Cemitas Puebla, a trailblazer in Chicago that changed the city’s perceptions when it came to Mexican food, is closing its final location. Management, via Facebook, wrote they would close the Fulton Market location on Friday after previously closing the landmark original Humboldt Park restaurant and spinoffs in Hyde Park and Logan Square. That ends six years of selling popular sesame seed-topped sandwiches at 817 W. Fulton Market, arriving before the city built its fancy neon gateway and larger restaurant groups began descending, and 18 years overall of Cemitas Pueblas restaurants.
Management confirmed the closing via True West Loop on Facebook. Founder Tony Anteliz couldn’t be reached for additional comment, but the restaurant’s Facebook announcement read in part that “there were multiple factors that lead to this difficult decision but ultimately we believe it is the right one for us.”
Mexican sandwiches were the heart of the restaurant’s menu. The pork milanese cemita was a favorite, but recently management changed the menu to remove it and other items. True West Loop noticed the changes in November. Management also experimented with grab-and-go burritos as Cemitas Puebla tried to compete in a saturated market that continues to grow tougher thanks to large new entries like Time Out Market. New restaurants also struggle, as Fulton Galley closed in November after five months. Taco Mucho was one of the vendors inside the food hall and it also sold tortas.
The competitive atmosphere for restaurants was different when Cemitas Puebla opened its original location in 2002 in Humboldt Park. It was originally Puebla Taqueria and in 2008 its popularity soared thanks to a segment on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, becoming a former member of the Eater Chicago 38. That location closed in 2015, a year after the Fulton Market location opened. The new location, where the bakers made the buns, also allowed the restaurant to feed downtown customers, including office catering. The restaurants in Logan Square and Hyde Park opened and closed in that time as Anteliz said he hoped to find a new Humboldt Park location, which has yet to happen.
Independent restaurants are becoming scarce along Randolph Restaurant Row and on Fulton Market two blocks north. Cemitas Puebla’s closure underscores that reality.