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Mexican NOT Bayless-related

Will be in Chicago Dec 26-29. We are avid mexican food fanaticos and were not impressed with Topolobambo and Frontera, both of which we went to last month(sorry to you Bayless fans, but I think both these places have slipped significantly since we where there last year).Where else would you chowhound a recommend that fill the following requirements:1. real Mexican food, not tex-mex( love good sopes, refritos, pastor, anything with lamb).2. Good ambience, decor. Staying at the Waldorf, do not want to go very far to the outskirts of Chicago. 3. Good cocktails, tequila, mezcal selection.
Any thoughts??

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  1. Try Mixteco Grill or Mundial Cocina Mestiza.
    Sol de Mexico (great moles) is also worth consideration.

    1. My three non-Bayless favorites, in order, are Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Mexique, and Mixteco Grill. I'd also add Salpicon, which I like almost as much and is more convenient geographically (see below). The food at each is slightly different; check out the menus on their websites:

      www.mundialcocinamestiza.com
      www.mexiquechicago.com
      www.mixtecogrill.com
      www.salpicon.com

      Mixteco is BYOB; the others have full bar. All accept reservations, and all except Mundial are on Opentable. Mexique might be a bit tougher to find availability since they landed a Michelin star recently.

      Starting with the closest, Salpicon is a 12-15 minute walk from the hotel (0.7 mile per Google maps). The other three you will need to take a cab or public transportation. Mexique is in West Town, 2 miles west of the hotel; at Chicago/State catch the #66 Chicago bus westbound to the restaurant. Mixteco Grill is in Lakeview, 5 miles north of the hotel; catch the northbound #22 Clark bus at Dearborn and Walton and take it to Montrose. (It's also not far from the Montrose stop on the CTA Brown Line but the bus is more direct.) Mundial Cocina Mestiza is in Pilsen, 4.5 miles southwest of the hotel; take the CTA Red Line at Chicago/State, take it to State/Lake, transfer to the CTA Pink Line, and take it to the 18th Street stop. (Sol de Mexico, which I'm not that fond of, is quite far - about eight miles away - and much less convenient by public transportation, too.)

      1. Note that Mexique is Mexican food with a French twist. Not sure that's what you're looking for, since you specify real Mexican food.

        3 Replies
        1. re: camusman

          It's actually not that different from the other contemporary Mexican restaurants. Contemporary Mexican restaurants here, like those in Mexico, use influences from other countries around the world. I realize that Chef Gaytan has more training in French cuisine than some other Mexican chefs, but if you were presented with the menus for all of these places on a blind basis, you'd be hard pressed to pick out the one that is supposed to have French influence.

          In any case, as recommended above, you can always check out the menus on their websites to get a better understanding of the food offered at each restaurant.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I really like Mexique but it does have a strong French influence. French onion soup , for example, doesn't show up on many menus in Mexican restaurants. It is wonderful and cheesy, but includes poblano peppers with the onions.

            1. re: chicgail

              I absolutely disagree. You can see for yourself! Here are the entrees on the Mexique website menu. It's easy to see influences on the menu items from all over the world - EXACTLY like you can at Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Mixteco Grill, and Salpicon. Pick a different dish and you could just as easily claim it has a strong Swiss influence (one of the dishes that are fondue-based), or another with a strong Greek influence (feta cheese), and another with a strong Indian subcontinent influence (curry lentil stew). Every entree listed could be found at contemporary Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, served by the creative Mexican chefs on that side of the border, just like at the similar restaurants here. And that's one of the joys of contemporary Mexican cuisine (as well as contemporary American, contemporary Italian, and many other modern cuisines) - it's not any one thing, but it uses a little bit of everything to come up with the chef's own dialect. One that we can all enjoy.

              And I'll make the same suggestion for the third time: YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT THE MENUS ON THEIR WEBSITES TO GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE FOOD OFFERED AT EACH RESTAURANT. Decide for yourself whether or not their menu sounds "French", LOL!

              ASADA 22.95
              Grilled Flank Steak, Spinach, Asparagus, Roasted Red Peppers, Fingerling Potatoes and Goat Cheese Fondue

              MAR Y TIERRA 24.95
              Hibiscus Braised Pork Belly, Seared Scallops, Braised Red Cabbage, and Potato Galette

              PUERCO CON MOLE 22.95
              Pickled Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Sweet Potato Puree, Mole Teloloapan and Roasted Cocoa Nibs

              CHILE RELLENO 17.95
              Stuffed Chile Poblano, Zucchini Sofrito, Asadero Cheese, Spaghetti Squash, Tomato Fondue

              SKATE WING 23.95
              Pan Seared Skate Wing, Cauliflower, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Serrano Peppers, Grapes, Blood Orange Butter Sauce

              CORDERO 34.95
              Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb and Coffee Braised Lamb Barbacoa Sope, Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Marmalade, Sheep Feta Cheese and Roasted Garlic Mulato Chile Essence

              CORTE DE RES 28.95
              10 oz. NY Strip Sirloin, Truffle Purple Malanga, Roasted Oven Tomatoes and Sherry Wine Chimichurri

              CALABAZA DE INVIERNO 18.95
              Roasted Butternut Squash Filet, Curry Lentil Stew, and Raw Brussel Sprout Relish

              SALMON 19.95
              Grilled Salmon Filet, Sweet Corn Porridge, Spinach and Saffron Beurre Blanc

              PATO AL TAMARINDO 30.95
              Duck Leg Confit, Duck Breast, Swiss Chard, Fresh Corn & Cranberry Tamal and Chipotle Tamarind Glaze

              COSTILLAS 24.95
              Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, Creamy Parsnip Puree, and Pickled Pumpkin

        2. The major brand of tortillas sold here in grocery stores is El Milagro and the El Milagro people have a very basic small restaurant adjacent to their bakery that those who know call "muy autentico". Taqueria El Milagro, 3050 W 26th in La Villita (Little Village, Mexican neighborhood). From the Loop get on the CTA bus #60 Blue Island---at the bus shelter on Madison a few feet west of State Street, just around the corner from Sears---it takes you to the door of El Milagro, about 25 minutes to otro mundo. While you're there check out the tortilleria next door, and you might like to stroll westward through the big gate. If the weather is decent the street vendors will be out selling papayas, chicharrones, cotton candy, etc. Food comes either in tacos or "en platillo" and all is overseen by La Virgen de Guadalupe. No cocktails, just the food eaten by actual Mexicans in Chicago.

          On the other hand, if you want drinks and modern atmosphere Near North, try Cantina Laredo, 508 N State St.

          1. A faster way to get to Mixteco by mass transit is to get on the Red Line at Chicago Ave. and transfer to the Brown Line at Belmont. The restaurant is just a couple of blocks east of the Montrose stop on the Brown line. I know BYOB may not be what you had in mind, but the food is quite good and you can grab some Mexican beer at a store nearby.

            1 Reply
            1. re: camusman

              >> A faster way to get to Mixteco by mass transit is to get on the Red Line at Chicago Ave. and transfer to the Brown Line at Belmont.

              The door-to-door travel time is almost identical when you add in the longer walk than the #22 Clark bus at both ends, and the need to wait for two trains rather than one bus. The direct bus route may also be easier for out-of-towners to understand and remember than the transfer of trains, which is why I mentioned it first, before I mentioned the el stop.

            2. I've had a couple of very good experiences at Salpicon and I'd give de Cero on Randolf St. consideration, too.

              1. For a great selection of tequilas and very nice food, try Zocalo (W Ontario, just west of N Orleans). Admitedly I live a few doors down, but I have always had solid food, great tequila and lots of fun. Friday and Saturday they have bands and DJs as the evening gets later.

                You can then walk around the corner to a great Chicago neighborhood tavern, the Green Door, one of the oldest operating bars left since the Chicago fire.

                I am jealous that you're staying at Waldorf, my folks used to stay there when it was Elysian and i want to move in. They used to have nice little pastries with coffee in the lobby in the morning.