Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mago Grill & Cantina

Location: 115 W Campbell, Arlington Heights
Cost: About $30 per person

My friends Amanda and Sal moved out to the suburbs a while ago, and I finally made my way out to visit them a few weeks back. After the speedy tour of their swanky place and a round of Zombie Dust, we shuffled on over to one of their favorite local spots, Mago.

For the record, I was going to suggest an old Pearl family favorite, La Chicanita, but I thought it had closed. Really, the name had just been changed to Javier's, so I guess there's a place for next time.

Mago shares a building with a theater and a banquet hall of sorts in the middle of downtown Arlington Heights. Interestingly enough, my parents went there for dinner on New Years Eve and to a comedy show next door afterwards. Anyways, we made our way past the mariachi band at the front and to a cozy booth among many in the dining room. The place was empty on a weeknight at 6:30 when we first sat down, but within the hour it was packed to the gills. They take reservations.

The wait staff was quick but let us take our time and catch up. There were many times where my water stayed empty which became an issue once we ordered our guacamole extra spicy. The cost is the same as Uncle Julio's with entrees in the mid to upper teens, but the portions are bigger (and the food is edible).

The Food
You all know how I feel about gimmicks, and I already mentioned the mariachi band. So you can imagine my predisposition to a table side guacamole preparation. Despite that, the guac was chunky and well balanced between the lime and the salt. There was a strong garlic and habanero presence as well. We washed it down nicely with the house margarita. It was strong and simple.

The Guacamole

The Margarita

We all got a complimentary bowl of the Chicken Tortilla Soup. There was maybe one cube of chicken in the three bowls we had. It was a nice gesture but nothing more. For the main course, the lovely couple split an order of the Steak and Chicken Fajitas, and I went for the Chicken Mole. The fajitas were spicy and cooked properly. The peppers were a welcome addition. My mouth was a little torched from the combo of the habanero in the guac and the temperature of the soup, but I was still able to appreciate the heat in the fajitas. My chicken fell off the bone. The Xico mole was rich, chocolatey, and had a subtle cherry flavor. One thing that was lacking were the standard side dishes. The rice had little microwave style peas and carrots, and the beans were lukewarm and likely canned.

The Chicken Tortilla Soup

 The Chicken and Steak Fajitas

 The Chicken Mole

These posts always come down to whether or not you should drive from the city to the suburbs to try them out. I don't think this one's worth the trip, but it's not to be scoffed at either. The margarita, guac, and mole were well executed with little twists. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Mago Grill & cantina on Urbanspoon


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