Mexican in Chicago
Spending a few days in Chicago at the end of June and will be trying to divide my time between getting some stuff that I can't in Europe, such as good dogs, proper barbecue, some decent burgers, Chicago-style pizza and, of course, some authentic Mexican food.
I don't necessarily need something fancy and expensive. Even a stellar taco stand would be good. But does anyone know of some solid Mexican restaurants in the downtown, mag mile area?
I'd start with Rick Bayless's three places in River North. Topolobampo and Frontera Grill both offer creative contemporary Mexican cuisine. Topolobampo, which occupies a dining room inside Frontera Grill, is more upscale/expensive for dinner. They accept reservations (including on Opentable) starting three months out, and dinner slots book up quickly thereafter. For lunch, prices are similar to Frontera, and you can make reservations only a couple of weeks in advance. Frontera Grill only accepts a handful of reservations (only by phone), leaving most of the room available for walk-in traffic. You can avoid long waits by arriving 15-20 minutes before they open the doors, otherwise waits to be seated are often 90-120 minutes. If you sit at the bar at Frontera, you can order from either menu, Frontera's or Topolobampo's. Finally, there's XOCO, around the corner. XOCO serves more conventional Mexican "street food", including breakfast, sandwiches, hot chocolate, etc. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants
Salpicon is also excellent for creative contemporary Mexican cuisine. It's in Old Town, a short walk from the north end of the Mag Mile. www.salpicon.com
A little bit further but easily accessible from the Mag Mile, Mexique is excellent too, again for creative contemporary Mexican, with a slight French slant to some of the dishes. It's in West Town, two miles west of the Mag Mile, an easy ride on the #66 CTA bus that runs along Chicago Avenue. www.mexiquechicago.com
A bit further still, Mixteco Grill is in Lakeview, and is BYO. To get there from the Mag Mile, take the CTA Red Line to Belmont, catch the CTA Brown Line on the same platform, and take it to Montrose. www.mixtecogrill.com
Other than the Bayless places, all of the above accept reservations in advance, including on Opentable. Salpicon is open 7 days. Mexique and Mixteco are closed on Mondays. The Bayless places are closed Sundays and Mondays.
If you are willing to get out of the loop....
For taquerias, I would do Los Barrilitos (excellent al pastor and asada) or L'Patron or possibly Cemitas Puebla for a delicious cemita (which is not all that easy to find, even in high Mexican populations). I would also consider Birrerria Zaragoza for excellent goat and handmade tortillas.
Thanks for that, guys. I'm all set. Rick's places look great, but Frontera is already booked for the end of June, so I guess I'll have to show up and hope...
They told me on the phone that I should go around 7pm. 5pm is too early for me to eat, but I also don't want to wait in line for an hour!