Restuarant: Mixteco Grill |
Address: 1601 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60613 |
Mixteco Grill needs a new sign. I mean, look at that thing. You wanna eat at this place? I didn’t. Looks like another little Mexican joint in a spot that, historically, has rotated shitty restaurants like gyro meat. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good taco joint—but it’s not like the North side is swimming with them. Up here, we’re usually stuck dousing passable tacos carne asada in hot sauce and pretending that the al pastor we ordered isn’t a shriveled mess of sinewy dog breath. A taco done right answers a lot of questions, but we’ve got to travel south or west to get at that.
So, yeah, the Mixteco sign is very misleading. Because here’s the thing about Mixteco Grill: it’s fucking amazing. And it ain’t no taco joint. This is classy Mexican–the good shit–the food that makes you want to sit down with a bottle of white out and grandma’s old pot pie recipes so you can work some mole into that shit. I’ve been three times now, tried six different entrees and four appetizers, and every single one of them has been hands-down, sigh-out-loud delicious. These dudes put their foot in this place.
This is at 1030 PM. Every seat is packed from open to 930.
This place is done right all the way around. The space itself is small and plain-ish, tight without being cramped. Always full. BYO. Affordable. The kitchen is open, grill-style, but the countertop is high and with my back to it, I practically forgot it was there. The chef, Raul Arreola, formerly of Fonda del Mar and Topolobampo, was on the floor during two my visits, greeting tables and working the door. Service was fast, especially for a newly-opened joint, and friendly as hell.
Uchepos Gratinados, or corn tamales to whitey, and (right) marlin ceviche.
First course: Corn tamales with roasted corn that starts sweet and almost creamy but grows smoky and rich as it’s devoured. Eats like a desert, really. And the ceviche–Jesus. I order ceviche all the time and it’s a rare occasion that it works out. Usually it’s a tomato-y mess, or overloaded with mango or whatever fruit the chef decided to ruin the dish with. But not here. The marlin ceviche (with julliened radishes!) is so spot-on I gave the serving bowl a rim job to get the last bits out. The trio of sopes, too, is retarded good. They’re not pictured here because angels don’t show up in the photos of mere mortals. Oh, and here’s a picture of some empanadas. True.
Mixteco empanadas: So comfortable you can eat them while crying.
Peel and eat, nephew!
Last time out, I hit the wood-grilled shrimp with sweet garlic sauce and black beans, avocado, grilled green onions, cilantro, and red pepper. See those char bits on the prawns? Those is black tiger skrimps cooked right, joe! The whole plate was sick like that. Even the white rice, which is typically the most boring food item on the planet (next to the communion wafer) was flavorful.
Time before that I had God’s gift to himself: wood-grilled rack of lamb in Oaxaca black mole. You know old boy’s chillin’ up top with like a coffee can full of the black sauce, dipping lamb lollipops like Lik-m-aid. This entree is unstoppable. I was using tortilla chips to scoop up the mole once the lamb was gone.
And then there’s this, the fish of the day, Mahi Mahi, wood-grilled and served in a puddle of green mole. That ain’t no enchilada mole, either. Another time out, I ate the cochinita pibil with achiote and sour orange juice and black beans, pickled onions, and a habanero sauce hotter than your grandma. Again, no pics of this one, but imagine a photograph of a beautiful secret garden full of bacon trees and hugs. That pretty much approximates it.
If this were life size, I would live in a place like this.
Last trip we finished with a Tres Leches cake that was cool and moist, fresh with a hint of sourness. Fellow gluttons tell me the flan of the day was good enough to take home and bury in the backyard for the cold season.
Not one, not two, but three milks in this one.
I’ve talked up restaurants before, but if it seems like I’m fluffing this joint extra hard it’s because I am. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a restaurant with multiple dishes that blow me away. I ain’t hit food this fast and hard since the days when I’d two-hand the sippy cup of Kool-Aid and drink ’til I was out of breath. Easily one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.