than authentic Mexican food. It was also a place that Gonzalez used to help other immigrants trying to make Chicago home. He would give them jobs, feed them and their families, help them with amnesty applications and even support them by helping them open their own Los Comales restaurants.
There are now a total of 16 of them in the city, suburbs and even the state of Texas, many operated by extended family members and former employees.
“He was very, like my sister said, a charismatic man, but very humble, very kind. He would find a way to touch people. And they would see the honesty in him,” Larry said.
To this day, Los Comales is a home away from home for the Mexican community. It held a big celebration for Mexican independence.
Little Village has been good to the Gonzalez family, and this family to it. They say their father attained the American dream, and they want other immigrants to know they can do it as well.
“It’s not just about the culture, it’s about spreading our cultures, and it’s about helping one another,” Larry said.
“We want people to know the immigrant that is now coming from all over the world, every one of them have the ability to do this,” Christina said.