Tamale Hut's owner, Jaime Flores, has been schooled in the delicate art of tamale construction by his uncle Tony and aunt Emma, ensuring an authentic experience for cornmeal connoisseurs. With each use of their punch cards, customers may choose one tamale from the menu, whose creations are bedecked with tasty fillings such as a hearty bean stuffing made with pintos and fresh green salsa, and a piquant crab-meat stuffing with jalapeño and red salsa. Sugar-seekers can also opt for a cordial dessert of pineapple or blueberry via Tamale Hut Café's sweet tamales, which are served without a drop of salsa or hint of sarcasm. Punch card feasts pair each maize-laden morsel with a side of chips, a can of pop or bottle of water, and a choice of side item: corn, rice, chili, or tinga—shredded chicken draped with chipotle sauce, topped with sour cream and cotija cheese, and served upon a crispy continental shelf of tortilla chips.
Though there may be more than one way to skin a cat, there’s only one way to roast a goat—learn from a master. According the Chicago Reader, once John Zaragoza became interested in making birria, he sought out Miguel Segura, a renowned birriero in La Barca, Jalisco, Mexico who roasts his meat in backyard brick ovens. Two weeks studying with Segura taught him the varying cuts of birria and how to cultivate trust at the counter by chopping the meat in full view instead of pinkie swearing to each customer that the knives are clean.
Today, John and his family have their own recipe down pat. Kosher salt seasons the goat, which they seal in a steamer for up to six hours before covering it in an ancho-based mole sauce and transferring it to the oven. The cuts also yield a clean consommé broth that doubles as a garnish, which can be sprinkled on top alongside onions, cilantro, lime, and peppers. Handmade corn tortillas add the finishing touch to a birria meal at both Birrieria Zaragoza locations.
The goat can be ordered bone in or out, on a plate or in a taco—Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine ranks the restaurant No. 2 in the Midwest on a list of The 64 Best Tacos in the Country. For a spicy side, John's son Jonathan brews a signature fire-roasted salsa from scratch. Imported Mexican sodas wash down savory bites, whose popularity causes the Zaragozas to go through as many as 22 goats in a single weekend—more than the average caged T-Rex eats in a month.
Set in a bright, color-splashed setting, Lalo's has served up high-quality Mexican cuisine with fresh ingredients to satisfied Chicagoans for nearly 30 years. Much in the way a jockey fondly strokes his steed's mane, diners lovingly pet Lalo’s nachos ($7.95) before voraciously devouring them. Diversify flavor portfolios with the enchiladas suiza— three corn tortillas wrapped tightly with chicken, mexican cheese, tomatillo sauce, and sour cream ($13.95)—or introduce taste buds to the camarones al mojo de ajo—shrimp captured while sleeping, domesticated for several years, taught to read French, and then cooked pink and slathered in fresh garlic-butter sauce ($14.95). Meanwhile, Lalo’s margarita menu enlists a cast of strawberry, raspberry, guava, mango, and peach flavors, each available in small ($6.95), medium ($9.95), or party-pitcher ($23.50) doses.
Melding classic regional Mexican recipes with the spice and energy of a cantina, Alejandra's chefs craft a menu that provides travel-hungry taste buds with a passport to flavor. Jumbo shrimp sizzle with the piquant spices of homemade salsa in the a la veracruzana (a $10.95 value), and the costillas a la parrilla invite appetites to admire a generous, full slab of Mexican-style barbecue ribs as they lounge saucily on a bed of rice, vegetables, and optional throw pillows (a $17.95 value). Satiate an herbaceous appetite with the chiles rellenos, which offer up a sumptuous stuffing of cheese and corn, encased within a green-pepper shell (a $7.95 value). Or, discover the shredded chicken center hidden beneath the soft surface of classic enchiladas, colorfully topped with cilantro, green onions, melted cheese, and a choice of rojas, verdes, or mole sauce (a $9.95 value). Chilly fruit lends color and a heady sweetness to red wine in the included pitcher of sangria, a vivid and robust concoction perfect for sharing with a date or for distracting a charging bull.
The rhythm of knives chopping tomatoes and peppers for salsa and pans sizzling fajitas fills the kitchen at Bravo Restaurant as chefs prepare an array of traditional Mexican recipes. Patrons share plates of fish ceviche marinated in lime and lemon juice as well as hearty entrees such as tender chicken breast coated in mole sauce and cohinita pibil––marinated pork slowly cooked in banana leaves and topped with a fiery habanero salsa. Behind the full bar, staff members keep up with the tempo of orders with their margarita shakers and glasses of mojitos with fresh muddled lime. On Friday nights, those refreshing cocktails help guests build up the nerve to get onstage and sing karaoke tunes or announce their candidacy for Mr. Universe.
Most of the steak, chicken, and seafood morsels that star in La Majada Restaurant's hearty dinners spend quality time with the grill before taking on equally fiery accents of chorizo, peppers, and chile sauce. Along with dizzying combinations of burritos, tacos, and tostadas, the enormous menu also finds room for less common specialties of Mexican smoked ribs and Pollo Cancun: chicken baked in a paper bag and covered in a blend of spices and tequila. Vibrant paintings peer across the expanse of the brick-walled eatery toward a fireplace whose crackling logs occasionally spook nervous piñatas.
Every morning, the dough masters at Aracely's Bakery rise before dawn to craft house-made cupcakes, pastries, and sandwiches to bejewel their display cases. Confectionary artists transform dreams into fondant-covered reality by crafting custom cakes for birthdays, baby showers, and Eat a Portrait of Your Boss day. Meanwhile, traditional Mexican recipes lend sweetness to cakes and spice to 11 kinds of sandwiches, whose ingredients include avocado, chihuahua cheese, and secret sauce, and pack flavor into handheld meals.