Rising Star Chef Jonathan Zaragoza of Birrieria Zaragoza - Biography

Chicago, Illinois

May 2018

Birrieria Zaragoza is a Chicago institution, and Jonathan Zaragoza its guardian of tradition. The Birrieria was founded by his father, Juan Zaragoza. The elder Zaragoza worked in a corporate job and was looking for ways to reconnect with his heritage and culinary roots. He and Jonathan began taking trips to his hometown, La Barca, in Jalisco, Mexico. While there, they studied with a master goat roaster who had a 100-year-old recipe and no heirs to pass it down to.

The Zaragozas’ travel and toil resulted in a thriving backyard catering business and later the popular—for those in the know— brick and mortar outpost in the Polish-Mexican neighborhood of Archer Heights. Birrieria Zaragoza serves only birria, a spicy goat stew—served on its own or in tacos or quesadillas.
 
Growing up in the family business, Jonathan Zaragoza didn’t step away to squander his cooking heritage and family name. In his teens and early 20s, he worked with great Chicago chefs (and Rising Stars alums) Frank Brunacci at Sixteen and Andrew Zimmerman at Sepia. By the age of 23, he had taken the reins as executive chef at Masa Azul in Logan Square. After taking some time off to rest and travel (and to spend time with his young family), Jonathan returned home to Birrieria Zaragoza—bringing some serious finesse and sourcing to its menu—and carrying his family’s delicious torch of tradition forward.