After 33 years on Randolph Street, Perez Restaurant will close on Sept. 30, owner Jose Perez confirmed. The restaurant’s lease is up at the end of the month, and the building’s new landlord declined to renew, Perez said. The casual restaurant at 853 W. Randolph St. serves burritos and tacos. But more than three decades after opening, it now sticks out among a crowd of pricey options along the trendy West Loop strip.
Perez wanted to keep his restaurant open, but the building’s new owners have plans which they haven’t shared with him. Over the last few weeks, he’s shared the news with his customers, some of who have teared up knowing that affordable Mexican food is difficult to find in the neighborhood. Perez takes pride in the quality of his menu: “It’s not upscale food,” Perez said. “My food is original and authentic, and everybody loves it.”
There are other Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood like De Cero, Leña Brava, Federales, and La Josie. But they are different: “There’s no places for affordable food; it’s only me,” Perez said. “Everywhere else you pay for tacos — $5, $6 — and you get half the taco I have.”
Perez’s history with the space extends further than just his restaurant. Before Perez opened, the space was Pepe’s Retail Meats, a meat-packing plant that was in step with the rest of the butcher-centric neighborhood. Perez converted the space to a restaurant as he saw the neighborhood changing. After more than three decades operating a restaurant, Perez doesn’t want to evolve again. He’s tired and his children are pursuing careers in the medical field. That means he can’t pass the restaurant business to them. However, he admits that he has been looking at other restaurant spaces and said he may even open a seafood spot.
The restaurant’s block also includes Jaipur Restaurant and the former Graham Elliot Bistro space that’s under construction. Gideon Sweet should open next month. Cook County records show a group that appears to be Beverly Hills, 90210 fans — calling themselves “Peach Pit LLC” after a restaurant featured in the 1990s TV drama — purchased the 27,000-square-foot building in December.
After spending nearly all his life on Randolph Street working at two businesses, Perez is sad that he’s leaving. He’s seen the area transform from when Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios opened in 1988. He’s seen restaurants replace meat-packing businesses. He’s accepted the fact that Perez’s days are numbered, even though he’s bittersweet that he feels like he’s being forced out: “It is what it is,” Perez said.
Perez thanked his customers for their years of support. Those loyal fans have a little more than two weeks to visit Perez, a Randolph Street relic.