Upon walking through the front door at Antigua Real, diners are immersed in colorful artwork and decorations that personify the Latin cultures the chefs draw from for their dishes. The hallway leading to the main dining room surrounds guests in a vibrant mosaic, and art pieces from Central America cover the walls, save for the space taken by the lit fireplace and one coin-sized hole that reveals another dimension. One would think that the allure of the dining room would steal the attention, but Antigua's chefs ensure their menu of spicy dishes prepared to authentic Mexican standards, or inspired by the flavors of Spain, Cuba, and the Caribbean, steals the show. Eclectic flavor combinations, such as savory chili sauces dusted with roasted almonds, tease taste buds into wanting more. A lounge area with a full bar also entices guests to stop in after stressful days and enjoy smoothies and milkshakes.
The neon lights and bright colors at Grande Jake’s Authentic Mexican Grill’s three Chicago-area hubs hint at the menu’s dedication to spicy eats. Chefs scoop grilled steak, chorizo, and chicken into burritos, then douse them in melted chihuahua cheese and salsa ranchera. Homemade tamales burst with pork or chicken, and the pollo asada al carbon tops a 12-ounce char-grilled chicken breast with mole or green sauce. Refried beans, spanish rice, and chips serve as supporting actors to entrees, and the creamy Mexican-style custard in flan finishes dinners more sweetly than a dinner mint delivered by a troupe of newborn kittens.
Brightly painted walls, vivid paintings of Mexican life, and flavorful margaritas lend Las Palmas' numerous locations a relaxed, distinctly "fiesta" vibe. As guests slowly unwind with friends, family, or Twister champions over ice-cold Mexican beers and cocktails, the chefs prepare fajitas, enchiladas, and tacos alongside plates of charbroiled meats and seafood. They also whip up vegetarian-friendly options, such as the signature guacamole and enchiladas banana, which they stuff with fried bananas and smother in mole sauce and melted cheese.
Piñatas and Mexican-style fiber arts lend colorful bursts to the adobe-like walls of Taco Amigo, which have seen more than 25 years' worth of patrons enjoy Mexican eats between them. Chefs serve the classics such as burritos and tacos, with some truly unusual additions to the menu as well. Opuntia cactus and grilled chicken wallow in a red ancho and cheese sauce in the Nopalito con Queso. Jalapeno crème fraiche and dollops of melted cheese decorate the tender chicken of the arroz con pollo. Grilled shrimp and a coconut milk and tomato sauce rest atop the sizzling, mahi mahi-filled Livingston enchilada, served with a side of ripe plantains.
Gus’ Mexican Cantina serves up a sizzling menu of Mexican-American fare, accompanied by cool splashes from a full bar. Diners can stave off ravening appetites by heaping nachos with cheese, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes, peppers, black olives, and beef ($7.95) or chicken ($8.95). A vegetarian taco salad invites herbivorous nibbles ($6.50), and deep-fried chimichangas, loaded with meat, cheese, and sour cream and served with beans and rice, attract starved stomachs ($8.95). At the Friday fish fry, guests can take a culinary dip into the Gulf of Mexico with beer-battered cod ($10.50) paired with Gus’ specialty margarita, made with a secret recipe pinched from the files of James Bond.