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About Us

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Our Story

El Solazo was founded in 2007 in the West Lawn neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Soon after opening Solazo became a staple in the neighborhood, best known for its great food, service and all-around good times. In the summer of 2019, unfortunately the restaurant experienced an electrical fire that forced us to shut down. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire and not only were we able to rebuild Solazo we are very proud to announce the birth of our Agave bar program, a refreshed menu and patio seating al aire libre. We will be focusing on agaves from all regions in Mexico and emphasizing a special focus on rare agaves from the state of Jalisco. Showcasing the spirits and families who have been distilling these amazing wild agaves for generations.

Te invitamos, we invite you to journey through the various regions of Mexico, while enjoying the same hospitality our guests know and love! ¡Acompáñanos!

Our updated menu will introduce modern flavors that pay tribute to owner Chef Pepe’s childhood in Mexico and his family’s taco stands. Pepe and his talented team bring creative and thoughtful dishes influenced by all regions of Mexico alongside some of his family's recipes from their home state of Jalisco, Mexico where tequila was born. We’re thrilled to debut our extensive agave selection, which features more than 100 mezcales and agave spirits, many of which are crafted by independent artisans in Mexico. We invite you to explore, learn and select la bebida perfecta!

Creative Team

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Pepe’s Bio (tailored for Solazo)

Chef José, also known as Pepe, food has always been about familia y tradición.

Pepe, the owner of Mexican cuisine restaurants Solazo and La Josie in the West Loop, is a self-taught chef and a passionate restaurateur with 20-plus years of experience.

Pepe grew up in the West Lawn neighborhood in Chicago. From a young age, he came to associate food with the importance of family and tradition. At age 11, he landed his first job—washing dishes at his family’s restaurant. Barajas’ aunt Josefina, affectionately known as “Mama Josie,” served as a big influence in his young life. With tough love and a caring spirit, Mama Josie taught Barajas the value of hard work and dedication. By age 16, Pepe and his mother opened their own restaurant—taqueria Los Comales #8. Through the years, Barajas’ dream of one day branching out on his own continued to propel him forward. Pepe at a young age would regularly ride his bike by a corner building on his way to play basketball. After continuously searching for the right location, he found an opportunity to finally own that building in the neighborhood. The building is now known as Solazo, one of Pepe’s two thriving restaurants.

At the renovated Solazo, Chef Pepe hopes to take guests on an unforgettable journey through various regions of Mexico by offering authentic, hand-crafted dishes, agave spirits and the hospitality Solazo fans miss and love. Pepe is excited to reintroduce Solazo to patrons, both old and new, with an updated menu, cocktail program and outdoor patio.

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Leo Sandoval

Chef Leo Sandoval always has enjoyed working in the kitchen. As a boy in Jalisco, Mexico, he learned to cook at his parents’ side. His family’s flautas quesadillas, sopes, and pozole are among his most cherished food memories.

That love of great food and knowledge became hallmarks of his career: working in restaurants provided limitless opportunities to learn and to become inspired by talented chefs.

At Solazo, it is Chef Leo’s hope that patrons will arrive hungry and eager to sample exciting new recipes; that they will enjoy an outstanding dining experience they can share with others.

When he has spare time, he enjoys spending it with his daughter and some of the meals he likes to prepare with and for her are aguachiles, pozole, mole, and shellfish.

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Alfredo Maravilla

As a young man growing up in Morelos, Mexico, Alfredo always was involved in helping his parents to plant and harvest their working garden. His childhood meals--homemade stews, chalupas, molcajete, salsas, and corn tamales--were prepared with the freshest, often homegrown ingredients

That love of great food and knowledge became hallmarks of his career: working in restaurants provided limitless opportunities to learn and to become inspired by talented chefs.

It’s no wonder he was lured away from a career in construction to work at his mother’s restaurant. Another pivotal career moment happened when, after working nearly every kitchen position at La Josie, he was promoted to chef.

Chef Alfredo loves to bring his family together with his cooking, and favorite dishes include: ceviche, spaghetti, broths, and aguachiles. Of the mouthwatering dishes at Solazo, he hopes diners will try his homemade mole—it’s sure to delight.

OUR CUSTOMERS ARE TALKING