Crest Hill’s Tacos Before Vatos plans expansion before 1st anniversary

Tacos Before Vatos serves traditional and unique tacos, such as pork with pineapple and cilantro toppings.

Crest Hill — A Crest Hill taqueria is preparing to mark its first anniversary in the community in a big way by expanding from a primarily takeout business to a fully sit-down restaurant and bar.

Bri and Marco Alcantar opened Tacos Before Vatos in May 2023 and have been working at growing the business ever since.

Tacos Before Vatos, originally a catering business, now has a location in Joliet.

“We were doing very well in the beginning, but it goes through phases,” Bri said. “Things have slowed down over the winter, so we’ve been listening to feedback to try and address any issues. It’s good to know what you’re doing right and wrong, and so far, I think a lot more people have said they love us than they hate us.”

Although the original location at 1701 N. Larkin Ave. has some in-store seating, the Alcantars are hoping their expansion into the adjacent space will help raise their profile in the neighborhood. Marco has done most of the renovation of the new space – including building the bar – on his own, and the couple has hired an artist to decorate the space with colorful murals.

“We wanted to have something unique and to have a very Chicago look,” Bri said. “We hired a graffiti artist to come in and decorate the walls. It’s all being done with Day of the Dead-style Mexican sugar skulls.”

Tacos Before Vatos is expanding its space to a more open and vibrant area, providing additional seating and event accommodations.

The painting of the murals currently is underway by Chicago-based artist Humberto Soto, who also goes by the pseudonym Phatel.

The owners also are in the process of obtaining a liquor license from the city of Crest Hill. The family hopes to have the expansion completed so it can open early this summer.

“A few of the aldermen have been very supportive during the process, but there are challenges to starting a business for the first time,” Bri said. “Everyone tells me that the first year is the hardest, and I hope they are right.”

Once the expansion is complete, the Alcantars hope to host an official grand opening for the restaurant, something they were not able to do when they opened last year.

Bri said that they also have been working with their landlord in the shop center to improve the exterior of the space, which is located near Food 4 Less and the Army recruiting office.

“It needs some work,” she said. “We’ve been talking to the city and the landlord to see if we can get the parking lot and the strip more cleaned up to make it more appealing and draw more people in.”

Tacos Before Vatos, originally a catering business, now has a location in Joliet.

Although this is Bri and Marco’s first business venture, the restaurant business is not entirely new to Bri.

“My grandmother had a restaurant when I was growing up,” she said. “They gave it up because it became too much for them, but they would still keep going to different events to sell food long after.

“I wanted to do this for my kids. We have a big family, and I want to build a legacy for them.”

The Alcantars have six children, and Bri works full time for Bolingbrook Township. Currently, Marco is working full time to run the business along with their cook.

“My husband built the business from scratch,” Bri said. “It was a nutrition shop when we took it over. There was a small kitchen but nothing like we needed. It took six to eight months, and he did everything except some of the electrical work to install the larger kitchen equipment.”

Tacos Before Vatos owner Marco Alcantar poses for a photo at his Joliet restaurant.

In addition to expanding and beautifying the space, the Alcantars have been working to get their name out in the community by offering catering and taking part in local festivals, something they hope to continue this summer.

“We did Taste of Joliet last summer and a Romeoville festival, and we plan to do those again this year if we get in,” Bri said. “We appreciate all the support we’ve gotten this year and all the feedback we’ve received. Hopefully, we can keep growing and improving as we go.”