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Face of the ’Hood: Jonathan Zaragoza, Archer Heights

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Jonathan Zaragoza

28, chef at Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights
4852 S Pulaski Rd (773-523-3700, birrieriazaragoza.com)

By Kris Vire Photograph by Jaclyn Rivas

For someone who’s still in his twenties, you’ve amassed quite the résumé. How far back does your culinary experience go?

The family restaurant opened in 2007, but I’ve been cooking goat since I was 12 to 15 years old. My dad started learning how to make this birria [stew] in La Barca, Jalisco, where we’re from [in Mexico], and he brought me with him. We built an oven in our backyard here on the South Side, and we would basically cook two goats a weekend.

You struck out on your own a bit, most notably at Masa Azul, before coming back to the family restaurant. Do you see yourself opening your own place in the next few years?

I’m so happy being able to share both everyday life and work life with my family. If I break off and do something else, I’m still representing them, in a way. That’s been my biggest takeaway from what I’m doing right now: learning to do things for everybody else, not just myself, not just my career. It’s made me a better son.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?

I live in Logan Square now, but I always like supporting friends around the South Side. I really love La Chaparrita in Little Village (2500 S Whipple St; 773-247-1402, facebook.com/lachaparritagrocery.1). As far as Archer Heights goes, check out El Solazo (5600 S Pulaski Rd; 773-627-5047, elsolazochicago.com)—my friend Pepe owns that. I actually just ran into him at another restaurant here, a mariscos joint called El Kora (5207 S Archer Ave; 773-284-2484, facebook.com/mariscoselkorarestaurant). They come into my restaurant, I go into their restaurant—we gotta support each other.

Time Out Chicago vol. 2, issue no. 12, June 13–September 4, 2018