The Other Critics

Elate Hits And Misses; Everyone Loves Mexican Food

Xoco's cochinita pibil torta:
Xoco’s cochinita pibil torta: “a magnificent piece of work” Photo: EHFisher/Grub St Chi Flickr Pool

• In a slightly schizophrenic review, the Brunes has a problem: he loves Xoco, but hates the rigmarole involved in getting the food: wait, order, pay, sit, wait, eat eventually. Several poorly-timed dishes and one missing churro later, he’s ready to stay away, noting that there are plenty of other places around town to get this kind of food for less money. But then he’d be missing out on the “fantastico” offerings, like the “creative and delicious” caldos and the “magnificent” cochinita pibil torta. What’s a boy to do? [Sun-Times]

• A lot of what Mike Sula eats at Chuy Valencia’s tiny nuevo-Mexican restaurant Chilam Balam is mindblowingly good — from fleeting specials (on the menu one day, gone the next) to the stellar mushroom-and-cheese empanadas and transcendent grilled hanger steak. A few weak turns — a leaden fig dessert — aren’t going to ruin such a good thing coming from such a young chef. [Reader, first item]

• The situation at Elate is more straightforward: it’s a near-unmitigated success, with Bruno falling for the food, the atmosphere, and the small but punchy menu. Okay, so the fried dough appetizer isn’t fluffy enough, and a lunchtime sandwich seems to be missing its cheese, but the short rib is meaty and the smoked spring chicken’s not bad either. Bonus: Bruno’s favorite word “rubble” seems to have been replaced by “thatch,” as in “thatch of tasty fries.” [Sun-Times]

• Anne Spiselman joins Bruno in her dislike for Elate’s fried dough, and there are a few oversalted items and the dining room can skew a tidge loud, but almost everything else charms her — right down to the restaurant’s swapping out of black napkins to match the diners’ outfits (so refined!) and the complimentary sparkling or still water. The skewered spinach salad is delicious enough to override the quirk of its presentation, and she’s sold on the flourless chocolate cake. [Reader, third item]

• The menu at Rustico Grill repeats a lot of the favorites from its big sibling Mixteco, Sula finds, but that’s not such a bad thing — they’re good enough to revisit, especially compared to menu missteps like a foul-smelling paella. Plus the liquor license means a nice selection of Mexican wines, beers, and tequilas. [Reader, second item]

Elate Hits And Misses; Everyone Loves Mexican Food