Mario Dovalina and Edwin Ptak established the original Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in 1967 in order to satisfy diners craving authentic Mexican dishes. With more than 40 locations in the Chicagoland area and northwestern Indiana and traditional eats that are sold across the United States and even in Mexico, Pepe's appeases a wide audience with its hearty options. Appetizers such as chips and fresh guacamole made daily or chili con queso ready bellies for veggie burritos bursting with seasonal vegetables. Flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports games or ballerina-wrestling matches dot the spacious walls at many of the chain’s casual eateries, keeping diners in their seats long after their shrimp, pork, or vegetable fajitas are finished.
At Tequila Restaurante, green peppers and onions sizzle and snap in steaming skillets, as much a soundtrack to any traditional Mexican restaurant as mariachi and corrido music. Many of the other sensory details of an eatery in Mexico fill the Crown Point restaurant, including the citric bite of ceviche and the aromas of carne asada. Tequila Restaurante serves up traditional margaritas as well as those made with fresh banana, banana liquor, brown sugar, cinnamon, and other unorthodox ingredients. The dining room is alive with the vibrant colors associated with the country; crisp white table linens complement the red, orange, and green walls, and a string of white vine lights curlicues across the restaurant’s ceiling.
El Burrito Loco's staff dishes out the authentic flavors of Mexico in a low-key setting, with a wide-ranging menu that accommodates ample appetites. The restaurant fills its namesake dish with everything from tongue to chorizo to veggies, whetting whistles with the baby size ($4.90) and appeasing augmented appetites with the giant portion ($5.95). The specialty dinners showcase the eatery’s eclecticism, slinging meaty chilaquiles ($5.99) or chicken flautas ($9.35) with rice, beans, and tortillas. Vegetarians can order from a meat-free menu, kinder than a tofu dinner prepared by herds of unionized cows. Tamales ($2.10 each), enchiladas ($1.85 each), and tostadas ($2.65) can brandish beans or cheese, or both in the stead of meat. Many locations of El Burrito Loco keep late hours, giving sustenance to the musicians that play hold music round-the-clock.
Framed between two neon cacti, La Quesadilla Mexican Grill's imposing sign leads the way into a nexus of Mexican staples crafted from family recipes. Tortilla shells bundle meats, veggies, and seafood into tacos and burritos that share plate space with grilled 16-ounce T-bone steaks and chicken fillets. Glasses of house-made horchata and sangria dot the casual eatery’s booths and tabletops, and 12 different desserts, such as deep-fried sopapillas dusted with cinnamon, cap off meals better than an edible mortar board.
For more than 30 years, owner Art Trevino has loaded tables in Cilantro's dining room and patio with a menu of traditional family recipes. One of 11 children, Art learned to cook and precisely divide a taco into 11 segments alongside his siblings in their mother's bustling kitchen. Veggies add a hint of virtue to platters of cheesy burritos, steak, and chicken in options such as seafood-stuffed portabella mushrooms and chiles rellenos. A bright purple bar marqueed by garlands of colored lights pours 16-ounce "Mugaritas," house-made sangria, and a list of anejo and reposado tequilas designed for sipping through the finest cactus straws.
Authentic Mexican recipes outfit fresh meats with delicious aromas within the traditional kitchen of Carnitas Don Rafa. Equipped with a 40-year-old recipe, expert meat-seasoners craft signature carnitas—tender morsels of fried pork served beside rice and beans and an imposing cactus salad that wards off thieves. Protein-laden breakfast dishes kick off morning routines with hearty doses of scrambled eggs and tortilla strips, and evening munchers can wash down platters with cocktails and cognac.