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.

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