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.
When you get your first plate of Taqueria Los Comales’ signature Mexico-City-style tacos, you might be surprised by their size. Each double-wrapped taco is small enough to fit into your hand, a fact owner Camerino Gonzalez specifically had in mind when first making them in Chicago’s Little Village in 1973. Rather than have clients try just one of his signature meats, he wanted to allow guests to sample a wide variety of different options. Cooks stuff the soft tortillas with al pastor served in a secret marinade as well as more adventurous taqueria staples such as tongue or beef tripe. The restaurants’ homemade salsa and their own signature mix of pickled carrots, cauliflower, and jalapeños enhance these flavors, making meals as satisfying as the discovery that you’re tax exempt because of your cool haircut. Alongside the traditional tacos, chefs grill up meats for tortas, burritos, breakfast, and dinner platters, all of which can be paired with the shop’s glasses of creamy horchata or a range of Mexican and domestic beers.
Mago, which is Spanish for magician, drafted chef Juan Luis Gonzalez to craft authentic Latin and Mexican dishes that “dazzle” diners, according to the Daily Herald. The menu surveys both traditional and updated dishes, including three kinds of ceviche, empanadas stuffed with seasoned meats, and complex moles. Beyond the main dishes, the chef experiments with sucrose in desserts such as chocolate molten cake with chipotle ice cream, as well as a cantina menu highlighted by margaritas, mezcals, and mojitos served in glass sombreros.
Chef Jose Luna brings three generations' worth of Mexican foodie forebears to fill his lunch and dinner menus with carefully honed flavors. During dinner, guacamole ($8.95) is prepared fresh tableside, assuring guests the concoction isn't artificially enhanced by creamy supplements or black-market food coloring. Chefs apply years of experience playing Operation to silently extract menu guesswork with a selection of chef's specials, such as the birria de borrego, a lamb shank braised in birria sauce and served with chipotle mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables ($20.95). Add extra flare to an arrachera marinated skirt steak ($18.95) or grilled atlantic salmon ($19.95) with one of Salsa 17's mole sauces, traditional Mexican concoctions that form palate-pleasing puzzles with up to 20–30 interlocking ingredients. Six pages of dinner options ensure that no appetite exits with its former owner, and a dense lunch selection meets multifarious midday cravings with grilled chicken tortas layered with mashed black beans and pickled jalapeño ($8.95) or an avocado- and orange-topped ensalada margarita ($6.95)
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.
In the kitchen of El Sombrero Restaurant, Chef Ignacio "Nacho" Suchil prepares Mexican favorites such as big burritos, corn-tortilla enchiladas, and fish tacos made with icelandic cod and lime. While live music plays in the dining room, he splashes housemade creole sauce onto grilled shrimp and tosses skirt steaks onto blazing grills. El Sombrero Restaurant augments its eats with a game room, outdoor seating, and a lunch buffet on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“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.