October 15, 2020

El Oso, a Pop-Up Culinary Residency by a Renowned Chicago Chef, to Open at The Promontory

El Oso will feature traditional Mexican grill wood-fired in a brick hearth.

Courtesy of El Oso

Members of the Hyde Park community can look forward to a new Mexican culinary residency, El Oso, opening on October 15 at The Promontory.

A collaboration between Bruce Finkelman, founder and managing partner of 16″ on Center, and Jonathan Zaragoza, critically acclaimed Chicago chef, El Oso will feature a Zaragoza-created menu full of traditional Mexican cuisine wood-fired in The Promontory’s brick hearth.

Zaragoza said that the brick hearth is especially important to him from a personal standpoint, as it brings back fond childhood memories of learning to cook with his family.

“As a Mexican cook, growing up cooking, one of my first experiences was on a live fire. My father and I built an oven with my grandfather in our backyard and [we] would roast our goats on the weekends for family and friends,” Zaragoza said.

These formative experiences have led Zaragoza to honor his Mexican heritage by serving food to other communities around the city. Zaragoza’s work at his family’s eponymous Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights earned him a designation as a 2018 Chicago Rising Star by StarChefs, a culinary industry magazine. Prior, Zaragoza was executive chef at Masa Azul in Logan Square. Zaragoza hopes El Oso, his latest venture, will provide Hyde Park with interesting twists on traditional Mexican dishes.

“Hyde Park is super diverse from a people perspective, and I think it’s kind of its own little city almost. I’m just happy to be a part of that and share my Mexican food with the community,” he said.

The seasonal menu will change with the Chicago weather, but Zaragoza wants to make sure that any favorite dishes remain on the menu. “The staples will stay. If people like something, we’re going to leave it on. We want to make people happy overall. That’s the business we’re in,” Zaragoza said.

Though El Oso is labeled as a pop-up, Zaragoza left the option of staying for the long term on the table. “Best case scenario, we want it around for the long haul,” Zaragoza said. “It’s been treated by Bruce and the team as much more than a pop-up and, hopefully, we’re here in the community for a long time.”