This newcomer in Geneva serves up an authentic taste of Mexican cuisine with a fresh new twist. Add in some surprise performances and creative cocktails and it’s like a trip to Mexico – without leaving the Prairie State.
Carlos Aréchiga doesn’t just want people to taste the cuisine and culture of his homeland. He wants them to become immersed in it.
“My job has become providing an experience that disconnects people and transports them somewhere else,” he says. “We’re selling more than just Mexican food; we’re selling an experience.”
Aréchiga’s Hacienda Real, opened this February and located at 1602 Commons Dr., Ste. 600 in Geneva, offers an all-encompassing feel of Mexico.
From the stone masonry outside to the concrete floors inside, there’s an authentic flavor in the architecture. Large plants line the walls and high-end tequila bottles fill glass cases. Latin house music plays overhead. Open window portals and wicker chairs evoke a distant beach, while metal cages filled with vines hang over a marble bar.
Weekend entertainers, such as a live DJ, fire performers and folkloric dancers, catch patrons by surprise.
“I call them surprise performances because I don’t announce them. I don’t even tell my team,” says Aréchiga. “That element of surprise adds on, and I see nothing but smiles. When you expect it, it’s less of an experience.”
Hacienda Real’s menu is developed by Aréchiga’s brother and cousin, Oswaldo and Audel, both head chefs who add changes each season while paying tribute to the south-of-the-border experience. One of this spring’s favorites is the Molcajete, a bright and fresh dish with grilled steak, chicken, shrimp, chorizo, ranchera salsa, cactus, onions and panela cheese served in a sizzling lava rock.
Playing on the Aréchigas’ coastal roots, other entrees like the Paella de Mariscos focus heavily on seafood, served with a colorful mixture of traditional saffron-flavored rice, fish, mussels, scallops, octopus, shrimp and a side of garlic bread.
At the bar, the Aréchigas specialize in tequila and mezcal-based cocktails, with a focus on traditional recipes from Jalisco, the west Mexican state where they grew up. Their Cazuelita, served in a clay pot, is made with premium tequila, citrus juices and grapefruit soda.
Their dishes are authentic to Mexico, but there’s also a distinctly original flair.
“We use a lot of family recipes, but we always put a modern spin on it,” says Carlos Aréchiga. “We borrow and take off or rotate different recipes, maybe even infusing something with a little Asian or Latin flavor. We’re trying not necessarily to simplify it but to do a different rendition of something inspired by other things.”
The Aréchiga brothers grew up in Guadalajara, where they watched their father, Clemente, run small, fast-casual taquerias. They worked alongside him for years before deciding to put their own spin on Mexican cuisine.
“We got to the point where we told our dad, ‘If you want us to be part of the business, let us do something different,” says Aréchiga. “We wanted to emulate the kinds of places we liked to frequent when we would go to the city to celebrate or go on a date. Those were more of an experience. Because we’re from Mexico and familiar with the way restaurants are there, we said, ‘Why don’t we do that?’ And thus, Hacienda Real was born.”
Though Hacienda Real is a newcomer on the suburban dining scene, the Aréchigas are no strangers here. They own and operate several other restaurants: Salsa Verde in St. Charles, Yorkville and Indianapolis; El Jefe-Leña y Mar in Aurora; and additional eateries around Indianapolis.
“Mexico is celebration, culture, warmth, and this is a place where you’re going to get a 360-degree experience with taste, sound and visuals,” Aréchiga says. “I want to transport you as if you were somewhere else. Perhaps you’ve never been to Mexico, but this will take you there.”
Hacienda Real is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 11 p.m. and Sundays to 9 p.m.