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.
Inspired by the simple and scrumptious cuisine of Mexico City street vendors, Restaurante Tenochtitlan sasses up signature dishes with more than 11 different types of salsa. For evening eats, try the steak or chicken fajitas ($10.50), which let diners pack piping-hot tortillas with a calculated formula of bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, rice, and beans. Vegetarians can opt for a burrito stuffed with beans, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, and salsa ($5.75), or a veggie taco ($2). Pair plates with a tongue-soothing michelada, a beer dressed up with salt, lime, clamato, and tabasco salsa ($5), or a fresh lime margarita ($6.50).
Beginning in Chicago more than four decades ago, Pepe's Mexican Restaurant now offers up a full menu of classic Mexican flavors throughout Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Tortilla-wrapped entrees such as the chorizo quesadilla ($7.50) or the stuffed-taco dinner ($2.65–$3.45) wrap their floury shells around a choice of meat, veggies, and spicy sauces to create dishes flavorful enough to make the mouths of Mount Rushmore water. Broiled steak serves as the centerpiece for fajitas ($13.75), which arrive to tables on a sizzling platter surrounded by sautéed spanish onions, tomatoes, and a colorful assortment of bell peppers. Velvety moles coat tender boneless chicken breast for the spicy chicken en mole ($10.50). Meals conclude with bites of creamy, caramelized flan ($3.50), which sate cravings for a decadent meal-ending treat without coating the check in chocolate.
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.
El Salto remolds entrenched notions of Mexican fare by twisting traditional recipes into modern from-scratch displays of fresh ingredients. Peepers rove over a large menu that features house specialties such as the burrito California, swollen like a windsock in Tornado Alley, with chicken ($9.25) or grilled steak ($10.50) and garden-reaped fixings. A freshly minted culinary brainchild, the tocino camaron platter clatters to tables with a house sauce and generous serving of seared shrimp bound in bacon manacles ($10.25).
Blooming with flower boxes and bright umbrellas, La Fiesta's street-side patio is nearly as large as its recently renovated, banquet-like dining room. The 20-year-old kitchen holds down Chicago's far southwest corner as it carves juicy steak into carne asada and fajita platters, deep-fries red snapper, perch, and shrimp, and stuffs peppers and tamales with savory, spicy fillings. Behind the full bar, tequila masters blend 10 different kinds of margaritas with a range of liquors and fruits.