Fajitas: a tex-mex favorite combines sizzling meat skillets, an array of accouterments and cool tortillas served through multiple variations by creative Mexican eateries. These “make your own” meals are as recognized for their dig right in presentation- just don’t burn your hand on the pan in a hurry to indulge.
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.
445 North Clark St. 312.661.1434. http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/restaurants.html
2 Mercat a la Planxa
With trademark dishes that honor Latin flavors and traditions Mercat invigorates them with a modern and creative twist. Chicago-born celebrity chef Jose Garces, learned the most basic culinary techniques by his grandmother’s side in the family kitchen, continues to be influenced by his Ecuadorian roots with rich, savory cuisine.
638 S. Michigan Ave. 312.765.0524. http://www.mercatchicago.com/
3 Mercadito Chicago
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.
108 W. Kinzie St. 312.329.9555. http://www.mercaditorestaurants.com/chicago/index.php
4 de cero
de cero which translates into “from scratch” is exactly that from the crema to the lime juice to the tortillas being hand pressed to order. Known for its 15 different tacos served a la carte or ordered in a share platter of 8. Everything you can think of such as; grilled ahi tuna taco with mango habenero salsa, grilled skirt steak taco with potatoes and chipotle mayo, roasted raja pepper taco with cheese, or the amazing battered shrimp taco with avocado crema.
814 W. Randolph. 312.455.8114. http://decerotaqueria.com/
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.
1252 N. Wells. 312.988.7811. http://www.salpicon.com/