Cinco de Mayo dinner?
My boss and I are going to be in the Chicago area (Bourbonnais to be specific) for a business trip on the weekend of May 5th, and she keeps joking about how annoyed she'll be to leave Los Angeles on Cinco de Mayo. Does anyone know of a good Mexican restaurant where we can go? It should be somewhere between Chicago and Bourbonnais (closer to the latter if possible) and not be too incredibly lame.
Is there anything out that way at all?
I would go south side to Pilsen, our ethnic Mexican area. You are on the way to Kankakee, as you can hop off 94 W at 18th St and then hop back on to 94, to 57 S. there, you should try one of two places, both BYO: (1) Mundial Cocina Mestiza on 18th or (2) May St Cafe on Cermak. Both are fun and good. the first has sangria toppings if you bring the vino.
There is an excellent Mexican restaurant in Joliet, which is about 30 miles from Bourbonnais:
700 Ruby Street
Search here for posts by Mugs and others about A.T. The thing to get is one of the three or so daily specials, often reflecting the Jaliscan origins of the owners.
Note that this is *not* a place for downing pitchers of margaritas, etc. They don't have a liquor license (I guess you can BYOB with beer or wine). But the daily specials are really excellent, as are the handmade tortillas.
Joliet is really, really out of the way from Kankakee. It takes as long or longer to drive to Joliet as to drive all the way into Chicago - 50-60 minutes - and it's not in between the two at all.
There are a couple of Mexican places right off I-57 near I-80 (in between Chicago and Kankakee):
5233 W. 159th St.
6820 179th St.
There are also several Mexican restaurants right in the Kankakee area, listed at www.visitkankakeecounty.com/specialty.php
If you decide to drive into the city, some of the top Mexican restaurants are located on 18th Street in Pilsen (Mexican neighborhood on the near south side of Chicago), like Cuernavaca and Nuevo Leon.
If you REALLY want a treat, you should go to Frontera Grill or Topolobampo for regional Mexican cuisine. These are the two most famous Mexican restaurants in the Midwest, both (they are next door to each other, same ownership) just north of downtown Chicago. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants Topolobampo is more expensive and takes reservations in advance. Frontera Grill only accepts reservations the same day as you're dining, starting at 8:30 a.m.
I live on the far southside, and Joliet is only about a 15 minute drive once on I-80. If I were you, I would go to Amanrcer Tapatio. Great food, very authenic. It would take you at LEAST at least an extra 45 minutes to get to downtown Chicago and find a place to park. Frontera Grill and Topolbambo have slipped some in the last year or so. Read recent posts to comfirm. Save time and have a much better, and, less expensive meal. I must thank Mugs for the tip.
In truth, it's a good 25 minute drive from the I-57/I-80 interchange (heck, it's 20 miles just on the interstate alone). And it's only about 25-30 minutes from that interchange to downtown Chicago, if it's not rush hour.
Many people think that Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are as good as ever. Read recent posts to confirm.
Go to Frontera Grill or Topolobampo. It won't take any additional time and you'll have much more creative food from the top Mexican chef in the country. (Yes, they have a liquor license.)
Or, if you're concerned about saving travel time, go to one of the places in Kankakee (Las Margaritas has a liquor license), or the ones mentioned above in Oak Forest or Tinley Park (which also have liquor licenses), which are right near that I-57/I-80 interchange.
Nothing against Amanecer Tapatio; it's a fine place for locals in the Joliet area, for whom it's easier to bring alcohol. But there are more appropriate recommendations for an out-of-town visitor in Kankakee. (To put it in Los Angeles terms, it's like suggesting a BYOB restaurant in Palmdale for a visitor staying in Orange County.)