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.
Sunlight pours in through the many large windows at Fajitas Mexican Restaurant, illuminating booths and tables piled with classic Mexican dishes. The eatery starts meals with baskets of fresh, homemade chips, as well as frosty beers and margaritas. Colorful yellow plates house flour or corn tortillas piled with carne asada, picadillo, chicken, chorizo, or chili relleno. Breakfast brings in classics such as huevos rancheros or chilaquiles, and dinner plates offer up tamales or burritos stuffed with meats and veggies and topped with melted cheese. Homemade sopes join the culinary ranks with their bases of fried masa, nestling beside tortas, tostadas, and burgers.
Claiming a slew of awards, including Best Chicken Dinner by the Orange County Register, El Pollo Loco fills stomachs on the go with a menu of flavorful poultry inspired by Mexico's kitchens. Enjoy the rich tastes of a four-piece combo—including breasts and wings marinated in herbs, spices, and citrus juices—entouraged by two sides from an expansive selection, including spanish rice, BBQ black beans, corn cobbettes, and mac 'n' cheese ($8.99). For a more portable lunch during parkour breaks from the office, wrap your chicken in the warm tortilla blanket of a twice-grilled burrito ($5.99). El Pollo Loco's innovative salsa bar tickles tongues with fresh varieties of avocado, chipotle, and pico de gallo.
Diners can practically hear the gulf tides lapping on a Mexican beach as they read the menu at Burrito Mex, whose myriad seafood dishes feature ingredients ranging from red snapper and octopus to oysters and shrimp. Whether fried, breaded, or drenched with spicy diabla sauce, the aquatic creations stop stomachs from rumbling loud enough to trigger lightning. Back on land, the kitchen also crafts traditional Mexican entrees such as burritos filled with carne asada steak, al pastor pork, or—for the more adventurous—tongue. To wash down their feasts, patrons can sip fruity margaritas or feel like powerful diplomats by clinking bottles of domestic and imported beer.
Since opening its doors in 1985, Capri Ristorante & Catering has expanded to four locations including Capri Mex, which strays from the other locations' Italian fare with a menu of Mexican delights. Chefs fill the kitchen with aromas of carne asada and marinated chicken sizzling on the grill as diners patiently await the impending smorgasbord in the dining room's family-friendly confines. Options such as à la carte burritos and quesadillas leave room for extras, or dinner combos featuring rice, beans, and guacamole quell hunger whether chosen for dine-in, carryout, or storage in a refrigerated safety deposit box.
If you walk into Cafe Salsa at the right time, you might see a patron or two wearing a colorful sombrero. They didn’t dress up just to show their love for Mexican food though—the restaurant makes sure that every birthday boy and girl wear their festive headwear while they dig into their celebratory cake. This playful sense of fellowship permeates every corner of Cafe Salsa, with delicious, hefty margaritas accompanying a sprawling menuof Mexican classics such as tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas. Behind the bar, an impressive collection of fine tequilas offer guests something a little stronger to knock back or fill glasses to the perfect height to attract those people who sip cocktails on the backs of magazines.