Mexique, chef Carlos Gaytan’s pioneering West Town restaurant that fused Mexican and French cuisine, closed over the weekend ending a 10-year run. The restaurant was empty on Saturday, and diners who had reservations arrived only to find the restaurant’s doors locked.
For now, Gaytan’s going to focus on Ha, his new restaurant at the Hotel Xcaret in Mexico. It may take a few months, but Gaytan vows he’ll have an announcement that will surprise Chicagoans. He had been traveling between Chicago and Mexico since his new restaurant opened in December.
His ex-wife, Iliamar, owns the West Town space that housed Mexique at 1529 W. Chicago Avenue. Gaytan didn’t blame the separation from his wife for the shutter, but did make it clear that he’s ready to embark on a new adventure at a new location. Any new Chicago restaurant from Gaytan would open at a new address.
“We have something around the corner for you,” Gaytan said. “It will be a great surprise for Chicago.”
When Mexique earned Michelin-star status, it was historic as Gaytan became the first Mexican-born chef with a Michelin-starred restaurant. He said he’s eager to make the restaurant inside the Hotel Xcaret one of the world’s best. Gaytan is a former Top Chef contestant, competing in 2013 in the New Orleans season. He placed third. Gaytan immigrated to Chicago in 1991 and worked at the Union League Club of Chicago and Bistrot Margot in Old Town before opening his own restaurant.
Despite not providing a timeframe for the new announcement, Gaytan promised that he will return to Chicago. On Sunday he celebrated Mexique’s 10-year anniversary as it opened in May 2008. The chef is bittersweet about the shutter.
“It’s not a building. Mexique is not a space. Mexique is family. Mexique is pure heart. It’s a story on a plate,” Gaytan said. “It has a soul. I don’t know — it’s just hard to express what Mexique is all about to me. It’s difficult to express how grateful I have been to the people I’ve worked with for the last 10 years.”
Mexique helped kickstart an era of modern Mexican food in Chicago in a fine dining setting. Again, Gaytan declined to share specifics, but he’s confident that patience will yield good news for Chicagoans.
“I’ll back back, I promise,” he said. “I’ll be back stronger than ever.”