Camerino Gonzalez Valle, founder of Taqueria Los Comales Mexican Restaurants, deceased at 81


Camerino Gonzalez Valle, who founded Chicago’s popular Taqueria Los Comales Mexican restaurants nearly half a century ago, died of cancer at his home in Orland Park on Wednesday at 81, according to his son. Lawrence.

In 1973, Mr. Gonzalez started his business in Little Village, taking over a 26th Street restaurant named Los Comales. He remodeled it to focus on the tasty and affordable food his father Guadalupe served as a street vendor in Mexico City: small tacos that make it easy to eat on the go, as well as rice and beans.

At one point, the chain had grown to 25 restaurants from Los Comales to Houston and Wisconsin, which were run by parents and associates. Today, there are 16 of them in the city and suburbs as well as in Milwaukee and San Antonio, Texas, according to his son.

Mr. Gonzalez was born in San Jóse de Gracia in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Besides being a street vendor, his father – and later Mr. Gonzalez – participated in the government bracelet program, which enabled Mexican workers to perform manual and agricultural work in the United States.

“Dad picked citrus fruits, he worked in meat packing plants in Chicago – that’s where he learned a lot of different cuts and different types of meats,” his son said. “He was a bartender, a taxi driver. He accepted all challenges.

In the early 1970s, Gonzalez recognized that the once very bohemian Little Village was becoming a point of entry for Mexican immigrants.

“Like any smart businessman, he saw a need and responded to that need,” his son said. “It would still be open for Christmas, still open for Thanksgiving. He knew his [immigrant] the clients would be without families on that day.

Mr. Gonzalez expanded the original Little Village restaurant to 256 seats at 3141 W. 26th St. with one of the city’s first drive-thru taco service. Its restaurants have become known for their al pastor tacos, made with marinated and thinly sliced ​​pork shoulder, garnished with pineapple, onion and cilantro.

Offering condolences to his family, the Mexican Consulate in Chicago congratulated Mr. Gonzales for “sharing Mexican cuisine through its chain of taquerias.

The Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has called its restaurants “an emblem of the entrepreneurial spirit of our Illinois Hispanic community.”

Its restaurants provided many Mexican immigrants with their first jobs in Chicago.

“There are so many companies that have sprung up from Los Comales,” his son said. “Taqueria chains in Houston, California, New Jersey and New York, grocery stores.”

Mr. Gonzalez’s nephew, Pepe Barajas, chef owner and operator of La Josie, 740 W. Randolph St., who received a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating this year, said his uncle taught him how to prepare and serve each fresh meals.

“All I ever wanted to do,” said Barajas, “is be like him.”

Mr. Gonzalez had a home on a 20-acre ranch near Guadalajara, Mexico where he was able to host and participate in the Mexican-style rodeo and equestrian skills test known as the charreada.

According to his son, “One of my father’s dreams was to meet Vicente Fernández,” the Mexican song superstar known as El Rey. The dream came true when Mr. Gonzalez visited him at Los Tres Potrillos, “The Three Colts”, the Fernández ranch in Mexico. The same tailor decorated them charro outfits, according to his son.

Even after breaking his leg while riding, Mr. Gonzalez continued to teach and practice his rodeo skills at his brother Miguel’s ranch in Will County, his son said.

In the 1980s, Mr. Gonzalez also started a fruit export business in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

Besides his son Lawrence and his brother Miguel, Mr. Gonzalez’s survivors include his wife Patricia, his sister Martha, his daughter Christina, his step-sons Nicholas Acevedo, Richard Acevedo, Fernando Franco, Jose Franco and Miguel Franco and eight grandsons children.

Visitations are from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Lawn Funeral Home in Tinley Park, with a funeral mass at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Michael’s Church in Orland Park.

At the service, Mr Gonzalez’s son said, his sombrero will be placed over the coffin, which will pass through a “charro hello ”from the hats brandished by the horsemen of the charreada.

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