Once groundbreaking, now a hallowed Chicago institution, Rick Bayless’s colorful, Mexican art–saturated flagship is 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.
Dishes we liked: Frontera-style tacos arabes ($11), wood-grilled dayboat catch (perhaps black grouper) in squash blossom cream with an enchilada of roasted poblano tortilla and queso añejo mashed potatoes ($23.50), knob onions with lime and coarse salt ($3), chocolate pecan pie with Kahlúa whipped cream ($8.50)