When German Castaneda sold the El Niagara Mexican restaurant in Woodstock and his brothers took over the business, he initially thought he was going to retire.
However, Castaneda, who just opened a new El Niagara location in Algonquin at 2561 County Line Road last Tuesday, just couldn’t stay away from the restaurant business.
Castaneda has been working for El Niagara since 1977, and until recently still was helping his brothers out at the Woodstock location.
“I never left for good. I took a break here and there, but I always came back,” he said. “I felt that I couldn’t do anything else better than this.”
Castaneda even owned an El Niagara on the other side of Algonquin in the ’90s that ended up closing because rent ended up being too high.
“After being in Woodstock for 11 years, then I was able to save up and buy something like this,” he said. “I found this place and I really liked it. I guess it was just the right time.”
This new Algonquin location is bigger than the older one, and the one in Woodstock.
“In the beginning you start thinking about how big the place is, and trying to get everything ready,” Castaneda said. “It’s a lot of work.”
El Niagara has had several locations in McHenry County, including East Dundee, Crystal Lake, and Glendale but these ended up closing. Now, it’s just the original Woodstock location and Algonquin.
Castaneda said his favorite part of working in the restaurant business is the relationship he has with customers.
“Seeing people coming back over and over, the same customers enjoying our food,” he said. “That feels really good.”
When they told customers about the new location, people from Algonquin were practically “jumping up and down,” Castaneda said.
“They were so excited,” he said.
Castaneda was still helping out at the Woodstock location.
Castaneda hired new servers and also has some from the Woodstock location, including Ayde Flores.
For Flores, it has been an easy transition, because she said learned the menu really well in Woodstock.
“I know in the Woodstock one people would come from really far,” Flores said. “People would come from Algonquin to go eat in Woodstock, so I have had a number of customers have already been asking me – is this the same one from Woodstock?”
Luckily for those customers, both locations will use the same recipes for their food and drinks.
“That gives the restaurant good rapport for sure,” Flores said. “It already has its regulars that live close by.”
The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday.