El Faro #2 open for business in Riverside

Martha and Pablo Zavala bring a bit of Mexico

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By Melissa Elsmo

Oak Park Eats

El Faro #2, home of the giant steak burrito, located at 3422 Harlem Ave. in Riverside, is open for business.

"This is a true family business;" says Martha Zavala co-owner of El Faro #2, "and we have built it on love."

Jose Felipe Hernandez Zavala and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Zavala, opened the original El Faro with their son, Pablo Zavala, in 1980. Located in Summit, the 24-hour Mexican eatery is open 7-days a week and has become well known for serving giant burritos at a great value. 

Quality, size and pricing helped create the loyal following that sustains El Faro's flagship location to this day.

Capitalizing on the near 40-year success of El Faro's Summit location, Pablo and his wife Martha Zavala, purchased the former Riverside Restaurant, remodeled the space and opened El Faro #2 on Dec 11. El Faro #2 will be open 365 days a year but will close nightly at 10 p.m.

The hands-on owners remodeled the space themselves in hopes of highlighting their culture by painting the walls a deep red. Zavala's mother sewed the colorful tablecloths by hand and cacti, sombreros, and colorful artwork round out the look of the casual dining room.

"I've tried to bring a little bit of Mexico to Riverside," says Zavala.

Zavala admits their opening week was stressful. Despite that fact they had hoped to open without fanfare, word got out quickly El Faro #2 was open. Thoughts of transitioning slowly and handling a steady, but manageable flow of customers were dashed on opening day when a line snaked out the door into the parking lot. 

The restaurant was bombarded with guests for the first few days and some customers were frustrated by slow service, but Zavala notes most people seemed to understand the pressure the young restaurant was under and remained supportive of their efforts.

"It is going great now," says El Faro # 2 manager Adrian Zavala. "It was stressful at first, but we are working out the kinks."

Nothing is premade at El Faro #2 and all dishes rely on fresh ingredients prepared by hand. The restaurant does not offer delivery as all dishes are meant to be eaten as soon as they are cooked. 

Patrons are encouraged to dine in the restaurant to ensure their burritos, tacos or tortas are enjoyed at peak freshness. El Faro #2 also boasts a salsa bar for dine-in customers. The self-serve display features salsas roja and verde as well as pico de gallo and fresh chips.

"My father-in-law taught me, the fresher you have the food the more your customers will appreciate you and your hard work," says Zavala. "I really learned a lot from him."

And customers are taking note of El Faro's attention to detail.

Elmwood Park residents Dawn and Jorge Rodriguez are always looking for good Mexican food and were pleased with the offerings at El Faro #2. Both were especially happy to find a salsa bar on site and noted they rarely find properly made pico de gallo in a restaurant, but El Faro's fresh salsa met their high standards.

"He is very picky about his rice and beans," says Dawn Rodriguez of her husband. "The rice here is fluffy and the beans have great flavor, so he has no complaints."

One table over, Berwyn resident Christina Tellez was enjoying a plate of nachos al pastor.

"We have been waiting for this place to open and my lunch is just delicious," says Tellez. "The pork is succulent, I really love the salsa bar and we will be back for pozole."

El Faro #2 is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Reader Comments

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Greg Nessinger  

Posted: January 3rd, 2020 4:42 PM

Door says it is closed on Mondays, so I guess it isn't opened 365 days a year

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