'We believe in our food': Pandemic can't stop restaurant from opening in Wheeling

  • Despite the significant challenges to restaurants created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the owners of Mia's Cantina moved forward with plans to opened in the Wheeling Town Center. "We believe in our food, drinks and experience running restaurants," said co-owner Joy Aguado, of Mount Prospect.

      Despite the significant challenges to restaurants created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the owners of Mia's Cantina moved forward with plans to opened in the Wheeling Town Center. "We believe in our food, drinks and experience running restaurants," said co-owner Joy Aguado, of Mount Prospect. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Wheeling Town Center is the second Northwest suburban location for Mia's Cantina. The other is in Mount Prospect.

      Wheeling Town Center is the second Northwest suburban location for Mia's Cantina. The other is in Mount Prospect. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Joy and Esteban Aguado decided to go forward with plans to open their Mia's Cantina restaurant in the Wheeling Town Center despite the challenges of the pandemic. "Wheeling has a strong industrial presence and a diverse community, which makes a perfect location for a Mexican restaurant," Joy Aguado said.

      Joy and Esteban Aguado decided to go forward with plans to open their Mia's Cantina restaurant in the Wheeling Town Center despite the challenges of the pandemic. "Wheeling has a strong industrial presence and a diverse community, which makes a perfect location for a Mexican restaurant," Joy Aguado said. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Mia's Cantina has opened in the Wheeling Town Center. It's the second Northwest suburban location for Mexican eatery. The other is in Mount Prospect.

      Mia's Cantina has opened in the Wheeling Town Center. It's the second Northwest suburban location for Mexican eatery. The other is in Mount Prospect. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/14/2021 12:46 PM

When owners Joy and Esteban Aguado signed on to open another Mia's Cantina Mexican restaurant more than two years ago, they couldn't have imagined the business would be launching in the middle of a pandemic that severely restricted restaurant service.

But sure enough, that's what happened.

 

Regardless, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't deterred the couple from making a go of the restaurant, which is in the Wheeling Town Center at 373 W. Dundee Road.

Since Mia's opened in October, the Aguados have fed customers indoors when they've legally been able to do so, and they offered patio dining when the weather was appropriate. And like most restaurants in the region, they've had takeout service.

"We believe in our food, drinks and experience running restaurants," said Joy Aguado, of Mount Prospect. "We can bring a great experience for diners in Wheeling."

The eatery is the third Mia's. The original restaurant has operated at 143 W. Prospect Ave. in Mount Prospect since 2012.

A Downers Grove location closed last year after a neighboring business made what Aguado called a too-good-to-refuse purchase offer for the space.

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"Downers Grove is over a 40-minute car ride for us, and it became difficult to manage," she added.

The Mia's Cantina menu features traditional Mexican appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts and drinks. Flautas, a variety of tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and more will stimulate your palate.

Executive Chef Germain Marquez learned most of the recipes cooking with his grandmother and sisters, Aguado said. They also have a specific regional flair.

"Esteban and Germain are from Guanajuato, Mexico, and so many of the items reflect their cuisine," Aguado said. "For example, Mia's enchiladas are served with roasted carrots and potatoes, sour cream and cheese."

Aguado is excited to be part of the Wheeling Town Center development, which took about three years to build.

Mia's first was announced as a prospective tenant in 2018.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We heard rumors Wheeling was starting a new downtown (and) we became curious," Aguado recalled. "Wheeling has a strong industrial presence and a diverse community, which makes a perfect location for a Mexican restaurant."

In addition to Mia's, Town Center includes a five-story apartment building, a CMX CinéBistro movie complex, a Starbucks and other businesses.

But the pandemic has affected life at Town Center.

A City Works restaurant and bar there is temporarily closed because of the pandemic and the opening of a long-planned restaurant called Meat & Potato Eatery has been delayed, Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said.

Sfondilis is excited to have Mia's Cantina in town.

"Although the pandemic has restricted indoor dining, Mia's has shown their commitment to bringing our community their family recipes through curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery services," he said. "The restaurant and patio are ready and waiting for spring."

Joy Aguado is understandably eager for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccines and for the disease to fade away.

"We feel confident that when people feel comfortable eating out in a restaurant again, inside or out, we will be there serving them a margarita," she said.

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