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Nov 4, 2009 07:58 AM

Authentic Mexican Food in Chicago?

Looking for real Mexican, not fusion, not upscale, just really good, honest food... preferably a place run by a native Mexican. Downtown location would be ideal but neighborhoods OK.

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  1. Authentic Mexican in Chicago? What a concept!

    Okay, so what's your idea of "real Mexican"? Any particular region or cuisine? This topic is nearly as loaded as asking "where can I get pizza in Chicago"? There are s o many varieties of Mexican here that you do need to get a lot more specific as to your expectations.

    1. I think you'll find Maxwell Street Market to your liking.

      1. Nuevo Leon on 18th street might be up your alley.
        Also, La Casa Del Pueblo - cafeteria style - VERY "really good, honest" imo.

        There are so many. You gotta be specific in what you're looking for. There are sooo very many. OH Taqueria La Oaxaquena on Milwaukee might float yer boat too. These are just a few that I like. but, there are sooooo many....

        La Oaxaquena Restaurant
        3382 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60641

        Nuevo Leon Restaurant
        1515 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

        6 Replies
        1. re: gordeaux

          Ok, to be more specific: I guess what I'm looking for is a Mexican place with a figurehead owner or Chef. I want to expose a high school student to a successful Mexican entrepreneur in the restaurant business because he wants to open his own restaurant! But not high-end Rick Bayless... someone more accessible.

          1. re: Barbiedoll

            Some of my favorites are along those lines. Wholly Frijoles is just outside the city (1st suburb North of Chicago) about a 20 minute drive from the Loop. Owned by Carmen Villegas (a very, very nice guy) and his wife. He worked his way through the ranks at some of Chicago's better restaurants and started his own storefront place (he could easily fill a larger location or add to his revenues by serving liquor - it's been BYOB since it opened many years ago - , but that's not what drives him). I've been a regular for many years and the food is not only great but a great value:


            Flamingo's Seafood is another fine example. It's also suburban, very close to O'Hare, but never fails to impress.

            In the city, there's Los Nopales in Lincoln Square (15 minute drive from the Loop). A more traditional menu but very much a mom & pop place.

            I could easily spend another 45 minutes answering this but there are no doubt others who will chime in.

            Wholly Frijoles
            3908 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712

            1. re: Barbiedoll

              You might be very surprised at how "accessible" Rick Bayless can be. You might be very surprised indeed.

              I would suggest speaking with Carlos at Sol De Mexico, or the folks at la oaxaquena.

              1. re: gordeaux

                I agree. His food is a bit expensive, but that has to do with the local sourcing, and the food is great. I've found that if you sign up for a table, then go across the street to Fado and have a beer, you get a table far faster than you think. I have been amazed at some of the flavors there. He does things with duck that are memorable.

                1. re: gordeaux

                  Sol de Mexico would be a great place - especially if you are a mole lover. It's a bit of a haul from downtown, but so is every excellent Mexican restaurant other than Frontera/Topo and Salpicon.

                  Salpicon is definitely on the upscale side, but otherwise fits your criteria and the food is excellent.

                  One under-appreciated spot which I just love is La Casa de Samuel on Cermak. Also a bit of a drive from downtown but the food is outstanding. They don't miss a beat here, starting with the outstanding house made tortillas. It's great for lunch and dinner and I couldn't think of a better place to showcase family run. Here's more on LCdS:

              2. re: gordeaux

                Yep, I second the 'La Casa Del Pueblo' recommendation. This is where the native Mexican population dines. Nothing fancy, it's cafeteria style. The mole is solid, chicken or beef soup, sopes, tamales, tostadas, picadillo, enchiladas, guisado's are fantastic!!

                OR, if you're looking for slightly more atmosphere, you should try Los Nopales on Western Avenue. I've had several very good meals there as of late. The mole rojo, enchiladas, etc, were very good. Even better, bring your own wine. Afterwards, walk east two blocks to Lincoln and turn left, here you have wonderful neighborhood to explore, walk all the way north to Lawrence where there's a mini town square, it's lovely.

              3. Two places which come to mind quickly:

                Pozoleria San Juan
                1523 N Pulaski Rd
                Chicago, IL 60651-1938
                (easy to reach using the North Ave. bus - North & Pulaski)

                Zaragoza Restaurant
                4852 S Pulaski Rd
                Chicago, IL 60632-4116
                (easy to reach using the "Orange Line" of the "El" system, then a 2 block walk N.)

                Zaragoza is my first choice for a recommendation and I've no doubt the Zaragoza family would be wonderful teachers/explainers of the style of food they offer their guests.

                Rick Bayless doesn't much cook in his restaurants, and hasn't done so for about 15-years; he's a pitch man. The food in his restaurants is more of the "Mexican influenced" variety than "authentic Mexican," from what I've observed over the years (and that's particularly so at his new place, Xoco).

                Google my two recommendations to learn more.

                1. What about Mixteco Grill on Ashland and Montrose? The food is fabulous. The chef is Mexican and trained under Bayliss.

                  Mixteco Grill
                  1601 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613