A longtime Mexican restaurant in Elgin is back with a second generation incarnation, and for owner Maria Ibarra, the space holds poignant memories of her late father and late granddaughter.
Ibarra opened La Tremenda 2 in December at 481 Bluff City Boulevard, in the same spot as the original La Tremenda run for more than two decades by her father, Elias Ibarra. The restaurant closed in 2010, three years after her father died and when it became too difficult for her mother to continue running it, she said.
The restaurant is the place where last she saw her granddaughter Brianna Marie Soto on May 4, shortly before Brianna got into her car and died in a crash in Pingree Grove that injured five other teens.
"My dad was here for 23 years, and it's the place where he had his stroke. My granddaughter, this is the last place she was (before the crash)," Maria Ibarra said. "With both of them, I feel their presence here."
La Tremenda 2 offers the same recipes used by her parents, like "secret seasoning" for tacos and "secret ingredients" for rice water, or horchata, she said. "People would try to get the recipe out of us. My mother would joke and say, 'I use bleach, Pine-Sol, Ajax. I can't give the recipe!'"
The restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday. It was granted a liquor license to sell beer and wine by the city's liquor control commission on Wednesday; the measure needs final approval from the city council.
"I'm glad to see that La Tremenda 2 started, because La Tremenda was so successful," Councilwoman Rose Martinez said. "It's nice to have more choices for residents."
The Ibarra family has lived in Elgin since the 1970s; Elias Ibarra, whom everyone called 'papa,' was a founding member of El Mesias United Methodist Church of Elgin.
Maria Ibarra, a single mother of three sons, said she worked in construction for 18 years, mainly doing road striping for a company in South Elgin.
She became a truck driver in 2011, but the long weeks away from home on hauls all the way out to California became too taxing, so in 2013 she started her own small truck company, she said.
The idea of opening a restaurant came from work, she said. "I would make tacos for everyone -- for the driver and the paver and everybody -- and they said, 'Why don't you open up a restaurant?'"
When her sons encouraged her to take a chance, she decided to go for it, she said.
The oldest of five siblings, Maria Ibarra said she's happy to carry on the family's legacy. "It makes me feel good," she said.