How much can a 10-inch tortilla hold? In the case of Cisco's Cantina's SD–style burrito, a lot more than you might think. This crowd favorite starts with a bed of rice, beans, and avocado, to which chefs add plenty of chihuahua cheese, red or green sauce, and piles of carnitas or carne asada.
The rest of Cisco's Mexican food is equally hearty, if not quite as intimidating. Lemon vinaigrette adds zest to the California-inspired fish tacos, and a pork chili sauce spices up servings of huevos rancheros. Guests often linger in the cantina even after the kitchen closes, splashing their faces with salsa to stay awake past midnight as they sample the bar's 75 tequilas.
Born in Mexico City and raised in Yucat?n, Chef Tito has led a more than 30-year culinary career that's taken him through every position, from bartender to executive chef to tableside magician. He has cooked for celebrities as varied as Hilary Clinton, Sean Connery, and Norway?s King Olaf. With his bold mustache and even bolder personality, some of his dinner guests, such as The Pitch's Charles Feruzza, have claimed he could be a movie star. At his flagship restaurant Latin Bistro, he very nearly is.
In Latin Bistro's dining room, patrons are serenaded by Latin music as well as a symphony of shouts, bellows, and laughter. At the center of the room stands Chef Tito's open exhibition kitchen, where he and his chefs dash to and fro in a complicated dance, fashioning vibrant meals that draw from the regional recipes of Mexico, the Mayans, and more than 60 Latin countries in South America and Europe. With each dish, Tito balances three properties?texture, color, and flavor?and his most prized recipes come with extra flourish. He grills and braises pescado a la Veracruzana in white-wine rum sauce and Spanish spices, and tosses in green olives, onions, capers, and raisins. He conjures Mayan cochinita pibil after slow-roasting banana-leaf-wrapped pork in a pit with spices for up to eight hours. His crew drapes chile rellenos en nogada?ground beef-stuffed poblano peppers?in dried fruits, pine nuts, and creamy pecan sauce.
According to the chefs at Real Jalisco North, Mexico's most flavorful, inventive ingredients hail from the Jalisco region. The menu at this north-of-the-border eatery is an homage to those interesting creations topped with signature sauces. At the new Northwest Englewood Road location, they stuff poblano peppers with a mix of steak and rich walnut sauce served atop a bed of rice, or top a choice of meat with a sprinkling of Oaxacan cheese, tomatoes, and onions in a savory tomatillo sauce. The kitchen also serves a select menu of classic favorites, such as chimichangas and steak tacos. These can be paired with the handmade cocktails from the bar, which feature boutique, hard to find tequilas.
Ixtapa's kitchen creates authentic Mexican dishes with an emphasis on artfully prepared seafood and Yucatan-inspired flavors. Diners who order the pollo adobado entree, for example, can sink teeth into a chicken breast marinated in a sauce made with achiote seeds that, like most of North America's toffee supply, are native to the Yucatan peninsula. Fifteen chicken entrees—from the classic arroz con pollo to the spicy pollo Ixtapa—populate the menu alongside fiery shrimp dishes such as camarones a la diabla. The eatery's signature dish, camarones Ixtapa, presents a catch of succulent shrimp sautéed with mushrooms and onions in green tomatillo sauce. A full bar supplies adults with beer, top-grade tequilas, and reasons to talk about high school.
Each day, the chefs at El Chupacabra Mexican Grill & Cantina fire up their grill to realize a wide variety of recipes that originated in Veracruz, Mexico, as well as a variety of Mexican-themed burgers. Monster nachos ($5.79) send teeth through a gauntlet of hot queso, tomatoes, jalapeños, green onions, and sour cream. Chili relleno treasure chests ($11.29) open to a bounty of monterey jack cheese covering a cache of spanish rice doubloons, a devalued currency preferred for its flavor. Sharpen fangs on a massive El Chupacabra burrito, packed tightly with beans, cheese, shredded and ground beef, and espinaca dip ($8.99), or opt for a burger, such as the Carnita, loaded with house-prepared pork and pepper jack cheese ($10.99). Combination platters ($7.99–$9.99) are built from a variety of modules inspired by Swedish design principles, with options including chicken tacos, bean tostadas, and house-wrapped tamales. Comforting classics such as fried ice cream ($4.99) and sopapillas ($2.49) guide meals to a sweet conclusion.