When 53-year-old Nuevo León—the oldest restaurant in Pilsen—burned down in December 2015, many fans assumed that ownership would quickly rebuild. But there hasn’t been any movement almost a year and a half later.
Now comes word that the Gutiérrez family may never rebuild. Chicago talked to the family and workers at the Pilsen mainstay in a feature that reveals the trials and tribulations shared after the fire. Ownership, a month after the fire, quickly opened a more-upscale restaurant, Cantón Regio, across the street. The new restaurant was out of necessity, as much of Danny Gutiérrez Jr.’s savings stash also burned down. The family promised staff jobs if they helped them rebuild. About 20 staffers stuck with Nuevo León until the money started coming in later in January 2016.
Although customers at the new Cantón Regio frequently ask staff about Nuevo León’s mole, there are no plans to offer that on the menu. As for reopening, ownership worries that two restaurants could compete against each other. Also, it might be time to turn the page on the past as Regio has enjoyed success.
Although no decision has been finalized, Nuevo León’s story provides a cruel reminder that the restaurant industry is volatile and diners shouldn’t take special spots for granted.