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Dec 20, 2006 02:43 AM

Best Mexican food in Rogers Park?

Living where we do, when we want a quick and delicious Mexican meal, we generally go to Clark Street in Rogers Park. Any favorites there? We go about three times a year, since one son isn't really fond of Mexican food, so it's hard to remember what we really liked. Your recommendations?

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  1. I like Taqueria Uptown, on Clark at about the latitude of the Metra stop nearby (it's a small chain, so I'm sure you could Google the exact location). Clean and neat and the food is fresh and good.

    1. Lupita's in Evanston. A short bus ride or drive from Rogers Park.

      1 Reply
      1. re: amoncada

        I second the recommendation of Lupita's. (You can also get there via CTA el or Metra train from Rogers Park; it's right at the Main Street stop on both lines.)

        700 Main St.
        Evanston, IL 60202

        Lupita's standard menu is conventional Mexican cuisine, all of it competently prepared. Where they really shine is their weekly specials; they have unusual and creative dishes on the specials menu, and they are outstanding. Also, they keep their website updated with the dinner specials every week, so you can check them out before you actually go. (They have lunch specials, too, but they don't bother posting those on their website.)

      2. I really like The Little Mexican Cafe. There's one in Evanston by the movie theaters and there's one even closer on Bryn Mawr one block east of Broadway. Actually, It's one of the reasons I decided to move into my apartment just 2 blocks away!!

        It's a little more expensive than your neighborhood taqueria will be, but it's so good, and they have a really wide variety of foods, from the standards to regional specialties. Plus they have a bunch of duck dishes and some vegetarian stuff. And they make tableside guacamole in the lava rock thing that i can never remember how to spell or say (molcajete?).

        3 Replies
        1. re: annimal

          The name of the place you're posting about is THAT Little Mexican Cafe (not trying to be picky, just noting it in case anyone is trying to look it up in a directory somewhere). As far as I know, they don't have a website. They do indeed have a variety of foods. I generally prefer Lupita's - particularly for the specials, as noted above, and also because TLMC seems to be somewhat overpriced IMHO - but TLMC is good as well.

          Funny, I had no idea that they had a location on Bryn Mawr until just this morning, when I drove past it.

          Here's the info on TLMC:

          That Little Mexican Cafe
          1010 Church
          Evanston, IL 60201
          Telephone (847) 328 7411

          That Little Mexican Cafe
          1055 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Actually,...not to be picky, but the one in Evanston is called "That Little Mexican Cafe" and the one in Chicago is called "The Little Mexican Cafe." I don't know why. When you call directory assistance and ask for "That LMC" in Chicago, they are baffled. Also, the neon sign above the door at the Chicago restaurant says "The LMC." There is free parking behind the The LMC building.

            1. re: Mandarin Orange

              That little mexican cafe is to authentic mexican what outback is to a steakhouse. Are you serious?

        2. If I wanted to go to a nice Mexican restaurant in Evanston, I would have asked about that. I'm really looking for a place on Clark Street in Rogers Park, which is a whole different thing. ;-)

          15 Replies
          1. re: Anne H

            Thank you, I was thinking the same thing. There are indeed some very good Mexican restaurants in Rogers Park. Which is the "best" depends on what sort of specialties (and ambience) you are looking for.

            My current favorite restaurant for dinner entrees is Cuetzala, which is located just north of Touhy on Clark. The food there is surprisingly well prepared and well presented for the price. The Carne Asada (skirt steak) is especially good. Another favorite is Enchiladas en Mole. In fact, anything in their delicious Red or Green Mole is recommended (chicken, pork ribs). The shrimp dishes are consistently good also, featuring plump fresh shrimp. On weekends, they offer Tamales Nejos, which are a very ancient specialty of Guerrero. These tamales are flat sheets of Masa made with ash instead of lime, and steamed in banana leaves. They have the consistency of pasta, and are used to scoop up the Mole sauce. Also on weekends, Cuetzala serves fantastic Pozole, a Pork and Hominy stew in a spicy broth with huge chunks of lean pork. Cuetzala also usually has a couple of daily specials that are invariably good and sometimes really exceptional (e.g. chiles en nogadas). I have to also mention the Licuados, which are actually made with ice cream. They are thick and cold like milkshakes. My favorite flavor is Mamey, but they have been out of that lately. Mango is my second choice. The Horchata (rice water) at Cuetzala is likely the best I have had. It is sweet, but not sickeningly sweet like some, and has a nice balanced spiciness. While Cuetzala has great dinner choices, their tacos are just OK. However, I do like their gorditas. (Cuetzala is BYOB)

            Although you may be tempted to visit Fabi's at the corner of Touhy and Clark, I think I would skip it. This was formerly an outpost of Campeche. Basically, nothing has changed since it was Campeche, except for the addition of a ginormous TV and a blind singer who croons over a beat box. Actually, the singer is very charming and sincere and unintentionally camp, like when he dedicated a rendition of God Bless America to all the Democrats in the house (of course in Rogers Park, that is just playing to the crowd). This is one of the only Mexican restauarants in RP that serves booze, so I think the Margaritas are the main attraction here. They have table cards that feature decidedly American barfood. The regular menu is the old Campeche menu with a new cover. The food is actually a little better than when it was Campeche (which doen't mean much). Fabi's could be a fun and campy place to tie one on with some friends.

            Just south of Touhy is El Rey del Taco. This place is very popular with local Mexican families on the weekends. They also do a huge delivery business. It is very bright and usually quite busy. My experience with the place has been rather hit and miss. The tacos (al Pastor, Carnitas, Barbacoa, Lomo) are much better than Cuetzala's. The licuados, on the other hand, are not. The chips and salsa are not that great either. However, the "super-nachos" are a glorious excercise in gluttony, especially with carne al Pastor sprinkled on top. Another dish that stands out at El Rey, is the Barbacoa de Chiva (barbecued goat). Seriously, if you like goat, this dish is great. Their carnitas are also good, with a nice smoky flavor. El Rey also makes tasty Tortas (sandwiches). They have a grilled variation they call Tortas Cubanas. Although they are not really cuban sandwiches, they are still very good. They have one that is made of ham, bacon, milanesa, egg, cheese and more (another excercise in gluttony). The other specialties of el Rey are some unusual tacos that are made with flour tortillas and grilled. They are not listed on the regular menu, but are on a hand-written sign. I guess these specialties are actually closer to quesadillas in nature since they all contain melted cheese. The tacos Pioneros (pioneer) are grilled pork, ham and bacon with sweet carmelized onions and cheese (very filling). The Gringas (anglo girls) are made of Pork, Cilantro and Pineapple, again on grilled flour tortillas with melted cheese (kids love the things). The Choriqueso tacos are, of course, Chorizo sausage and melted cheese.

            Much further south on Clark street is Dona Lolis, which is worth a visit just to see the ceiling of the restaurant. Actually, Dona Lolis serves some well crafted food, including some unusual dishes you will not commonly find elsewhere. Two of the house specialties are huitlacoche, which is corn smut (a dark but delicately flavored fungus that grows on ears of corn), and calabezas (squash blossoms). Both are worth trying. The sopes and huaraches at Dona Lolis are also quite good. In fact they have several good Masa based dishes.

            Next door to Dona Lolis is La Cazuela, a Mexican seafood place. In contrast to its neighbor, which is almost always empty, La Cazuela is usually bustling, especially on the weekends. Down the street is the RP branch of Las Islas Marias, a mini-seafood dynasty. Although I love the original LIM, as well as the big shrimp on the roof, I have never actually been to the Clark street restaurant. I have heard the fish is sometimes not very fresh. I have never found that to be the case at La Cazuela. Every time I have been there, the food was fresh and the dishes well executed. The restaurant itself is pleasantly decorated with exposed brick walls, but it can get pretty loud when it is crowded, especially when they have a guitar player/singer on some weekends(who is not bad).

            If you like tamales, then while you are in the hood, I would recommend stopping at Tamales los mejores de Guerrero and stocking up. They make about 7-8 different types of tamales including some fruit flavored ones. The corn is very fluffy and light and the fillings are a little sparse but full of flavor. Really amazing Tamales for $10/dozen (you can freeze them).

            Two other decent Taqueria type places are Mi Pueblita which specializes in the cuisine of puebla, and the aforementioned Uptown taqueria. If you want a completely authentic and genuine experience, you can check out the Supermercado Chapala, then eat at the tables in the back of the market. The roast chicken is excellent.

            Anyhow, that is just a few of the Mexican standouts along that stretch of Clark street. RP has much more than Mexican Restaurants, there are Columbian, Peruvian, Assyrian, Ethiopian, Nigerian, Persian, Erritrean, Jamaican, Belizean, Cuban and Montenegran restaurants as well. Oh yeah, and the brand new Harold's Chicken Shack #44.

            Restaurante Cuetzala Gro
            (773) 262-9417
            7360 N Clark St

            Tamales los mejores de Guerrero
            7024 N. Clark

            Supermercado Chapala
            (773) 465-3907
            7117 N Clark St

            El Rey Del Taco
            (773) 262-9411
            7104 N Clark St

            Dona Lolis Quesadillas
            (773) 761-5677
            6924 N Clark St

            La Cazuela Restaurant
            (773) 338-5425
            6922 N Clark St

            1. re: Roger Spark

              Thanks for posting. Now I have a whole bunch of new places to try!

              Incidentally, I think it's perfectly appropriate to post about Rogers Park places if people for recommendations in Evanston, and vice versa. The two areas are right next to each other - most of your recommended places are less than half a mile from Evanston - and most people in either area are willing to try places in the other, particularly if they're unusually good. I know I am.

              Thanks again for the recommendations!

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Geographically, you are right. But the restaurants are two totally different versions of Mexican; in RP, they are small storefronts oriented to working class Mexican residents primarily; in Evanston, Lupita's and so on mostly cater to a more middle-class non-Mexican audience. That's why I specified Clark Street, because that is usually what I am looking for when I want Mexican food. (I'm not saying it's better or worse, only that it is what I usually want.)

              2. re: Roger Spark

                Roger, you are just wonderful. This is exactly what I was looking for. I can see we'll have to increase our forays to Clark Street from three times a year. The carne asada will help; if my son can eat something like that, it doesn't count against our Mexican quota (ditto if they have really great salsa for the chips).

                Now when you get a minute, I'd love to hear about some of the other ethnicities. We tried a Nigerian restaurant a few years ago, and found some of the food great and some inedible. We love Jamaican food, and don't know all the best places in RP. For Ethiopian, we mostly go to Edgewater (or to Addis Abeba in Evanston now), I didn't know there was Ethiopian in RP? Anyhow, I encourage more writing when you have time! And thanks!

                1. re: Anne H

                  Ok, I was stretching the borders of RP by a block or two with the Ethiopian. There is also a Somali restaurant on Clark just south of Devon, which is technically Edgewater. But I always think of those orphaned nether regions of Edgewater to be more like South Rogers Park.

                  1. re: Roger Spark

                    Is the Somali place good? And what is Somali food like? Similar to Ethiopian?

                    1. re: Anne H

                      Truthfully, it has been quite a while since I ate at Banadir. In fact, I think they actually closed and re-opened in that time. As I recall, the food was pretty good. It was similar to Ethiopian food in that there were lots of stews. However, the stews were more meat centered. There were also some distinctly middle-eastern/northern african dishes (like foul madames). I think Yemeni and Egyptian cuisine heavily influenced Somali cooking with some nods to the Italian and English occupations. Although some of the dishes came with injera, most were served with rice. There were also some pasta dishes. I wish I could remember more details, I recall I had a goat stew which I liked very much. I know they used to have a lunch buffet. I will check the place out after xmas and report back.

                    2. re: Roger Spark

                      hahaha, I also tend to view edgewater like that. Especially now that I moved from Rogers Park to Edgewater. But it's so close it feels like i'm still home (grew up in RP).

                  2. re: Roger Spark

                    This is an excellent post. I greatly enjoyed Restaurante Cuetzala Gro. The food was outstanding and the mamey licaudos was well above average.

                    Dona Lolis was empty but the food was quite good.

                    I'm looking forward to trying Supermercado Chapala and Tamales los mejores de Guerrero.

                    1. re: cheapertrick

                      I am happy you enjoyed Cuetzala Gro. It is a favorite of mine. In fact, I was there last night. I had the special which was beef stewed in a chipotle sauce. It was very good (although a little fatty). Cuetzala also serves excellent Mexican breakfasts.

                      Unfortunately, Dona Lolis is always empty. Sometimes, I wonder how they stay in business. That is too bad since they serve some very unique dishes. How about that ceiling?

                      If you go to Chapala, be sure to get the roast chicken (also available to go). That has become a weekly ritual for me.

                      Also, in my original post, I misspelled the name of Mi Pueblito (not pueblita).

                      I should mention that Cafe Salamera has re-opened at 6653 N. Clark St., and is once more selling Peruvian style sandwiches. The pork-belly sandwich is messy but delicious. Right now their hours are somewhat irregular. They usually close pretty early.

                    2. re: Roger Spark

                      Does Guerrero or anyone else make tamales that are NOT fluffy and light, but rather have a smooth, slippery and dense texture to the steamed masa? The Taco Burrito Palace on Halsted near Fullerton used to sell this style tamales, and my wife's family from Colorado/New Mexico also makes them this style, of which I have always enjoyed better.

                      PLMK - Thanks!

                      1. re: abf005

                        You know, I always bought Tamales from a Tamalero who stood on the North side of the Supermercado Morelia parking lot. They were very much like you describe. He had a rajas con queso tamale that just kicked ass. The guy stayed on that block until they tore down the market, making the whole area into a biohazard zone. I'll bet once the construction starts on the new fire station, he'll be back selling tamales to the workers.

                        If you like steamed masa, you should try Cuetzala's tamales nejos, they are flat sheets of masa made using ash, then steamed in a banana leaf (no filling). The consistency is very dense, almost like pasta, but they have that slippery surface you describe. The masa is stained green from the banana leaves, and has pastel pinkish areas from the ash. You use the flat tamales to scoop up Cuetzala's delicious red or green mole sauces.

                        1. re: abf005

                          Late Post: La Casa Del Pueblo on Blue Island and 18th street in Pilsen is exactly what you're looking for. The Tamales are just like you like them and the sopes, tostadas, platillo de picadillo, chiles rellenos, caldo de pollo, caldo de rez, mole, etc, etc, is outstanding.

                          1. re: amoncada

                            It's never to late!! muchas gracias!!

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