My original thought for a May themed post was to talk about outdoor dining options, but anyone in Chicago right now can see that that’s just ridiculous thinking. I think it snowed last week right after the 70 degree showing the day prior. It's been 80 the past two days, but we've got some days in the 50's in the forecast. That being said, Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and I’m going to give you my Top Ten Mexican Restaurants instead.
You can also check out this post on a new site I've been contributing to, Menuism.com.
They’ve got some of my favorite chilaquiles in the city without question. It’s not in the most popular part of the city, but the food will bring you over anyways. It’s a great option for Mexican brunch that doesn’t require you to wait too long or push over a pregnant woman while fighting for a table (not that I’d ever do that).
9. Nuevo Leon
Many of my friends call this their favorite spot. It’s probably the champion of tex-mex in Pilsen, one of the most heavily Mexican populated neighborhoods in town. There’s no flash or flare, just big plates of heavy flavors.
8. Antique Taco
An excellent place to get cheap tacos and drinks. If you want to stray from the tacos, I’d go with the duck enchiladas. Opening a taco joint in Wicker Park leaves one open to the criticism of “it’s not Big Star.” Well, I’d need to go a few more times before making that comparison, but my ranking speaks for itself. Still, it’s a great spot to kick back and unbutton your pants.
My only suburban stand out on the list. I think Chimichangas are my favorite Mexican dish, and although they call them Fried Burritos, they make em mean. You’re probably more apt to sit next to a family with crying children, but it’s worth the risk.
The only pricey option on this list, so don’t go expecting any tacos or burritos. You probably won’t be able to find the dishes on this menu elsewhere in the city. Rick Bayless makes his annual trip to Mexico to fill his saddle bag with ways to show off Chicago’s take on these classics. The only catch is the popularity makes it a real logistical nightmare to both get a reservation and to walk in.
This animated spot promises huge portions at minimal prices. I’d go with one of the whole fried red snappers or the skirt steak. Make a reservation, bring a huge group, and go crazy. The margaritas could use a bit more booze though, so make sure to be liberal when you order.
4. Big Star
Who doesn’t love enjoying their taco amongst a sea of hipsters in a converted gas station? If you’re in the drinking mood they always have a $3 whiskey shot, and Schlitz goes for $1. The chips, guac, and pickled onions make for a great snack if you’re not in the mood for a huge meal either.
3. Chilam Balam
This garden apartment turned insanely popular Mexican restaurant has some of the best seasonal small plates in Lakeview. Make sure to bring a bottle of tequila or wine to have them make margaritas or sangria for you. The menu is anything but traditional, but you’ll be happy with the twists.
Brought to you by Chicago’s biggest name in the kitchen, Rick Bayless, this little sandwich shop brings creative flavors that hit home every time. The menu changes seasonally and has some killer sopas on it too in case you don’t want a sandwich. The churros, soft serve, and hot chocolate make for some of the better Mexican dessert around too. I’d suggest getting there early because the lines get loooooong.