LITTLE VILLAGE – A place offering churros, funnel cakes, milkshakes and more is on its way to Little Village.
Little Village native Aldo Rios and his wife Ana Maciel open El Churro Shop at 3536 W. 26th St., promising to bring a variety of candy and beverages to the neighborhood.
Rios churros will be the flagship item of the physical store. It’s an extension of a pop-up business he started during the pandemic, All the Doh’z Churros. Beginning in the fall of 2020, Rios sold homemade churros via social media, then moved to have a stand on West 26th Street and various pop-ups.
Rios and Maciel said they were excited to make their mark with a permanent location on West 26th Street.
“We don’t have coffee [in Little Village]; we don’t have an actual churro shop…something where we could just hang out and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, sit down, use the internet,” Rios said. “We need something more in this neighborhood to keep our neighborhood people here.”
Rios said he plans to open in another neighborhood, either in Pilsen or somewhere further north.
“But my biggest thing was, ‘No, if we’re doing anything, it has to be here in Little Village,'” he said.
The storefront is under construction. Rios and Maciel said they expect a soft opening in four to six weeks.
Rios – who had 14 years of cooking experience – said he had some knowledge of the traditional dough used to make churros, but the free time he had during quarantine gave him time to experiment with something something that belonged to him. Through trial and error, he came up with his own batter, as well as recipes for dipping sauces.
Maciel and the rest of Rios’ family pushed him to do something on his own, he said. Before the pandemic, he had cooked in kitchens in Texas, Mexico City and Chicago.
When Rios wondered what he could do on his own, churros were one of the first things that came to mind, he said. It was something no one else was doing at the time, and it had ties to his Mexican heritage.
Rios’ pop-up name was a play on his first name and a joke of all the pasta he experimented with to get to the final recipe.
Maciel said her husband converted the basement of their Little Village home into his “laboratory,” spending countless hours working on his recipes.
“All the time he was trying a different dough, like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to change it. This one’s too soft. This one’s too hard. Until he found the perfect recipe,” said Maciel.
Although Maciel doesn’t have the same culinary experience as Rios, she said, “It’s easy to fall in love with the person you fell in love with.” She said she would work more on the administrative side of the business.
Rios said he credits the response and feedback from the community as the reason his churro business was able to grow from a pop-up to a brick-and-mortar operation.
Rios said that when he started selling his churros at the corner of 26th Street and Saint-Louis Avenue, “people would stop and be curious, like, ‘What are you doing? , what are you cooking ? … We started to realize a little more seriously how much potential this had.
In addition to providing people with delicious churro, Rios wanted customers of its pop-ups to have the experience of watching the churro being made in front of them. He fried the churros in oil in a large cazo de cobre, a copper pot traditionally used to make carnitas.
Rios said he plans to continue having this open kitchen at his store so people can watch their churro being fried and then drizzled with the sauce of their choice.
“We really want to have views for guests to come in and see what’s done, how it’s prepared, kind of like a show at the same time,” Rios said.
Rios and Maciel said they hope the store will appeal to a wide variety of people in the neighborhood, from grandparents to young children.
“The idea is to bridge the gap between the old generation and the new generation via the churros, and to have a space where we could just come and sit…have something small and sweet,” Rios said.
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