The 8 Best Mexican Restaurants in Chicago

Where to get that sabor delicioso.

Crispy fish tempura and pork carnitas at Antique Taco Photo: Anna Knott

Amelia’s Bar & Grill

    

4559 S. Halsted. Canaryville. 773-538-8200
Amid a sea of vacant lots stands Amelia’s, where Eusebio Garcia prepares upscale Mexican food with unexpected touches. The quesadilla de huitlacoche carries a zingy citrus flavor, and caramelized papaya and mango accompany salmón al carbón. Solid desserts and affordable wines.
L Mon–Fri, D daily. Br Sat, Sun. Child friendly, BYO ($5 corkage). $

Antique Taco

    

1360 N. Milwaukee. Wicker Park. 773-687-8697
This cheerful, breezy joint’s market food sparkles with fresh flavors. Order at the counter, sit down, and relax. The margaritas are infused with rosemary, the guacamole is lively, and the tacos are built with smartly sourced ingredients. Finish with a lovely horchata milk shake.
L & D Tue–Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. ¢

Chilam Balam

    

3023 N. Broadway. Lake View. 773-296-6901
The ingenuity of its menu—from honey-pasilla pork ribs to scallops in a sweet-corn sauce—helps overcome the flaws of this BYO, which is in a basement and takes no weekend reservations. The friendly service, however, goes a long way, as does the yummy hot chocolate. Cash only.
D Tue–Sat. Child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage), high noise level. $

Chilapan

    

2459 W. Armitage. Logan Square. 773-697-4597
Jorge Miranda’s cute-as-can-be spot goes creative with pork tenderloin splashed with green pumpkin seed mole and grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak piled into a molcajete along with cactus and a spirited arbol tomatillo salsa. The guacamole is fine, but give the feisty shrimp seviche a nibble.
D nightly. Child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage), outdoor dining, high noise level. $$

Frontera Grill

    

445 N. Clark. River North. 312-661-1434
Once groundbreaking and now a hallowed Chicago institution, Rick Bayless’s flagship, saturated with colorful Mexican art, is still the place to savor authentic and scrumptious regional dishes and stellar margaritas. Seviches are a must, as are fresh corn tamales and anything sauced with mole, such as woodland mushrooms and huitlacoche enchiladas in yellow Oaxacan mole. Tempting daily specials include Bayless’s renowned chiles rellenos on Thursday. Pressing crowds mean that lines are long, reservations difficult to snare, pacing can falter, and the din is somewhere between fiesta and riot.
L & D Tue–Sat. Br Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining, high noise level. $$$

Libertad

    

7931 Lincoln, Skokie. 847-674-8100
This noisy storefront delights with its hip food and vibe. Armando Gonzalez’s exciting small-plate menu merges his Latin roots with international flavors from the Middle East (chipotle hummus with queso fresco) to Asia (scallops on black rice with long beans and yuzu habanero sauce). Terrific cocktails by the mixologist Adam Seger.
D Tue–Sun. Br Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining, high noise level. $$

Topolobampo

    

445 N. Clark. River North. 312-661-1434
Rick Bayless forages in remote nooks of Mexico to bring incomparable new dishes to the most ambitious of his three restaurants on this busy corner, such as a wonderful Baja-inspired olive-wood-smoked quail coated in sunflower seeds and chilies. Yet there are always classics, too. Smooth service; intriguing wines and tequilas.
L Tue–Fri, D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Xoco

    

449 N Clark. River North. 312-661-1434
The smallest and most casual of Rick Bayless’s three restaurants on this block is also the most fun, despite crowds, tight seating, and an awkward ordering procedure. The menu of street food is strong throughout, from terrific guacamole to a bold selection of caldos, tortas, and sweets.
B, L & D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $

HOW WE PICK THE RESTAURANTS: These listings are not advertisements. They are a selective guide to establishments recommended by Chicago’s dining critics. Visits are anonymous and all expenses are paid by Chicago. These listings are updated regularly. “Update” indicates reappraisals of listed restaurants.

Share

comments
6 months ago
Posted by Eris

Altiro Latin fusion!!!

6 months ago
Posted by tsirkin

I was excited to this for the mere fact that I love Mexican food. Some of these places look great and I will try them. But I totally lost interest in this place when they put Antique taco on this list. I was so disspointed by that place. There guac was flavorless and the worst part was. They had all these different tacos but you had to order them in groups of two. Whats' great about tacos is that you can sample everything. I don't want to have to order two of the same taco, im only going to get three maybe 4. No I wonder how good the other suggestions are .

6 months ago
Posted by Wren

So Pilsen's not a neighborhood eh?

6 months ago
Posted by Typodactyl

@tsirkin You should worry about this list. Chicago's population boasts a population of 28% Latino with the vast majority being Mexican. Not a single restaurant from a Mexican neighborhood is mentioned in this list.

This isn't a race card game, but pure logistics. I'm pretty sure China has better Chinese food than London, after all.

Right off the top of my head, I can think of dozens of great restaurants in Pilsen and Little Village and those are very densely Mexican neighborhoods.

3 restaurants in this list are Rick Bayless, and while he's a talented chef, I'm sure even he would be critical of how lazy this list was assembled. Every restaurant is from the northside and even one from Skokie.

Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the country with fantastic food to boot in all sorts of neighborhoods. This is like getting advice from grandparents who visited Chicago once after living in Winnepeg, Canada for 80 years.

6 months ago
Posted by Typodactyl

Also, I'm speaking as someone who has eaten at every one of these places.

Skokie ≠ Chicago: can we all agree on that?

6 months ago
Posted by chachaheels

What about gorditas at Augascalientes, tacos at Zacatacos, empanadas and optopus ceviche from Mariscos El Veneno, Mole at Sol de Mexico/Mixteco Grill. Do not forget about Mexique, coconut tres leches and chocoflan at Kristopher's Cafe, carnita's at Don Pedro's and ohh the delicious tortas at BonBom Cafe on Ashland. Yes, Rick Bayless's restaurants are phenomenal and the other places are good as well, but this list is truly lacking. Surprised to see Antique Taco on here. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed and the margaritas were wayyyy too sweet. Big Star has better tacos than Antique.

6 months ago
Posted by shanmcg85

this is the lamest list of latino cuisine favorites I have ever seen for Chicago. Wait, not lame, moreso lazy. Great job editor did you google eater hot list or best chicago latino fusion. How about actually walking the streets and buying something authentico. I am a white girl. This list is straight ignorant. Try again.

6 months ago
Posted by WEEZY

If these are the best, why are they all 2 stars or < ??(except for TOPO)
Maybe the list should be re-named 1 really great Mexican place, & 7 others that are o.k..
Skokie ≠ Chicago: can we all agree on that? Agreed. Tell the suburbs to get their own magazine.

5 months ago
Posted by Cook Carol

How could you leave out Salpicon? This question comes from a Southern Californian/new Chicago resident who has eaten and cooked good to great Mexican food for years, both in this country and in Mexico. I was delighted my husband found Salipcon...and with wine pairings as well.

3 months ago
Posted by bravo13

@typodactyl I'm coming in town in a few weeks. And I want to try authentic mexican cuisine, what would you suggest??

Submit your comment