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Sep 11, 2009 06:58 AM

1 regional Mexican meal tonight - accessible from River North

Hi all -
Will be in town for the weekend and am looking to try the regional Mexican food for which your city is renowned. We're staying at the Westin River North and don't want to wait the 2 hours for Frontera (that, and hearing Bayless's voice for 10 minutes straight on the hold line turned me off just a little). From perusing these boards, here are the options I'm considering:

Mundial Cocina Mestiza
FDM or Fonda del Mar

Which one would people pick? Easy accessibility from the CTA is a plus, but food quality outweighs that. Are there others worth considering? The person traveling with me is a vegetarian, but he's pretty flexible.



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  1. Salpicon is very good, and a short cab ride from your hotel. That stretch of Old Town is a bit CTA challenged, unless you take the bus and walk. In my mind, equally good and more casual is Zocalo. It is walking distance from your hotel. Best margarita in my opinion. The tacos de cazuela and calamari/gamba fajitas are some of my favorites. HUGE tequila selection at both Salpicon and Zocalo.

    Another place worth trying is Mexique. French influenced Mexican. A very earnest mom&pop operation offering casual fine dining.

    BTW, i hear Frontera's wait time is now 3 hours. Topo is also booked 2 months out.

    358 W. Ontario St., Chicago, IL 60610

    1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    1. Mixteco is easily accessible on the Brown Line, which stops at Montrose.

      Mundial, I believe, is on the Pink, which stops at 18th.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jbw

        You will need reservations for Mixteco. Don't plan on just walking in. I called for same day reservations last week and they were completely packed.

      2. Salpicon is a short walk from the Clark/Division Red Line stop. Mixteco is a short walk from the Montrose/Ravenswood Brown Line stop, but Salpicon is closest from your hotel. Both are excellent but you'll need reservations. You can also try Frontera - just get there very early (likely to be a 2+ hour wait), leave them with your cell phone number, and they'll call you when your table is ready.

        6 Replies
        1. re: BRB

          Frontera is, basically, Mexican inspired - but if you're looking for traditional Mexican food it's not the place for you. Mixteco isn't worth the visit, IMO. The gem in the group is Salpicon.

          1. re: gomexico

            I'm not sure what you consider traditional mexican food-perhaps meximelts from Taco Bell-but the whole point of Frontera Grill is that it is TRADITIONAL! So don't say it's mexican inspired-because you would be completely wrong. Bayless is crazy about maintaining the tradition and cuture of the food-he has an anthropologist background.
            BTW-The chef at Salpicon came out of the Frontera kitchen

              1. re: sderouin

                Much of what Frontera, Topolo, Xoco serve is not "traditional" Mexican food and you'd be hard-pressed to find it served any place in Mexico (or at 99% of the other "Mexican" restaurants in Chicago) and that's why I refer to it as "Mexican inspired." Yes, the Bayless group very often uses many ingredients (of high quality) commonly found in Mexico but in ways Mexicans don't typically use them. The fact that chef's and cooks who once worked for Bayless now have their own restaurants is irrelevant to my comments.

                1. re: gomexico

                  Not sure what you mean when you say "much" of what they serve is not traditional, but your assertion is just not true. Cochinita Pibil? The moles? I could go on and on. But there are many items on his menus which are served in Mexico and in Chicago too. Just check out Fonda del Mar, Sol de Mexico, Mixteco Grill and Salpicon - they offer many of the same dishes. And while I love Salpicon, not every dish on their menu is going to be found in Mexico either. Doubt it? Ask Priscila.

                  The only thing I would agree with in your statement is that there are regions of Mexico where you might not be able to find certain of his dishes, but that is because his food is not limited to any one region. And sometimes he'll change an ingredient, but I'd love for you to explain how his moles and cochinita pibil are inspired by Mexican cuisine rather than authentic. And even though every chef in Mexico makes a mole in his own way (a mole negro varies significantly even by region), his ingredients and methods are traditional. You're talking about a guy who travels and studies extensively in Mexico to ensure the authenticity you question.

                  1. re: BRB

                    As for my comments referring to Frontera I gave further thought to them later this afternoon and I realize that Frontera IS the more focused on traditionally prepared dishes and that such refrenced shouldn't have been linked to the characterizations of the two other restaurantts. My opinions about Xoco and Topplo remain unchanged.

          2. I know that the original poster has already made his/her dinner choice, but in case others are reading this thread, I had a really great time eating at the bar at Frontera Grill. It was quite noisy, but it was fun interacting with the bartender. If you get the seats on the short end of the bar it's not too crowded. Both the food and margaritas have always been outstanding.

            1. my FAVORITE mexican restaurant is New Rebozo...either in Oak Park or Forrest Park...