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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Business Spotlight: El Jimador Mexican Grill

Sean Reed
El Jimador sits with decorative lights hanging up around the awning. El Jimador is a Mexican restaurant in DeKalb that was recently named the business of the year. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

Editor’s note: This article is not sponsored by El Jimador and is not an endorsement from the Northern Star as an organization. 

DeKALB – El Jimador Mexican Grill, established in 2020, provides authentic Mexican food with biweekly events for members of the community to enjoy. 

El Jimador is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Wednesdays and Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant can be found at 260 E. Lincoln Highway in downtown DeKalb. 

Ryan Gifford, one of the four owners of El Jimador, said the restaurant hosts karaoke nights Wednesdays and has a DJ present on Fridays. The restaurant hosts and/or caters events some Saturdays and Sundays. 

“(El Jimador) is good for DeKalb,” said Annie Reilly, a junior nursing major. “I do want to go to one of their events. They seem fun.” 

Gifford said the restaurant plans to generate new events such as potential salsa dancing and/or more consistent tequila tastings given the success the restaurant has seen with its preexisting events. 

“Fridays in general are always a busy night for us because we do have a DJ on Friday nights,” Gifford said. “Our upstairs room kind of turns into a more party atmosphere with a DJ, the lights are lower. We’re kind of spoiled to have that upstairs room to have a vibe that works for our younger crowd.” 

In warmer months, the first Friday of the month hosts events called First Fridays. Gifford said First Fridays are busy as the DeKalb community can walk downtown with food and drinks to promote local businesses. 

“Essentially, the community comes to patronize,” Gifford said. “You can buy drinks and food on the street, and you can walk with your food and drinks (through) the downtown block as you patronize different businesses. It’s very, very cool.”  

Gifford said some of El Jimador’s most popular menu items are the El Gobernador – a seafood taco with grilled shrimp and scallops –  and the La Bandera – a 12-inch long burrito topped with sauces that resemble the Mexican flag. 

Due to the size of the La Bandera, Gifford said guests find it to be a competition on who can eat more. Winners are sometimes posted on El Jimador’s Facebook. 

On Feb. 8, El Jimador won DeKalb’s Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year. Gifford said he and the El Jimador staff are honored by winning this award. 

“Truly an unexpected honor,” Gifford said. “We still have a lot to prove; we don’t even consider ourselves successful yet. So this is a cool honor, but it doesn’t change our attitude. It keeps us thinking like, ‘OK, what can we do now?’” 

Senior communications major Robert Sacca went to El Jimador August 2023 and ordered a steak burrito. He said he enjoyed his meal. 

“I think it’s (El Jimador) the best place to go for Mexican food in DeKalb,” Sacca said. “It was a great experience. I think it is well-deserving of Business of the Year and is a great location in downtown DeKalb.” 

El Jimador recently purchased what was once the Lincoln Inn in downtown DeKalb at 240 E. Lincoln Highway. The Mexican grill has an undisclosed restaurant looking to rent the building out. Gifford said the restaurant will be opening late-summer to early-fall. 

“We can officially say we have a restaurant that’s interested (in renting out the building),” Gifford said. “It looks as if, of course tentatively because you never know, we have a restaurant that will be in there as we roll from summer into fall.” 

In celebration of Margarita Day this Thursday, El Jimador will have sales on all margaritas. 

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