Jose Esparza. Photo by Emily Soto

Jose Esparza is a community role model for many in McKinley Park and his current neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago. He is a leading chef after working at New Archview Restaurant for decades. This restaurant is a community favorite for many generations of McKinley Park residents. Jose is an amazing chef and team player in the kitchen. The restaurant is known for its weekend brunches and filling entrees. Entire families, senior groups, and friends fill the parking lot, especially on weekends, to get a seat. The recent remodeling and additional patio have given the restaurant new life. However, Jose and other long serving staff have kept the restaurant’s pulse strong amongst change and during the pandemic. His dedication to his work and community of clients is recognized by many in McKinley Park.  

Don Jose is also very important to my life and family. He moved upstairs with his family in my childhood home. I became best friends with their eldest son during pre school. His wife, la Señora Nena, would become my “Tia” (Aunt) for her gentle soul and hilarious humor. He was very caring towards his family and provided a great example of male mentorship outside of my own family. Don Jose and mi Papi were great friends. They encouraged our families to help each other as recent immigrants in the United States. 

For example, La Señora Nena helped my mom manage my lice when there was an outbreak in kindergarten. I thought there were microscopic zebras and pandas running on my head. Instead of correcting me, she encouraged my creativity by asking for a safari story. After that day, she was one of my favorite people in the whole world because she taught me so much while allowing me to still be playful and make mistakes at that age. Don Jose and La Señora Nena moved out of McKinley Park, but they are my earliest memory of neighbors with children my age. It’s always a joy when I see him or his family at the New Archview parking lot. It brings me back to being five years old and thinking lice were adorable zoo animals.

New Archview Restaurant, 3480 S. Archer Ave. Monday–Sunday, 6am–3pm. (773) 254-4862

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