It’s almost a guarantee that any celebration you attend will involve food. But sometimes, food is the reason for the celebration. That was the case this past weekend, when my parents and I ate a delicious dinner at Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Libertyville, Illinois.
Dos Amigos opened in February 2017, the brainchild of co-owners Sergio Casillas and Oscar Garcia, two hardworking friends with years of experience in the restaurant industry. For years, my family has joked around about a deli in Highland Park, Once Upon a Bagel, being our “second kitchen.” Sure, a huge part of that is the food itself, but it’s also because of people like Oscar.
Oscar says after roughly 18 years of working at Once Upon a Bagel, he was ready to take a leap of faith and open his own restaurant, with his friend, Sergio, by his side.
“I said to Sergio, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could sell your recipes you actually eat at home and the restaurant would have your homemade meals?'” Oscar tells us. “And then he’s like, ‘oh, that’s a great idea,’ and he starts putting a menu together.”
The two men didn’t stop at just Sergio’s creations. They wanted Dos Amigos to feel like home for their whole team. So, they asked their new employees to share some of their favorite recipes from home for the menu.
“We wanted everybody to feel a part of it,” Oscar says. “So luckily, they bought into the concept of our restaurant.”
Because of the collaborative spirit, multiple regions of Mexico are represented on the menu: Jalisco, where Sergio is from, Mexico City, where Oscar learned to cook from his mother and Cuernavaca, where several members of the team are from.
“My mom had a little kitchen back in the day,” Oscar recalls. “She’d say, ‘whatever little we have, it’s going to be done the right way.’ So when she heard we were going to open, she said, ‘remember, son, do it the right way.’ So I told her I wanted her rice recipe and told her to teach me the steak cuts.”
Oscar says although his mother doesn’t travel to Chicago from Mexico City as much anymore, she tested his recipes before the restaurant opened. It makes perfect sense that she would play such a role at Oscar’s restaurant; after all, she’s the one who gave him his love for food when he was younger, with a vibrant, busy city serving as the backdrop to his childhood.
“The thing about Mexico City is that you will find a whole bunch of stands there,” Oscar explains. “We’re very eclectic, because everyone comes from the rural areas to Mexico City. You’ll find different flavors from different regions. You could find 20 taco stands in one corner, and every single one will have different flavors because they all come from a different region.”
At the end of the day, Dos Amigos is a reflection of what makes a home a home. After all, it’s not just about the food you eat, but the company you share it with. That’s why my parents and so many other longtime patrons from Once Upon a Bagel have driven to Dos Amigos to show their support for Oscar and Sergio.
“I don’t like to think of this as a business,” Oscar concludes. “Obviously, we want to try to make a living, but I mostly like to think of this as a place where my friends come to eat. It’s like being at home on a larger scale.”
Dos Amigos is open Monday thru Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday thru Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. It’s located at 101 W. Rockland Road, Libertyville, IL 60048.