There are two things the staff at Bull Horns Taco Bar specialize in: tasty tacos and chilly margaritas. They pair these with a range of Mexican appetizers to make a feast that is easily shared, much like the feeling of disgust upon being touched by confetti.
The chefs at La Fonda Latino Grill flame-sear steaks, bake seafood, and fry crispy plantains to create a menu’s worth of traditional Colombian cuisine. The cuisine, according to the Chicago Reader, was inspired by recipes from owner Herbert Delgado’s mother, a Colombian native, and “reaches beyond the rice, beans, and plantains of the Delgados’ home country.” Waiters ferry cocktails and drinks to wooden tables from a full bar as diners converse amid earth-toned walls, a cozy fireplace, and a coat rack that doubles as a dining companion when necessary.
The epicurean alchemists at That Little Mexican Cafe craft authentic Mexican fare that tickles taste buds with balanced spices and the restaurant’s unique blend of fresh salsa. Ingredients from local markets and intergalactic foodie conventions wend their way into tortillas enveloping seafood and meat. Dining-room booths and tables oppose a ceiling adorned with bright decorations, and margarita glasses rise in toasts to the cacti and parrots that peer down from framed wall art.
At Fiesta Mexicana—a family-owned neighborhood business for more than 30 years— cooks whip up homemade Mexican cuisine with a contemporary Latin flair. At the remodeled Lincoln Park location, guests can cozy up to a full-service bar and savor nine flavors of margaritas, 23 tequilas, and more than a dozen Mexican beers. In addition to such specialties as carne asada and Mexican jambalaya, a medley of seafood, fajita, and taco platters round out Fiesta Mexicana's vast and varied menu.
Chef Luis Perez boasts an extensive experience with food, with a childhood spent taste-testing his mother's traditional Mexican dishes and a decade mastering European bistro cuisine under Chicago chef Jack Jones. Like the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, the menu at Perez's Lincoln Square restaurant is a memorable meeting of France and Mexico, resulting in plates of smoked-duck nachos, mint-roasted lamb with brandy-guajillo sauce, and cremini-mushroom quesadillas filled with goat cheese. Surrounded by sunny yellow walls and flowing baby-blue drapes, guests dine on dishes that fuse savory and sweet, such as the almond-crusted trout covered in creamy coconut sauce or center-cut pork chops with plum mole. Desserts of caramel-covered flan and rich tres-leches sponge cake cap off these eclectic suppers, as diners raise toasts with glasses of BYO beverages.
If chef Raul Arreola could nominate an eighth wonder of the world, his choice would likely be Mexican food. He has a particular affinity for cuisine from Oaxaca, which has largely been sheltered from the outside influences that might otherwise have corrupted its distinctive flavors. Arreola left his job at Frontera Grill to open Mixteco Grill, where he pays tribute to the cuisine of Oaxaca—and nowhere else—with a menu of rich moles. Dishes such as pollo relleno and wood-grilled pork chop in mole verde have earned the restaurant a spot on the Michelin Guide's 2012 Bib Gourmand list, which catalogs exceptional food available at reasonable prices. The brightly colored restaurant has a BYOB policy, which gives guests the chance to break out the bathtub gin that came with their apartment's bathtub.