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HomeVideoA Bite Of Mexico To Bring 'Heart And Love' To Mokena Brewery...

A Bite Of Mexico To Bring ‘Heart And Love’ To Mokena Brewery Space

MOKENA, IL — Ron Torres’ love of authentic Mexican food has deep roots that he can trace back to family dinners at his aunt Adele’s home in Midlothian that became celebrations built around familiar favorites.

Torres remembers the gatherings well, with generations of relatives sitting around a large table, enjoying food prepared with love. Among the offerings were handmade flour tortillas that Torres remembers making with his aunt as young as 5 years old with the assistance of his own rolling pin that had been handed down by the family matriarch.

Decades later, Torres is preparing to bring those same recipes to the former Tribes Brewing taproom space in Mokena, which he will soon open as A Bite of Mexico restaurant. The eatery will feature Mexican food staples such as tacos, burritos, and tortas, but will also include specialties that are near and dear to Torres’ heart and that will, he believes, take Mexican food to another level from what they may be accustomed to eating.

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Torres makes the transition into the beloved brewery space after running a small salsa and catering business out of his New Lenox home. The Tribes setting, especially with its handcrafted bar, always stuck out to him as a customer, which made it the ideal place to launch his Mexican eatery after Tribes closed the location on West Lincoln Highway permanently in 2019.

A Bite of Mexico will feature family recipes passed down from generation to generation that have been beloved by Ron Torres’ family for years. (Photo courtesy of Ron Torres)

Longtime Tribes customers will find much of the surroundings the same, Torres said, although another business, Illinois Bone and Joint, has taken over part of the former brewery space. Torres said that the restaurant will make the most of the bar space left behind by Tribes with an eclectic collection of craft cocktails, Margaritas, tequilas, and other spirits that will be the brain child of the eatery’s bar staff and mixologists.

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Yet, while Torres hopes diners and guests will find comfort in the familiarity of such a known location, he believes his food will be the true selling point.

Torres has displayed many of his culinary offerings on social media feeds that he created to promote his home business. His homemade salsas and other Mexican favorites became popular and eventually overwhelmed Torres with the demand to keep up with orders.

Torres said his father always wanted a little hot dog stand with some Mexican flair to call his own, which planted the dream of Torres one day opening an eatery of his own. Years ago, Torres’ late brother established friendships with local bar owners in Fox Lake, who, once a month, would allow Torres, his father, and his brother to take over the kitchen and create their Mexican favorites in the bar kitchen.

Ron Torres has been cooking with his family since a young boy, inspired by family restaurants from various regions of Mexico (Photo courtesy of Ron Torres)

Now, Torres is ready to take another step forward in his career as a budding restaurateur. While his catering and salsa business drew customers from New Lenox, Mokena and Frankfort, centralizing the new operation in such a familiar spot only makes sense as A Bite of Mexico prepares to launch.

“There’s so many different (varieties of) Mexican food, and you say ‘authentic’, but there’s so many states in Mexico and each state in Mexico all have variations of the same thing, but it’s all different,” Torres told Patch. “It’s the same but different.”

Ron Torres will open A Bite of Mexico in Mokena after running a salsa and catering company out of his New Lenox home for the past two years. (Photo courtesy of Ron Torres)

The same theme carries over at A Bite of Mexico, where many of the menu items will feature aspects of food Torres grew up on, but with his own twist. Some items will be authentic but elevated, while other recipes — notated by the name of one of Torres’ aunts who handed down the recipe – will remain true to the original.

The restaurant will feature menu items from various Mexican locales. The enchiladas are specific to the region that Torres’ family calls home, while the eatery’s take on fish tacos will represent the Baja region. The mole recipe will be one that has been developed over time by Torres, whose scratch-made mole poblano recipe boasts the sweet chocolate notes that many associate with mole, but also features a collection of roasted peppers between its 20-30 ingredients.

The recipes pay homage to their creators, and Torres hopes to create a comforting setting that resembles the family celebrations he remembers so well as his aunt’s home as a child. Torres has opened up the space with the blessing of many of his aunts whom he now cooks for and who say that the recipes remain the same, but that he has simply “chef ’ed them up” a bit.

Although A Bite of Mexico will feature a la carte items such as tacos, tortas and other favorites, the dinners will be the main event. Many of the items take Torres back to his formative years and the tastes that came out of his aunt’s kitchens, such as a simple family recipe for pork and pepper.

Now, he is hoping to replicate those for a larger audience.

“You’ll see it in the food,” he told Patch. “It’s going to be like going over to your aunt’s or grandma’s house and she’s been in the kitchen all day, and you’re just happy to have it. Those of the types of dinners you’ll be able to tell.”

He added: “The dinners are going to be where you see the heart and the love. You can make a taco, and a taco’s great, but when you see your dinner come out, and you taste it, you can taste the time and the love that goes into it.”

Many times, Torres says that friends and relatives have tasted his food, and they immediately say that the tastes transport them into a different time and place. For Torres, the compliment means more than those who delivered it may have intended.

Yet, as he prepares to open the restaurant in the former brewery space soon (no specific timeline has been set), he hopes for the same reaction from people looking for good authentic Mexican food and creations like his take on a torta sandwich that has had its bread dipped in guajillo pepper sauce and pan-fried before being stuffed with chorizo, potato and other ingredients that will deliver diners straight to Mexico City.

It’s a process that often comes with praise, but is all part of Torres’ motivation for opening his own restaurant, where he will bring his own twist to a space known well by so many local residents.

“That really hits me in the heart and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing,” Torres told Patch. “I really want people to experience Mexican food other than taco stands.”

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