New Mexican restaurant welcomes seafood lovers

Mi Tierra Nayarit to open on Nov. 17

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By Lucia Whalen

Contributing Reporter

Forest Park residents may have noticed a new aroma wafting out of the former home of Skrine Chops, 7230 Madison St. The rustic building in downtown Forest Park is now home to Mi Tierra Nayarit, a family-owned Mexican restaurant specializing in authentic seafood dishes. 

While the western suburbs have no shortage of Mexican restaurants, Mi Tierra Nayarit is unique in its specific focus on seafood, known as Mariscos. The restaurant is owned by the Diaz and Guzman families, with brothers-in-law Jose Guzman and Juan Diaz heading the space. The two will be celebrating the grand opening of the restaurant, along with their first business partnership, on Nov. 17. Partner and head chef Jose Guzman is the owner of the successful Mariscos restaurant Rey Nayar in Albany Park and has spent his entire cooking career in Chicago. He has been working in the restaurant industry for the past 14 years, and specifically preparing seafood cuisine for the past 10. Diaz, who oversees the business side of the restaurant, is excited to introduce Mariscos to the village. 

"We're bringing the best seafood from the Pacific Ocean to Forest Park," said Diaz. 

The building itself, which went up for sale earlier this year, retains the rustic beauty and character that Skrine Chops customers previously enjoyed. The restaurant was designed with the intention of environmental sustainability, and most of the wood was reclaimed from barns in Wisconsin. The wooded interior gives the impression of stepping into a lodge, and the high-vaulted ceilings and fireplace on the second floor create a spacious yet cozy atmosphere. The second floor can be reserved for private events and parties. Decorative accents like a basketball net mounted on the wall upstairs pay homage to the previous inhabitants. Both levels of the restaurant are complete with full bars, which Mi Tierra Nayarit will use to serve alcohol. 

Guzman and Diaz had been thinking about opening a restaurant for a few years, so when Skrine Chops went up for sale and the moment presented itself, they jumped at the opportunity. The brothers are friends of Skrine Chops owner Steve Skrine, who is a fan of Guzman's food. They are renting the space from Skrine. 

The name Mi Tierra Nayarit pays homage to the brothers' home in Mexico, and translates into English as "My State Nayarit." Nayarit is one of the 31 states of Mexico and is a coastal region famous for its seafood cuisine. 

While most Americans associate dishes like burritos and tacos with Mexican cooking, Guzman and Diaz hope to share a side of Mexican cooking that goes beyond enchiladas. 

In Diaz' words, "Tacos are cheap and affordable and have become a staple in America." However, according to the brothers, ask any Mexican about their favorite dish, and you'll likely get a different answer than tacos. "Mariscos are a Mexican favorite," said Diaz. 

The menu at Mi Tierra Nayarit is filled with more than 40 items like langostinos (prawns), crab legs, lobster tail, camarones diablo (shrimp in devil sauce), aguachiles (shrimp cooked in chilis), and five different kinds of ceviche. If you're used to the more common Mexican fare, this food will get you out of your comfort zone. 

"Once people try our food, they come back again and again," said Diaz.

While the menu primarily contains seafood items, other options include ribs, pork chops, mashed potatoes, and fries, which are all dishes from the Skrine Chops menu. A kids menu offers chicken nuggets, cheese burgers and quesadillas. For those with allergies, each menu item indicates whether or not the dish contains allergenic ingredients. 

Many of the dishes encourage eating with hands, making the meal a full body experience. 

Mi Tierra Nayarit will hold its grand opening at 11 a.m. on Nov. 17 with a mariachi band and other entertainment beginning at 5 p.m. Customers can receive 10 percent off their meal on opening day by liking the Mi Tierra Nayarit page on Facebook.

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