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.
A pandemonium of parrots hangs down from the ceiling at La Hacienda de Roselle, dressed in bright shades of red, green, and orange. These colorful décor items mimic the restaurant’s vibrant dishes, from bowls of guacamole to red snappers bedecked in onions, jalapenos, and ruby red tomatoes. The chefs also expertly stuff Mexican sausage, spicy pork, and shredded beef into tacos and burritos. Throughout the cozy eatery, conical lights softly illuminate the blue-and white checkered cloths and linen napkins that adorn each table.
Since 1979, a collection of family chefs has filled El Torero Restaurant & Bar's dining room with the aromas of authentic Mexican cuisine. Equipped with a catch of fresh ingredients, chefs drizzle chicken with special mole, green, and garlic sauces, and broil prime skirt steak before topping it with zucchini or poblano peppers. In the construction of their fleet of specialty enchiladas, cooks sauté shrimp and melt savory cheeses before en-rainbowing the whole ensemble with colorful veggies.
Outside the kitchen, bartending brethren supplement bites with margaritas forged from 100% agave tequila, and fruit cocktails concocted from the likes of Curacao and amaretto. Tall, vibrant purple booths cradle patrons more effectively than a robotic grandmother, and floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate gentle pastel-yellow walls.
The Gomez family members first chose to share their family-style Mexican cooking with the Chicagoland area in 1992, founding Los Arcos Mexican Grill. Currently, the family's restaurant empire includes four locations, each of which shares a similar dedication to Mexican and Tex-Mex comfort foods. The chefs make all of the tamales and soups in-house, rounding out the selection with a traditional assortment of tacos, burritos, tortas, fajitas, tostadas, chimichangas, and more. However, they also demonstrate their willingness to create inventive new dishes. This is readily apparent in the menu's signature item: the hollowed out half of a grilled pineapple filled with pineapple pieces, onion, red peppers, jalapeños, and either shrimp and octopus or chicken and skirt steak.
“Best Mexican Restaurant I own!” Matt Waxler quips on his Facebook page, and it’s clear he really does enjoy the food he vends at North of the Border Mexican Restaurant. His menu diversifies burritos with more than the standard meat selections, stuffing in boneless chipotle seasoned wings, stir-fried shrimp, or steak with three kinds of jalapeños, a word which translates to English as “pepper of many guises.” American- and Mexican-style tacos vie for plate space, and strips of skirt steak simmer in a tomato and jalapeño sauce in the Bistek a la Mexicana, Mr. Waxler’s favorite dish.
All chefs have experience behind the stove, but Salsa 17’s Eardley Firth has cut his teeth in all positions of the kitchen and at numerous Chicago restaurants, including City Tavern and Chestnut Street Grill. At his current station, he crafts a menu of gourmet Mexican dishes such as lamb shank braised in birria sauce, jumbo tiger shrimp in mole blanco, and enchiladas stuffed with sautéed white mushrooms, spinach, and caramelized onions. Firth isn’t the only one who gets to experience the joy of crafting food. Servers make guacamole by hand at tablesides, and bartenders blend margaritas before pouring them into salt-rimmed glasses or waterproof sombreros.