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Our 30 Favorite Mexican Dishes in Chicago

¡MEXTRAVAGANZA!: The best tacos, tortillas, seviches, queso fundido, ane more

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Flan at SOL DE MEXICO, $4
Clementina Flores, the chef at Sol de Mexico, is Geno Bahena’s mother and Rick Bayless’s former nanny, but the Guerrero native was a good chef before either of them. She’s also the mistress of Chicago’s firmest, creamiest, custardiest flan. Instead of drowning her masterwork in caramel, Flores just plates it with a drizzle of light syrup. 3018 N. Cicero Ave.; 773-282-4119

Tamales in this town begin and end with Señora Bustamante, long known to Rogers Parkers as the Tamale Lady. Bustamante fashions mini masterpieces like the Oaxacan tamale, basically a self-contained chicken mole dish that’s steamed and served in a banana leaf. Small package, big punch. 7024 N. Clark St.; 773-338-6450

Tortilla Chips at TAQUERÍA EL ASADERO, free with order
The thick, crisp triangles at this divey storefront across from Welles Park come fresh out of the fryer, often separating into two layers, both of which you’ll dip into the mouth-numbing tomatillo salsa. They’re free and they’re wonderful, but we were too shy to ask for a second basket. Don’t repeat our mistake. 2213 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-583-5563

One of our Best Mexican RestaurantsGuacamole at TOPOLOBAMPO, free with order
In his 2005 book, Mexican Every Day, Rick Bayless says he gave up searching for “the one best guacamole” long ago. Topo’s coarse dip, made with oily Hass avocados and strewn with roasted garlic and sweet corn, is irresistible, and instead of salty, overpowering tortilla chips, you get mellow jicama and cucumber slices. Looks like our search is over, too. 445 N. Clark St.; 312-661-1434

One of our Best Mexican RestaurantsPoc-Chuc at XNI-PEC DE YUCATÁN, $14.50
The ancient Mayans, lacking refrigerators, preserved meat with salt. All well and good until it came time to eat: Not even the Mayans could stand meat that salty. So they “washed” it with something acidic—say, orange juice. That’s poc-chuc. Xni-Pec nails the modern version: a grilled and orange-marinated pork cutlet, plenty of achiote paste, and skillet-fried onions. The Mayans would be amazed. 3755 Grand Blvd., Brookfield; 708-290-0082

One of our Best Mexican RestaurantsSeafood Soup at XOCO, $12.50
If Xoco’s tortas and churros steal all the thunder, then the caldos bring the lightning. A complex red chili broth walks a tightrope between spice and restraint—all while juggling organic shrimp, mussels, catfish, potatoes, grilled knob onions, pea shoots, cilantro, and lime. It’s an impressive high-wire act that doesn’t get enough applause. 449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688

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