New Mexican restaurant in the works for former downtown McHenry smoke shop

Alderman said he thinks an eatery could attract a broader customer base than previous merchant

A downtown McHenry commercial building formerly home to the All About It smoking accessory shop is in the process of being converted into a Mexican restaurant.

The eatery will be owned and operated by Flavio Munoz, who is expanding his Hoffman Estates business with the venture, he said while standing in the space at 1228 N. Green St. where renovations still need to take place.

Munoz wants the new restaurant to provide a slightly more formal dining experience than the one he runs now in Hoffman Estates, Cantaritto’s Tacqueria and Bar, he said.

So far, Munoz is thinking his McHenry project will go by the same name, Cantaritto’s.

“This would be my dream,” he said.

Munoz said he decided to buy the building last year, and avoided making too many plans or starting work while the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height.

McHenry County records show the last recorded sale price of the space was $151,000 in August 2020. Before that, it changed hands for $120,000 in February 2019, down from the $195,000 it fetched in 2003.

On Sept. 30, 2019, the smoke shop there, All About It, posted on its Facebook page that it was closing the McHenry store, but would continue selling items online. On Monday, it appeared the last post on the Facebook account, a promotion for smoking accessories, was made in January last year.

McHenry 1st Ward Alderman Vic Santi, who represents the area including Munoz’s potential restaurant space, said he thinks the change from the smoke shop use into a food service would be a positive one for the area.

Santi said he thinks a Mexican restaurant there could attract a broader customer base than the previous merchant.

“Food and entertainment would be fantastic there. We have a variety in there, and in that part of town, I know we don’t have a focused Mexican cuisine spot,” Santi said.

No requests for a liquor license have been made yet, Santi said.

But he said he would be supportive of granting a liquor license to a restaurant operating in the space and has no qualms with the increase in recent years of bars and restaurants in the downtown area.

“I look at it almost like it is becoming its own little entertainment and dining area. Every entertainment and dining facility has, whether it’s beer and wine or a total liquor capability, that as part of their offerings. I see it as a good thing overall,” Santi said.

Last week Mayor Wayne Jett’s business Jett’s Heating and Air sponsored the installation of a new window covering for Munoz’s building on Green Street, with artwork showing what a potential new Mexican restaurant would look like in the space. A graphic stating, “Coming Soon,” is included on the image.

The city at Jett’s direction started a vacant storefront program to try to get businesses to underwrite costs for window coverings for empty commercial spaces, such as the new one on the possible Mexican restaurant, to help show future potential uses.

Jett has played roles in financing and promoting the startups of the McHenry Downtown Indoor Theater and the Hub Market businesses on Green Street just south of the possible Mexican place.

Openings within the last several years of those businesses along with the D.C. Cobbs restaurant on Green – which has been valued at more than $3 million and just saw a winding legal battle between its backers settled last week – have helped the area’s food, bar and arts scene proliferate in the way Santi described.

Other spaces along prominent roads in the city remain vacant or underused, however, including in the downtown area and along Route 120.

“It is hoped potential tenants and developers will see the economic vision of the city and residents will notice the effort and vision while not being subjected to viewing unsightly, vacant storefronts as the city works toward pursuing new restaurants and retailers,” according to a city news release last week.

Munoz said he hopes to have the space renovated and ready to open to the public as a traditional Mexican restaurant, that will include seafood and other dishes, within a year.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.