New cantina restaurant, tequila bar coming to Crystal Lake

‘We found that people are desiring international flair,’ says owner of new global fusion spot

Downtown Crystal Lake soon will be home to a new global fusion restaurant, where diners can get a taste of many different cultures in one spot.

Cantina 52, coming to 52 N. Brink St., is hoping for an August opening, owner Jim Tomasek told the Northwest Herald.

By day, Cantina 52 will be a restaurant and tequila bar with 25 different types of the spirit in stock. But at night, Tomasek said, it will have a discotheque feel with DJs and dancing.

For food, Cantina 52 will feature 12 kinds of tacos with flavors from around the world, such as vegan Korean barbecue and Mediterranean-style tacos.

“We found that people are desiring international flair,” Tomasek said.

Those same recipes for the tacos also can be made in nacho, quesadilla or pizza form.

“It’s going be really fun, trendy,” Tomasek said. “It’s a new concept for sure.”

Crystal Lake Community Development Director Heather Maieritsch said the city will work to meet Cantina 52′s timeline for opening the restaurant.

Back in May, the Crystal Lake City Council unanimously approved Cantina 52 for $10,000 in retailer job creation and investment grant funds. Cantina 52′s application was the first Crystal Lake received this fiscal year for the program.

The program provides matching grant funding to new and existing retailers who occupy vacant space, hire new full- or part-time employees, or install eligible furniture, fixtures and equipment.

“We look forward to them opening,” Maieritsch said.

Aiming to create a quicker, healthier option for customers, Cantina 52 will use a smart kitchen with no fat fryers, only air fryers.

“One, it’s a little quicker. Two, it’s healthier,” Tomasek explained, adding that the kitchen devices are growing in popularity. “People are used to air fryers in their home.”

Tomasek has years of restaurant management experience.

Though he ran a daycare in Crystal Lake for years, Tomasek said he always had a part-time job bartending or working in restaurants until he got the opportunity to move into the restaurant industry full time.

Tomasek’s mother was a cocktail waitress at Where Else in Elk Grove Village, and his father was a regular there, which is how his parents met, he said. Later, after they got married and had Tomasek, they made the owner of the bar, Don Kontos, his godfather.

“At 3, I learned how to cut lemons behind the bar,” Tomasek said. “I was acting as a busboy at 5.”

Kontos died several years ago.

“I had always dreamt of following in his footsteps,” Tomasek said. “It’s an honor. I’m excited to do it. I’m proud to do it.”

Cassie Buchman

I cover Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills for the Northwest Herald.