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Chicago chef Erick Williams plans Mexican bar concept in Hyde Park

The new venue will be run in partnership with Jesus Garcia

Chicago chef and restaurateur Erick Williams recently announced plans to open a Mexican-inspired bar concept near his other restaurants in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

He’s doing it with longtime business partner Jesus Garcia, who is general manager of his flagship restaurant, Virtue.

Williams already has a thriving and award-winning business. Virtue is considered a must-dine location for many Chicagoans and visitors, and the chef has won accolades including being named Best Chef in the Great Lakes by the James Beard Foundation in 2022 and MenuMasters Innovator of the Year in 2023 by Nation’s Restaurant news. Virtue’s chef de cuisine, Damarr Brown, was named the Beard Foundation’s Emerging Chef in 2023.

Apart from Virtue, Williams and his team operate Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern across the street, which is Williams’ take on the food and fun of New Orleans, with what he calls an “up-South” vibe. His Mustard Seed Kitchen is a homestyle American food takeout spot that addressed for Williams a problem he noticed for his own family; how do you provide a healthy delicious dinner on the nights you have neither time nor inclination to cook? Top This Macaroni and Cheese was a chance for Williams and Brown to take their popular dish from Virtue and send it into the homes of Chicagoans topped with everything from fried chicken pieces to teriyaki pork belly.

Planning is underway on the new spot, slated to open later this year. Williams is known for creating concepts that coalesce around a strong sense of history and place and succeed in evoking the best of both in the dining experience, so he is excited to lean into Garcia’s personal history to ensure that their new space will fit seamlessly into that ethos.

Garcia recently discussed this new endeavor.

What was the impetus for this new place? 

We are so excited for this new concept, which focuses on the celebration of the rich culture that Mexico has to offer.

Right now, we are in the very early stages of planning, but know that the concept will be very cocktail-forward with well thought out food to complement it. We’ve brought on the amazing mixologist Paul McGee as a consultant who will help design the bar so the space is laid out properly. He also knows a thing or two about great cocktails. 

What are you most excited about? 

As someone who was born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, my family has worked hard to preserve and celebrate our Mexican Heritage. Two of my siblings were born here and they share the same sense of pride for our heritage. This concept will be a wonderful way to honor our culture. 

What are you most worried about?

Staffing within the hospitality industry. It is very challenging to find people that will fully commit and embrace the culture in our company. 

Can you share a bit about the personal history that is influencing this project?

I was born in the state of Puebla. Which is in the Southeast Region of Mexico. The region has an incredible combination of indigenous culture, great culinary history and colonial architecture. All those aspects make Puebla a hidden treasure. It is also the state in which Mexico defeated France in 1862 known as the Battle of Puebla, which is what is celebrated on Cinco de Mayo.

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