Though not typically known for being upscale cuisine, these Mexican restaurantes break traditional boundaries and transcend borders to bring you killer flavors, spices and sass galore. Here are your Chicago haute spots to bring some Latin flava to your Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Named a “Game Changer” by CS, Mercadito Chicago of NYC fame opened last year in River North. The hundred or so tequilas add to the bar’s draw, but the real center of attention is the Chocomole margarita, made with Mexican chocolate and ancho chile. Feeling extra spicy? Try the Big Nose Goes to Mexico, a tequila, dark rum and guava cocktail set ablaze. For comida, the tacos are sold by the kilogram. Or go with the more traditional house favorites include hangar steaks marinated in mole, guajillo-marina red snapper and barbacoa-style chicken. For your post-dinner fiesta, a private basement speakeasy provides an intimate after-party setting.
Mercadito Chicago, 108 W Kinzie St., Chicago.
Chosen by Esquire as one of the top new restaurants in America way back in 1991, Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo has been winning awards and commanding national recognition ever since. As the first ethnic restaurant to receive 4 stars from Chicago magazine, Restaurants and Institutions honored it with an Ivy Award in 1999 and the restaurants’ wine list has received the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence since 1990. In 2001, Topolobampo was selected as one of America’s Top 5 Restaurants for Outstanding Service by the James Beard Foundation. Owned by celebrity chef, author, avid twitterer and Top Chef Master’s winner, Rick Bayless, Topolobampo incorporates authentic and regional flavors to bring a delicate sophistication to Mexican cusine.
Topolobampo , 445 North Clark St., Chicago.
Mexique chef and co-owner, Carlos Gaytan, has centered her restaurant around modern Mexican masterpieces with a strong French influence. Voted Best New Restaurant by Chicago magazine in 2008 and Best Restaurant in 2009 by Dining Out Chicago, French recipes and cooking techniques became an important element in the evolution of Mexican gastronomy during the French occupation of Mexico in the 1860’s. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, they are offering a 3-course tasting menu to allow you to fully experience the cultural fusion.
Mexique, 1529 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago.
Priscila Satkoff, Chef/Proprietor of Salpicón by night doubles as the host of “The Melting Pot” on the Food Network by day. She has been named Rising Chef, Chef to Watch, and received a collection of other titles throughout her career. Salpicón (pronounced sal pi`kon) actually has a triple entendre meaning, a typical dish in Mexico of shredded beef or chicken, usually served at room temperature, a very spicy salsa native to the Yucatan made with Habanero chiles and now a “splash” of Mexico in Chicago. Salpicón was voted Diner’s Choice in 2010 by opentable.com and has also received an Ultimate Distinction Award from Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Salpicón, 1252 N. Wells, Chicago.
Sabor Saveur is a French-Mex fusion BYO with to die for pumpkin flour & cream cheese taquitos and shrimp ceviche. Chef Yanitzin Sanchez mastered her craft at the Culinary Institute of Mexico in Puebla, where she graduated as Chef International. After completing stints at the Ritz Carlton in Paris and at the Mayan Palace in Acapulco and Cancun, she moved to Chicago to work in banquets at the Art Institute of Chicago. You can gauge the breadth of her diverse culinary career simply by sampling her apple foie gras, lobster enchiladas, and chocolate braised salmon filet. While fish and dessert sound like an odd combination, they have surprising chemistry, much like Chef Sanchez and Chicago.
Sabor Saveur , 2013 W. Division, Chicago.