Chicago’s vibrant communities of Mexican immigrants have played a key role in defining and redefining Chicago’s culinary landscape. Many of the old neighborhood institutions are still standing but taquerias are now a common sight from Archer Heights to Rogers Park. Though hundreds of miles from the Southern border, Chicago has earned its growing reputation as a destination for Mexican food at almost any price.Read More
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Mole is a sauce often served at Mexican restaurants all over the world. Most believe that mole sauces must contain chocolate, however they do not. Checkout these eight spots across Chicago and the Suburbs showcasing housemade mole of all types.Mixteco Grill The dining room at Mixteco Grill celebrates art with beautifully done paintings placed around the room. The chef specializes in Oaxacan cuisine and the mole Negro is one of the best around. They are also one of the few Mexican restaurants in Chicago to offer a brunch menu. BYOB.Frontera Grill Acclaimed chef Rick Bayless opened his flagship restaurant in 1987 and has been cranking out some of the worlds favorite Mexican food ever since. The mole trio at Frontera Grill is a popular menu item that skillfully showcases a variety of mole preparations. There has also been careful consideration given to the tequilas chosen for the restaurant.La Quebrada La Quebrada’s authenticity draws in the locals so there is always a packed house. Service is prompt and ingredients are always fresh. The mole is a featured sauce on their menu, often ordered with their chicken or goat. They also feature a local Mariachi band a few times a week.Taco Nano Chef Freddy Sanchez set out to introduce the North shore to his vision for fast casual Mexican food. Taco Nano focuses on using fresh organic ingredients in creative ways. They offer a duck confit taco topped with a black mole and crowd pleasers like their various fish tacos. The restaurant is vibrant, colorful, and inviting.El Barco Seafood, seafood, seafood, is the reason why most visit El Barco. Popular among locals, it’s also a destination restaurant for foodies seeking a whole fried red snapper. Their mole is served with fresh chips at the beginning of the meal, but also available as an accompaniment for other dishes.Aguamiel Popular among the after work set, Aguamiel of Clarendon hills has an impressive menu. The executive chef Enrique “Kike” Gomez learned from world renowned chef Rick Bayless while working at Frontera Grill for many years. The restaurant offers a variety of mole selections on the menu.Salsa Verde Located in a busy strip mall along RT. 34 in Yorkville, Salsa Verde serves up a great mole. The restaurants owners encourage families to dine out, often offering deals for children. The fresh and unlimited salsa bar located in the dining room is a real crowd pleaser.Tacos Tequilas Specializing in Margaritas and tacos, Tacos Tequilas aims to have something for everyone. The restaurant keeps late hours in an intimate setting. The red mole chicken tacos are a popular menu item, regularly ordered by repeat diners. The owners have set out to honor tradition while adding a modern touch.Photo of mole dishes courtesy of Salsa Verde RestaurantRead More
To most people, a tamale is one thing: a steamy bundle of corn masa wrapped in a cornhusk. But Jorge Miranda, chef at the Chicago Mexican restaurant Chilapan, knows better. “You can make a tamale out of almost anything,” he said. Growing up in Mexico City, Jorge learned to cook from his grandmothers, one of whom hailed from the southern state of Michoacán. She wrapped her tamales with the leaves of maguey, the same plant used to make tequila and mescal. Maguey gives the masa a minty, anise-like taste. “It’s really good, but it’s different,” Jorge said. Tamale shapes and fillings also vary. Another Michoacán specialty is the corunda—a cornhusk tamale in a triangle shape. In Guerrero, where Jorge’s other grandmother is from, people still make tamales nejos—tamales stuffed with pure corn masa, without any meat filling or extra fat. The ancient Aztecs often ate this type of tamale while on long journeys. Tamales used to be easier to find in his neighborhood, Jorge said. “When I came to the US in 1991, there were tamales all over the place. You’d just go outside your apartment and there was someone selling them,” he said. Thirty years later, these tamale street vendors are much fewer and farther between—in swiftly gentrifying Logan Square at least. Jorge has a solution to the local tamale drought: in August, he plans to start selling tamales at a takeout window in the mornings, alongside horchata, jamaica, and other snacks. In keeping with his restaurant’s eclecticism and his diverse roots, Jorge’s tamale menu won’t draw on any one regional cuisine. Inside Chilapan’s brightly painted dining room, he took us through the steps of making one of his more exotic varieties of tamales. Though the southern state of Oaxaca is probably best known for its complex, heavily spiced moles, its unique tamales are a regional specialty, too. Wrapped in banana leaves instead of the usual cornhusks, they acquire an earthy, herb-like taste that feels appropriate for a rustic, home-cooked meal. Look for this Oaxacan variety and others at the tamale window. How to Make a Oaxacan Tamale The masa: A key ingredient in Mexican cooking, masa is a dough made from ground corn that has been treated with water and lime. Like many chefs, Jorge moistens his masa with a fat, such as lard or vegetable shortening, before pouring it onto the tamale wrapper. Each tamale should be about 60% masa, 40% filling, Jorge said. The filling: You can fill a tamale with almost anything. Here, Jorge has chosen cochinita pibil—Mexican pulled pork. It’s not particularly Oaxacan—the dish actually originates farther east, in Yucatán—but its rich, slightly sweet flavor is a good match for the earthiness of the banana leaf. Just like the masa, cochinita pibil takes a while to prepare. After soaking the pork in a marinade made with achiote, he packs it into a roasting pan with banana leaves, pineapples, and oranges and cooks it slowly in the oven for four hours at 250 degrees. The result is incredibly tender, easy-to-shred meat. The wrapping: Banana leaves are more brittle than cornhusks and crack easily, so they can’t be bundled into the usual tamale shape. Instead, Jorge folds them into rectangular packages, as if they were birthday gifts, and ties them with stray leaf strips. Cooking and serving: Compared to cornhusk tamales, Oaxacan-style tamales take slightly longer to cook. Once he has a few finished tamales, Jorge puts them in a pot filled with a little water and steams them for about an hour. To serve, the kitchen staff unwraps the bundles and tops them with pickled red onions and drizzles of salsa and sour cream. Photo and video by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon. Music: "Playtime" by Jahzzar, under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Shop Groupon for deals on Mexican restaurants in your city.Read More