Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Jerry Hernandez of Lavergne’s Tavern
Welcome to Meet Berwyn’s Creatives! Berwyn has become a hot spot for urban professionals, entrepreneurs and creatively minded individuals. From musicians to crafters, small business owners to dedicated team members, Berwyn is home to a remarkable group of movers and shakers who keep our community vibrant. This segment gives us a chance to get to know what makes our local leaders tick! Enjoy!
Meet Hometown Hero and Cool Restaurateur Jerry Hernandez of Lavergne’s Tavern (6546 Windsor Ave, Berwyn), est. Mar 2016
Current Residence (Town): Oak Park
All About Jerry: I grew up in Berwyn and attended Morton West High School. Seeking a change in scenery, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served four years as an infantryman with 1st BN 5th Marines out of California. I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the world and visited places like Japan, Germany, Thailand, and the Middle East. I completed two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (becoming a Purple Heart recipient) and was discharged in 2007. I worked in the restaurant industry before my service so it was easy to find myself back there afterwards. I went back to work with my father in his fast food Mexican restaurants, Los Burritos Tapatios. It’s there where we came up with the idea of opening a neighborhood bar/restaurant concept with him and my brother Jorge Hernandez, which now includes Ellyn’s Tap & Grill (Glen Ellyn, 2009), Warren’s Ale House (Wheaton, 2013) and Lavergne’s Tavern (Berwyn, 2016).
The Business Side: I can honestly say the vision began at a tiny brewpub in Southern California. Every Wednesday, this place had .25 wings (which is why we have wing Wednesdays) and was an easy choice for Marines on a budget. A group of 5-6 of us would pull out a $5 bill and go up to the register to order $25 worth of wings, double baked and a pitcher of craft beer. Here’s the best part—locals would see a table full of Marines and tell the wait staff, “send them a pitcher on me.” That is where I was exposed to and grew an appreciation for the many different flavors and styles of beer available. Wednesdays turned into my favorite day of the week—Thursdays not so much. When we opened Ellyn’s Tap & Grill in Glen Ellyn in 2009, I said to myself, “I want to carry the beers I had in California,” and so we did. With the success of Ellyn’s, the vision carried over to Wheaton by establishing Warren’s Ale House in January 2013. Most recently, the addition of Lavergne’s Tavern brings the vision home to Berwyn with a chef-created menu, craft beer & handcrafted cocktails unique to the area.
Lavergne’s meant more than opening another restaurant. It was a homecoming, a return to Berwyn, to people I grew up with and love. The number one goal is for Berwyn residents to feel like Lavergne’s is their hometown spot.
Describe yourself using 3 words and explain why you chose those words.
Resilient: From the Marine Corps to the restaurant/bar industry to family & kids, life has brought a whole range of twists and turns, but life is still great.
Observant: Typically, I like to sit back and observe, taking things in when trying to make decisions or considering different options.
Balanced: This is my number one goal for the moment. There are only so many hours in the day. Never forget what’s important. For me, nothing is more important than family. Balance is key.
What inspires you?
1: Tell me, “You can’t do it, it’s too risky, it cannot be done, that’s not a good idea,” and that will be the surefire way to get me laser-focused on getting it done.
2: Seeing things through from start to finish. Being a small business owner means getting involved in every aspect of the business at one point or another, whether it’s the initial meetings with contractors or the finishing touches of deciding on table linens or bar glassware. Being able to see things happen and being a part of it all keeps me going.
Tell us something that people might not know about you.
My restaurant journey started at Little Caesars in the old Super Kmart in Broadview. Seriously, it was my first official job at 16 years old. My kids love that story.
What is your fondest memory?
It’s definitely a tie between my wedding day with my beautiful wife, Gaby, and the births of our three children: Nate (8), Ella (6) & Lilah (10 weeks).
If we were to hang out, what would we do?
Dinner and drinks, of course. I’d check out some cool restaurants. I’m always interested in what other places are doing. Drinking some craft beer at a local brewery is never a bad idea. I love going to the movies, too (unfortunately, my wife does not), so maybe we’d catch a show!
What is the meaning of your name?
“Brave spear wielder,” according to Wiki-pedia. If it’s on the internet it’s true, right?
What’s the story behind the Italian Beef Eggrolls?
The now famous recipe—featured on WGN’s Chicago’s Best TV a few months ago—the Italian Beef Eggrolls actually came about by accident. When Ellyn’s first opened, there was another eggroll on the menu, which a then-neighboring bar had too close of a recipe to. So, we decided to come up with a completely new idea. Being from the Chicagoland area and knowing Chicago’s epic love of Italian Beef Sandwiches and spicy gardiniera, we decided to put it all together…and the rest is history!
I do have a favorite…although I can’t reveal what it is quite yet. Our menu changes seasonally and we’ll be announcing our Fall 2017 Menu in the next few weeks. Stay tuned and follow us on Facebook to see what my new favorite is!