XOCO- Chicago, Illinois

One thing I love about about Chicago (or the States in general) is the availability and variety of good Mexican food.  I discovered this eatery last year in Chicago on a whim and I have vowed to always return when I go there- this restaurant is known as XOCO.

XOCO’s specialty are tortas.  They also have soups, churros and some awesome hard core hot chocolate.  Their hot chocolate is creamy and smooth.  It tastes like melted dark chocolate and you can get a churro to dip in the hot chocolate as a dessert or a decadent snack.  A great treat after a hot savory torta I must say.  What’s really cool about XOCO is that it belongs to one of the restaurants owned and created by Rick Bayless.

When you walk into XOCO, you notice that it’s not a huge restaurant.  It’s actually quite small, but they make good use of the seating area and have additional outdoor seating area for those warmer nights. Ben and I went there for dinner and the line-up wasn’t so bad. But I’ve walked by at lunch hour and this place is packed.  There’s generally a line up that goes out the door but moves quite fast.  I personally find it’s nice to have a line-up because of two things.  1) Re-assures you that you’re at the right place.  2) It gives you time to look at the menu because when you’re there, you want to order everything.

The line up isn’t so bad in the evenings we went and if you’re planning on having dine-in meal at the restaurant, a gentlemen there will tell you the number of your seating area and show you where it is once you’ve ordered.  From there they’ll bring the food out to you.  I also have to mention that service here is prompt and super friendly.

Try the chips, salsa and guacamole because it will blow your mind!  This is a fantastic starter, especially if it’s your first time.    I never had anything taste so good and so fresh.  The salsa was spicy, but it wasn’t a hit-you-in-your-face spicy.  It kinda took it’s time to get the heat in your mouth.  I found the green salsa to be a lot more mild compared to the red,  I’m thinking it’s because it’s made from unripe chillies .  Their chips were nicely toasted and have such a nice crunch and for a chip, had great flavor.  The guacamole will change your view on how guacomole should taste like.  It tastes so refreshing on the palate.  The sweet crunch from the onions to the light and tender chunks of tomatoes makes this guacamole one to remember.  It wasn’t violated with all these other things that you would find in your grocery store guacamole.   I loved it so much that I even looked up Rick Bayless’s recipe for guacamole on Google.  He doesn’t use sauces or crazy ingredients in this guacamole.  Instead he uses the basics;  limes, good avaocados (which if you watch his youtube video of him making guacamole you’ll even learn how to pick the good the ones), tomatoes, onions, salt, and cilantro.  Trust me, by using sour cream, mayo or salsa will kill the it.

Back to the tortas we ordered before I start making a batch of guacomole as I type.  Ben ordered their Wednesday Special and this was a knock out.  Warm, toasted torta with pork belly, bacon and a dark salsa that had a sweeter taste to it.  It was a combination of sweet and savory, it of course came with a side of salsa as you see above for you to dip your torta in.   Ben also wanted to note that the bread was  crispy on the outside and really soft on the inside.  Making the whole experience eating it that much better.  Also, that I loved too is that all their tortas were warm.  Not piping hot, not refrigerator cold but warm.  This torta was $12.00 and is only available on Wednesday.

I ordered the Ahogada, which has a slew of things in like such as pork carnitas , black beans, picked onions all in a tomato broth.  The first thing that came to mind when eating this was it’s a more savory torta and the tomato broth was more salty savory than tangy.   Not that it didn’t taste good,  it tasted great.  But maybe it’s my Thai side talking, but I prefer things to have a sweet and savory taste to it.  This torta in particular is really really popular in XOCO.  I’ve seen tonnes of people ordering this and enjoying every bite.  It’s a great deal considering you get a tomato broth with it too,  $10.00 for this torta and broth.

Overall, the meal is fantastic.  I’ve been here twice and Rick Bayless has another outlet that sells tortas in the airport too called Torta Fronteras, which we ordered our food from for the flight back home.  This place is a “Must” for anyone who is travelling to Chicago.  It’s fast, affordable, service is prompt and polite and the food will give you a new outlook on Mexican cuisine and expand it from just the tacos and burritos.  Also, who knew Mexico had great sandwiches.  Seriously, the taco’s should watch their back because I think tortas will be the next big thing in Mexican cuisine.

XOCO on Urbanspoon

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