Adolfo Garcia is on a mission to redefine the corner hangout. After moving to Chicago from Mexico in 1996, the then 21-year-old found work in the city’s bar scene at staples like Twisted Lizard and John Barleycorn, a great start, but “it wasn’t what I was passionate about,” he admits. “I wanted to do something different from what everyone else was doing.”
It happened in 2013 with his first sole operation, Pearl Tavern, an oyster bar in the middle of the financial district. This year alone has also brought Heating & Cooling, a Wrigleyville artisan pizza hub and concert venue, and Logan Square’s Son Of A Butcher, a meat-driven concept he’s had in mind since growing up in the family business. All have group rental options with lots of personality, like Garcia himself.
ILM+E: Why is 2015 the year for all your new projects?
AG: In this industry, every 10 years you have to reinvent yourself. For the first phase of my culinary life I was focused on casual dining and sports bars, but the needs of the customers changed and I started to find projects I felt strong about and wanted to be challenged by. I finally had the opportunity to spread myself with the right people to back me up, and it opened a lot of doors.
ILM+E: You’re actually a third-generation restaurateur. What was it like growing up in the business?
AG: I grew up in Mexico, where my grandfather was a butcher all his life and a founding member of restaurant unions, and my father started opening restaurants and became the president of the National Restaurant Association in Mexico. Of all the four generations of my family, only two people are not involved in hospitality, so I didn’t really have a choice. When they went to culinary school, though, being a chef wasn’t popular; it was a service like being a plumber. It was just an honest craft and that’s the same kind of mentality I’ve kept.
ILM+E: What prompted you to make the move to America?
AG: I’m the only one of my family here. I grew up in a very competitive field. I had a rebel spirit of wanting to get out of my comfort zone and out of the shadows of my family. I waited tables at my dad’s restaurant to save money and there I met a couple on their honeymoon who gave me my first job in Chicago.
ILM+E: What are the group options at each spot?
AG: Pearl Tavern has a lively room for corporate events, presentations and rehearsals, and we have packages for all budgets. Heating & Cooling has a gorgeous mezzanine that looks over the stage and main floor like an old theater; we offer it for buyouts for events and corporate outings around the baseball games. Son Of A Butcher has two divided areas, one equipped for private dining where we can do chef tastings, too.