After reading our round-up of Mexican restaurant reviews from last week where we unilaterally negated a reviewer’s assertion that El Tapatio is “the best Mexican food on the Northside,” reader b*schus wrote in to ask what, then, is the best Mexican food on the North Side?
This is a perfectly natural question, if one that’s rather impossible to answer. Aside from everyone having different tastes and metrics about what constitutes the “best” in a restaurant, any claim of this restaurant or that being the “best” suffers from the claimant’s certain lack of universal experience (and usually gravitas) to make such a statement. That said, it is possible to cobble together from across the internet a general consensus of what’s good, and to that end, we’ve compiled a list of five North Side Mexican restaurant that are worthy of your attention. Of course, most of the best Mexican food in Chicago is on the Northwest and Southwest sides, but that’s outside the scope of this post.
So in alphabetical order to keep things straight, our picks, with an accompanying MenuPages review:
• El Famous Burrito: No one said it had to be authentic or luxurious to be good!
I have had many burritos in my time, and the gold standatd still remains this great local chain, El Famous Burrito. They are huge and meaty. My preference is a steak and pork combination with sour cream and and onions. If your’re eating in, all orders come with tasty chips and salsa. This is one of the best values in Mexican food in Chicago
• Los Nopales: Seems like this spot is really a cut above.
Forget your local taqueria slinging up greasy burritos, tacos, and nacho dinners. Los Nopales goes above and beyond what you normally find on every other corner of Chicago. They’re cuisine is fresh, delicious, and a fantastic value. Sure, you can get burritos and tacos…but they are prepared beautifuly, often coming with several colorful sauces, whipped up in the kitchen that day. Otherwise, try some of the traditional dishes like the Skirt Steak special, pork tamales, or Pan fried tilapia in Garlic sauce. The staff is outlandishly friendly and genuine and the restaurant is charming and clean. A total gem.
• Mayan Palace: Although this place gets high marks, it may simply be another El Tapatio-like margarita joint…
My friend brought me to this restaurant and I quickly fell in love with it. The food is great, well prepared, and quickly served. What I love the most however, are the margaritas. I highly recommend the jamaican flower margarita and if you go on Tuesday or Thursday you can get their house margaritas for half price! The service is excellent. The servers pretty much recognize my friend and I when we go and always make an effort to talk to us and make sure we are getting good service. The only downfall is when the patio isn’t open; the space can be cramped, but after a few margaritas it doesn’t really matter
• Riques Regional Mexican Food: “Regional” means that some thought has been put into the cuisine - at least it’s from a place
place to go for authentic, inexpensive Mexican food! Our favorite time to go is on Saturday nights, when they serve a four course meal (from a different state of Mexico each week) for only $20! Make sure to make a reservation, as it’s usually packed!
• Tepatulco: a Geno Bahena production that gets mixed reviews (and in our case, no reviews), but is still worthy of inclusion. Here’s a recent review from Yelp:
Although the decor would be best suited in a 3 star restaraunt. Tepatulco’s food belongs in a five star. We started off with the quac, although it was not my favorite it was damn good and a nice start to a meal that I can still taste (over a month later). For my entree I ordered the Carne Asada. This was the winner of the evening. It was absolutely phenomenal. Tender beef served with homemade tortillas, plantanes, rice and yummy beans. The boy ordered the grilled Salmon in green mole which was out of this world. He doesn’t even like Salmon and ate every bit including the leftovers on my plate.
For desert we were talked into the chocolate lava cake, and like every chocolate lava cake this one was better then the last. yummy dark chocolate with gooeyness inside…yummm!
Oh and that Margarita was soooo good!
Of course, your mileage may vary.
[Photo: an interior shot of Riques by Nghiêm/flickr]