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.
The beats of lean cuts of meat sizzling on the grill and ladles clanking against trays of zesty vegetables fill Qdoba Mexican Grill during construction of made-to-order Mexican fare. As healthy-eating devotees, Qdoba's staff stocks its kitchen with nutritious ingredients, seasonal flavors, and 100% cotton candy–free tortillas.
With exposed brick walls, large rounded windows, and wooden barrels decorating the dining room, Rancheros Mexican Grille & Cantina creates an authentic southwestern atmosphere to compliment their flavorful dishes. Metal chandeliers gently sway above spacious dining and banquet areas, where guests share orders of homemade chicken tamales or octopus, shrimp, and tilapia ceviche seasoned with lime juice and cilantro. Burritos bind marinated skirt steak, grilled shrimp, spicy pork, and other ingredients inside a warm tortilla that keeps bites from falling on the floor or floating away in zero gravity.
Casa Santiago's talented chefs whip up fresh mole, ranchero sauce, and guacamole to spice up burritos and chimichangas. For breakfast lovers, the kitchen prepares spicy chorizo and eggs ranchero at all hours of the day, which can be delivered to the patio to guests soaking up summer rays. Behind the bar, bartenders concoct fruity frozen margaritas and serve bottled, imported brews to quench diners' thirst and complement each dish.
At Sergio’s Cantina, family recipes from Mexico envelop pork, steak, chicken, and tilapia joined by an array of margaritas and mojitos. Blue-backed booths support diners, and crispy deep-fried quesadillas fill stomachs. The fresh flavors of pico de gallo, poblano peppers, and mango salsa sit atop platters of tacos, tamales, and enchiladas. Colorful umbrellas sprout to shade outdoor patio seating, and waiters emerge from the dining room’s ocean murals and potted palms with mixed drinks in hand.
The lengua burritos, Jarritos, and red and green sauces that smother enchiladas aren't the only authentic south-of-the-border touches at Changarro Cocina. Its drink list also brings some traditional flavor. The granite bar area, part of the new owner's renovations, hosts more than 70 different tequilas and margaritas made fresh without any mixers. Patrons sip these beverages while nibbling ceviche, huaraches, and tortas and cheering on soccer matches, baseball games, and ice-fishing tournaments broadcast on TVs throughout the restaurant.
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.