Cantina Laredo


Consolidated Restaurant Operations


Weiss Architects


General Contractor

Cantina Laredo Gourmet Mexican Restaurant at State and Illinois Streets in Chicago’s River North neighborhood is the new flagship of the 35 restaurant chain. The first Cantina Laredo outside the southern states, this dramatic 17,000 square foot, two-story restaurant enlivens the neighborhood while providing an upscale dining experience for its patrons. Substantial use of glass, wood and natural stone create a sophisticated “south-of- the-border” atmosphere.

The significant use of various stones and douglas fir tongue and groove wood on the walls and ceilings creates a warm yet contemporary atmosphere, augmented by custom art work throughout the spaces. All of the materials are complementary in creating the desired flowing and inviting restaurant atmosphere. Two focal point fireplaces are clad in sleek white limestone. Additional stone fireplaces placed throughout the restaurant add to the cozy sophistication.

The construction of this 17,000 square foot flagship restaurant presented the project team with significant challenges. Located in the heart of Chicago’s bustling River North neighborhood, the project was situated on a very tight urban site.
Concurrent subway reconstruction within a quarter mile from the project added to the complexity. One lane of State Street and one lane of Illinois Street was blocked for the majority of the construction duration and pedestrians used temporary walk-ways on both of those streets due to sidewalk closures. Due to these circumstances, the importance of job site safe could not be understated.

Another important feat during the course of construction was the soil stabilization. The project site had been cleared of prior buildings in the early 1960s and had been used as surface parking in the intervening years. The foundations and basements of previous 19th century buildings littered the site to a depth of eleven feet; below which was soft Chicago clay. Excavating the entire site and backfilling with engineered fill was cost prohibitive. The general contractor provided a foundation solution: leave the underlying fill in place and improve the fill layers using vibro-compaction. The entire site was treated in this manner with varying numbers of vibro-probe holes drilled based on location of bearing elements and slab- on-grade needs. This method saved the owner over $140,000.00 and reduced the project schedule by nearly a month.

The finished project has a strong presence within the surrounding community. Both State Street and Illinois Street are enlivened by the glass walls of the restaurant and the patio and fireplace features. The visibility of the interior of the restaurant from the street creates a positive impact on the street scene.