The neon lights and bright colors at Grande Jake’s Authentic Mexican Grill’s three Chicago-area hubs hint at the menu’s dedication to spicy eats. Chefs scoop grilled steak, chorizo, and chicken into burritos, then douse them in melted chihuahua cheese and salsa ranchera. Homemade tamales burst with pork or chicken, and the pollo asada al carbon tops a 12-ounce char-grilled chicken breast with mole or green sauce. Refried beans, spanish rice, and chips serve as supporting actors to entrees, and the creamy Mexican-style custard in flan finishes dinners more sweetly than a dinner mint delivered by a troupe of newborn kittens.
Rudy's Mexican Grill serves up generous portions of uniquely tweaked Mexican cuisine doused in house salsas, sauces, marinades, and seasoning mixes made from scratch. Large mortars filled with house specialties such as the seafood paella ($14.95) erupt from the kitchen like a seafood-powered steam engine running on mussels, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, and calamari. The parrillada de carnes ($25), served family style, satisfies the liberal meat leanings of two people with an arsenal of skirt steak, chicken, marinated pork, and smoked sausage capped with grilled vegetables. Homemade flan ($2.50) molds corn and vanilla custards for a soft and sweet dessert-menu sampling.
Upon walking through the front door at Antigua Real, diners are immersed in colorful artwork and decorations that personify the Latin cultures the chefs draw from for their dishes. The hallway leading to the main dining room surrounds guests in a vibrant mosaic, and art pieces from Central America cover the walls, save for the space taken by the lit fireplace and one coin-sized hole that reveals another dimension. One would think that the allure of the dining room would steal the attention, but Antigua's chefs ensure their menu of spicy dishes prepared to authentic Mexican standards, or inspired by the flavors of Spain, Cuba, and the Caribbean, steals the show. Eclectic flavor combinations, such as savory chili sauces dusted with roasted almonds, tease taste buds into wanting more. A lounge area with a full bar also entices guests to stop in after stressful days and enjoy smoothies and milkshakes.
Owners Connie and John Tyrrell channeled their love of Mexican culture into Burrito Grande, a hub of Mexican flavors woven from seasonings and sauces mostly prepared in-house. House specialties fill warm tortilla pillows with fresh tilapia, shrimp, or pork embellished with diverse ingredients such as mango salsa and pineapple. Tacos and fajitas fill up on proteins such as chorizo sausage and juicy steak, and build-your-own burritos make for artfully stuffed meals without the papery aftertaste of piñatas.
Gus’ Mexican Cantina serves up a sizzling menu of Mexican-American fare, accompanied by cool splashes from a full bar. Diners can stave off ravening appetites by heaping nachos with cheese, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes, peppers, black olives, and beef ($7.95) or chicken ($8.95). A vegetarian taco salad invites herbivorous nibbles ($6.50), and deep-fried chimichangas, loaded with meat, cheese, and sour cream and served with beans and rice, attract starved stomachs ($8.95). At the Friday fish fry, guests can take a culinary dip into the Gulf of Mexico with beer-battered cod ($10.50) paired with Gus’ specialty margarita, made with a secret recipe pinched from the files of James Bond.