Bold Moves

August 2021 View more

It’s been a harrowing 18 months for anyone associated with the hospitality industry. From intermittent lockdowns to shifting health and safety protocols to ongoing labor shortages, it’s been tough trying to keep a restaurant afloat—let alone consider opening a new one.

So one has to admire the audacity of Anna Kamilis and Jesus Martinez, who teamed up to launch not one, but two new Mexican spots amid the maelstrom of the pandemic. Industry veterans with decades of combined experience across a number of diverse concepts, owner-operator Kamilis and chef-partner Martinez followed up the summer 2020 opening of their original Outpost Mexican Eatery in Chicago’s West Loop with a mid-March encore in their shared stomping grounds of the western suburbs. They christened a second Outpost just north of the busy Main Street corridor in Downers Grove (4948 Main Street, 630.395.9373,

“We had been doing meal kits for friends and some of my mom’s group members out here during the shutdowns and it was going pretty well. So when this space opened up, we saw it as an opportunity to jump in and go for it,” Kamilis explains. “It probably wasn’t ideal timing, but we had already survived what looked to be the worst of it in Chicago and we were both excited about having another place so close to home.”

Neighborhood Noshes
While the Chicago outlet of the Outpost awaits the full-throttled return of Loop office workers to better illustrate its true potential, Kamilis and Martinez have been heartened throughout the pandemic by the steady stream of takeout (and, eventually, dine-in) business they’ve seen from hungry construction workers, essential workers, and suddenly homebound condo and apartment residents in the downtown neighborhood.

The Downers Grove location, too, looks to court a similar neighborly clientele: locals looking for a quick, unfussy bite and a cold Jarritos while out strolling the town or heading home from a matinee at the nearby Tivoli Theater. Wedged into a small storefront in an unremarkable strip mall, the handsome but compact space has room for only a handful of tables, meaning most folks will probably take their tacos and tortas to go. And despite the decided lack of circuses, those transient diners are unlikely to be disappointed by the food—wherever they ultimately opt to enjoy it.

Straightforward Staples
Nothing on the menu at the Outpost seems designed to make anyone rethink their notions of what Mexican food is or can be. Yet while Martinez may be working in a familiar wheelhouse here, he’s doing so in the service of recipes and traditions passed down from his father’s butcher shop and taco joint in Michoacan, Mexico—and the family pride is evident.

The guacamole got our meal off to a solid start, a chunky, well-executed version that probably could have used a little more kick but was otherwise fully satisfying. From there, we took advantage of one of the all-day breakfast options on the menu, a griddle-seared burrito packed with scrambled eggs, tender steak, black beans, cheese and tomatoes. We also split a trio of the ground beef tacos (from a selection that includes al pastor, chorizo, steak, adobo chicken, shrimp and vegetarian as well)—great examples of the one-hand, three-bite variation that tend to live or die on the merits of their homemade, double-layered corn tortillas (on that front, these passed with flying colors).

Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of the elote on the night of our visit, but there were no hard feelings as we set off with a pair of fresh churros for a relaxing walk back down Main Street to our car. We’d simply try that street corn (and maybe the chilaquiles) on our next visit—exactly the kind of attitude that Kamilis hopes and believes her community will take to heart for (hopefully better) years to come.

“This has probably been the hardest year of my career, but we’ve been so blessed,” she says. “This town has really embraced us.”

Photos by Elios and Carrie From Photography