Claiming a slew of awards, including Best Chicken Dinner by the Orange County Register, El Pollo Loco fills stomachs on the go with a menu of flavorful poultry inspired by Mexico's kitchens. Enjoy the rich tastes of a four-piece combo—including breasts and wings marinated in herbs, spices, and citrus juices—entouraged by two sides from an expansive selection, including spanish rice, BBQ black beans, corn cobbettes, and mac 'n' cheese ($8.99). For a more portable lunch during parkour breaks from the office, wrap your chicken in the warm tortilla blanket of a twice-grilled burrito ($5.99). El Pollo Loco's innovative salsa bar tickles tongues with fresh varieties of avocado, chipotle, and pico de gallo.
Diners can practically hear the gulf tides lapping on a Mexican beach as they read the menu at Burrito Mex, whose myriad seafood dishes feature ingredients ranging from red snapper and octopus to oysters and shrimp. Whether fried, breaded, or drenched with spicy diabla sauce, the aquatic creations stop stomachs from rumbling loud enough to trigger lightning. Back on land, the kitchen also crafts traditional Mexican entrees such as burritos filled with carne asada steak, al pastor pork, or—for the more adventurous—tongue. To wash down their feasts, patrons can sip fruity margaritas or feel like powerful diplomats by clinking bottles of domestic and imported beer.
If you walk into Cafe Salsa at the right time, you might see a patron or two wearing a colorful sombrero. They didn?t dress up just to show their love for Mexican food though?the restaurant makes sure that every birthday boy and girl wear their festive headwear while they dig into their celebratory cake. This playful sense of fellowship permeates every corner of Cafe Salsa, with delicious, hefty margaritas accompanying a sprawling menuof Mexican classics such as tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas. Behind the bar, an impressive collection of fine tequilas offer guests something a little stronger to knock back or fill glasses to the perfect height to attract those people who sip cocktails on the backs of magazines.
Even before the food arrives, El Picante Mexican Grill transports diners south of the border with its bright yellow walls, multicolored tablecloths, and colorful murals depicting Mexican life. Then, guests dig into homestyle eats, such as enchiladas with three different sauces, housemade guacamole, and poblano peppers stuffed with seafood and doused in mole sauce. Even the mezcal is authentic—it's made in Mexico and comes with an agave worm, instead of a piece of spaghetti.
Beginning in Chicago more than four decades ago, Pepe's Mexican Restaurant now offers up a full menu of classic Mexican flavors throughout Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Tortilla-wrapped entrees such as the chorizo quesadilla ($7.50) or the stuffed-taco dinner ($2.65–$3.45) wrap their floury shells around a choice of meat, veggies, and spicy sauces to create dishes flavorful enough to make the mouths of Mount Rushmore water. Broiled steak serves as the centerpiece for fajitas ($13.75), which arrive to tables on a sizzling platter surrounded by sautéed spanish onions, tomatoes, and a colorful assortment of bell peppers. Velvety moles coat tender boneless chicken breast for the spicy chicken en mole ($10.50). Meals conclude with bites of creamy, caramelized flan ($3.50), which sate cravings for a decadent meal-ending treat without coating the check in chocolate.
To Jaime Flores, tamales represent two of the world's finest simple pleasures: eating and unwrapping presents. At Tamale Hut Café, he and his staff hand-wrap each tamale with a double layer of corn husks, then steam-cook them to seal in flavor. Jaime derives his methods and his choice of fillings—pork, chicken, pinto beans, and even crab meat with jalapeños—from his aunt and uncle, who taught him how to prep the portable delights in addition to other Mexican foods. He attests that his tamales are appropriate for any mealtime, and even sells steamer pots so that visitors can reheat their leftovers without using a microwave or rubbing them until friction kicks in. The quaint café is a venue for both sitting down for a snack and appreciating local culture. Beneath bulbs that glow inside of hanging tequila bottles, paintings and photographs by local artists draw the eye, and regular readings by visiting authors entertain audiences. To offset the savory bites of tamales, meatball soup, and gourmet salsas, guests can order drinks or seasonal paletas—Mexican fruit popsicles. Sweet tamales tinged with the taste of pineapple, blueberry, and coconut are another creative dessert option.