Popular local caterer BeaUnique Latin Kitchen has signed a lease in downtown Elgin where it plans to open a restaurant this fall.
Owners Beatriz and Alberto Cardona said their success as a to-go and delivery business makes them confident and well-equipped to open the restaurant at 74 S. Grove Ave. even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm a person that I'm always like, 'We are going to be OK,'' Beatriz Cardona said.
The space had been occupied by Dog's Paw Brewing, which closed in March and whose lease ran out June 30. BeaUnique's lease started July 1. Anguleris Holdings landlords Ben Glunz and Freddy Munoz said they are elated about their new tenants. "They have an amazing track record here in Elgin for making these amazing foods," Glunz said.
BeaUnique offers a variety of Latin cuisine, including Beatriz's "famous" steak sandwiches, plus tacos, empanadas, Argentine choripan, jibaritos, Cuban sandwiches, tostones, Puerto Rican rice and more. "We have different foods from different nationalities," said Alberto, who is Puerto Rican; Beatriz is Mexican and Puerto Rican.
The restaurant will have a Latin vibe in its decor, drinks and music, the Cardonas said. The landlords -- they also own the building that holds Kubo Sushi Sake and Lounge a few doors down -- said they'll work with the couple to meld the buildings' historic features with a downtown Chicago feel.
BeaUnique has operated out of Shared Dream Kitchen in Elgin after starting in 2018 in the couple's home in South Elgin.
Beatriz started by cooking the food, putting it in a warming bag and driving to local businesses -- barbershops, car dealerships, small offices -- to offer it for sale. As word spread and orders began to mount, Alberto started helping with deliveries. "He's very supportive," she said.
The first big hit was selling out of a rented food truck at the Elgin Sports Complex, Beatriz said. The couple has held pop-up events and made appearances at Nightmare on Chicago Street, the Downtown Elgin Farmers Market and more. Their future plans include buying a food truck.
Cooking has been her passion since she was a little girl and watched her mother, Beatriz Cardona said.
"I always told people I was born to be a chef. I can just whip anything together," she said, adding she also learned from her father and her mother-in-law. "I love cooking. That's where I find my calmness."
Alberto said family members always want to come to their house for holiday gatherings because of his wife's food. "I have a hard time boiling an egg," he joked.
The Cardonas wanted to open a restaurant in St. Charles last year, but those plans fell through, they said. The introduction with their new Elgin landlords came from Jennifer Fukala, executive director of the Downtown Neighborhood Assocation of Elgin. "When customers have a great experience, they are likely to tell people," Fukala said.
Another restaurant, The Red Poppy Bistro, opened downtown last week. New businesses opening despite the pandemic is a clear sign of positive things happening downtown, Fukala said.
Elgin is where they belong, the Cardonas said. "This is where we started," Alberto said, "and this is where we are going to have our first restaurant."