“If you have a Mexican grocery store near you, the taquería that’s inside is really a good bet” noted Rick Bayless on a Time Out Chicago tour of his favorite Mexican spots in Pilsen. The taqueria in question was Restaurant La Casa Del Pueblo––located across from the grocery that shares its name––, a place Bayless praised for it’s “super homey” eats. TimeOut seems to agree, calling the eatery’s tamales “incredible” and “tender” in a separate review. All of the authentic northern Mexican recipes served here—tacos, tortas, burritos, twice-baked piñata—have been perfected by the owners, a family that has run the restaurant since 1962. To accompany the spicy menu, patrons can bring their own beverages or keep the authentic tastes coming with a cup or horchata or Mexican hot chocolate.
Artists don’t just gather at this café and gallery; they furnish it. Everything from the rotating artwork to the mural-like, hand-painted tables has been created by local artists. Coffee drinks and Mexican hot chocolate dazzle taste buds as eyes ogle the ever-changing wall candy.
Tucked within the Pilsen neighborhood, Efebina's Café inhabits a historic building that was recently rehabbed both inside and out. The now welcoming storefront makes way to a cozy and modern interior displaying local art on its walls and tasty treats on its tables. Their drink menu boasts hot and cold coffees, as well as sodas, juices, and smoothies. The food menu keeps hunger at bay with breakfast items, sandwiches, and pastries. The café is gathering place for study groups, music nights, and other events, accommodating up to 150 people or 150 adult-sized mannequins.
Located in the heart of Pilsen, Nitecap Coffee Bar draws in the community with live music, artisan brews by Metropolis Coffee, and a menu of Latin-inspired deli and panini sandwiches. Patrons can savor the El Vez—a spin on the classic peanut butter 'n' jelly that's made with roasted plantains, old-fashioned peanut butter, and guava jam—or opt for a pork-loin sandwich dressed with housemade aioli. Baristas flavor hot chocolate, mocha lattes, and other café drinks with housemade chocolate and syrups, but guests can also take advantage of Nitecap's BYOB policy.
A top-5 rating from TripAdvisor.com doesn't happen overnight. Just ask Dave Samber, whose Polo Café and Catering Bridgeport U.S.A., a mile west of U.S. Cellular Field, currently ranks among Chicago's most popular restaurants. Since opening in 1990, the restaurant has earned a reputation as an adventurous spot where guests can feast on lamb chops and sandwiches served on warm French baguettes. On weekends, the restaurant also opens its doors early for two signature brunches: Saturday's Bloody Mary Brunch pairs horseradish-dosed bloodies with tasty takes on classics like Polo Café favorite Eggs Benedicto XVI and french toast, while Sunday's Gospel Brunch treats diners to a soulful serenade from singers backed by a live organ.
Samber and his dedicated staff share their delicious food served with Chicago hospitality amid the green and white diner's tin ceiling, tufted booths, polo-green tablecloths. The vintage glamour is only interrupted by framed accolades and a colorful 12-foot chalkboard created in 1986 to welcome guests to the historic Bridgeport neighborhood, home to five of Chicago's mayors. The adjacent Old Eagle Room, a repurposed theater built in 1914, accommodates up to 100 banqueters on its main and mezzanine levels. These guests enjoy entertainment from a Rodgers 360 theater organ or a 20-channel audio system after storing cars in free lighted parking lots.
Carlos and Eve Escalante had modest ambitions when they began making empanadas in 2007. They just wanted some treats to share with their friends and loved ones. When praise for their recipes started pouring in, however, the couple wisely revised their game plan and moved their in-home business to a small shop in Lincoln Park. Today, the menu at Lito’s Empanadas remains small, with fewer than a dozen options. Carlos and Eve continue to focus on quality above all, as they consider everyone who walks in their shop a new friend worth impressing. Made fresh every day, their tasty fillings of beef, chorizo, Nutella, and piñata candy nearly always do the trick.