Located northwest of Elmwood Park’s bustling “restaurant row” on North Avenue and just east of “the circle,” Chi Taco Grill, a relative newcomer on the local dining scene, confidently stands alone at 7530 W. Grand Ave.
“The road to opening was long because of the renovation and dealing with the pandemic,” said Emilio Godinez, co-owner of Chi Taco Grill. “But the Village of Elmwood Park has been great about everything and business so far has been really good.”
Father and son, Hector and Emilio Godinez, purchased the small-scale property three years ago after agreeing something about the eatery appealed to them. It took the co-owners a few years to complete a thoughtful renovation to bring Chi Taco Grill to life, but the passionate duo’s modern taqueria is up and running and bringing a unique California twist to burritos, tacos, tortas and bowls.
Hector, a native of Jalisco in western Mexico, spent his early years cooking alongside his mother and father. Though the self-taught cook’s salsas are influenced by recipes he learned cooking alongside his parents, he had the menu for Chi Taco Grill in the back of his mind ever since he learned about California-style burritos.
Chi Taco puts a twist on tradition by cramming a handful of fresh cut fries into every burrito in true Cal Mex style. Hector took the concept a step farther by including fries inside of Chi Taco’s tortas and vegetarian tacos. In fact, fries are the first ingredient mentioned in nearly every menu item at Chi Taco Grill.
Feedback from eager customers has revealed steak is the most popular filling for Chi Taco’s offerings. Hector credits his special blend of seasonings for the popularity of his meat offerings—he spent years tweaking the recipe until it was just right. Vegetarians, however, have nothing to fear at Chi Taco. A robust mushroom and potato mixture can form the base of any bowl, burrito, torta or taco.
As summer draws nearer Hector and Emilio are eager to place a few tables outside and attach drop down benches along the east side of the building to increase their outdoor dining footprint. The taqueria has also been approved for a liquor license by the Village of Elmwood Park and the owners are currently exploring the option of adding a limited bar program to the restaurant including beer offerings and house-made micheladas.
In addition to his thoughtful menu, Hector is especially proud of the distinctive branding behind Chi Taco. Hector’s brother, Felipe Godinez is a creative director and brought Chicago-centric design elements forward in the branding. Both the logos and color scheme evoke the highly recognizable Chicago flag. Hector and Emilio are eager to grow the business and replicate the Chi Taco brand of California inspired Mexican fare at future locations.
“People from every walk of life are coming to my business and we have a really wonderful clientele,” said Hector. “We are proud our food at Chi Taco is always fresh and delicious. People love the taste of the food. It is 100% worth the trip from a neighboring suburb.”