10 Best Mexican Restaurants: Chicago

Home to the second largest Hispanic population in the United States, Chicago's 10 best Mexican restaurants are some of the top in the country . From the authentic taquerias of the West Side's Pilsen neighborhood to the upscale Mexican fusion restaurants in the Loop, there are tacos for every taste.

  1. XOCO. Rick Bayless's newest venture, this small sandwich joint is a favorite lunch spot for workers in the Loop. The majority of the menu is drawn from street food that Bayless encountered during his trips around Mexico, including empanadas, tortas (hot Mexican subs), and caldos (hearty soups). Be sure to save room for dessert—the churros and freshly ground Mexican hot chocolate are the stuff of dreams.  XOCO: 449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654.
  2. Zapatista. For some of the best guacamole in town, check out this hip South Loop Mexican restaurant. The atmosphere is kitschy and cute, the service is great, and there are different drink specials every night. On the weekends, Zapatista serves a Mexican-flavored brunch, with creative dishes like Huevos de la Revolucion (Mexican eggs Benedict) and torta de huevo (egg sandwich). Zapatista: 1307 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605.
  3. Xni-pec de Yucatan. Specializing in Mayan cuisine, Xni-Pec heavily utilizes the three main staples of the Yucatan region: maize, squash, and beans. For those uninitiated in this type of cuisine, the menu offers a combination appetizer platter, the Combinado Yucateco, that hits the highlights of both the ingredients and spices to be found in most of the dishes.  Xni-pec de Yucatan: 3755 Grand Blvd, Brookfield, IL 60513.
  4. Mi Tierra Restaurant Mexicano. Mariachi bands play twice during the day on Sundays, but Mi Tierra provides some variety of live music every night.  The specialty of the house is the parillada, a table-top grill with a variety of meat and shrimp.  This Mexican restaurant is a great place to bring a larger group, as the parillada is essentially a mountain of delicious, cheesy meat. Mi Tierra Restaurant Mexicano: 2528 S Kedzie, Chicago, IL 60623.
  5. Pancho Pistolas. The slightly crazed-looking gunslinger on the sign portends the high energy of the food within: huge portions, inexpensive steak dishes, and some of the best fajitas in town. This Mexican restaurant can get a little crowded on nights with a big sports game on the TV, but that's all the more reason to sit at the bar and order a margarita…or five. Pancho Pistolas: 700 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60616.
  6. Taqueria Los Comales 3. Located in the heart of Pilsen, this hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant is famous for its horchata.  The tacos are the on the small side, but that means you'll have room to try more varieties.  Best of all, it's even cheaper than Chipotle. Taqueria Los Comales 3: 1544 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608.
  7. Nuevo Leon.  This brightly painted restaurant is another Pilsen treasure. Color is the order of the day at Nuevo Leon, from the orange walls in the dining room to the bright greens and reds in the Fajitas de Camaron.  If you're feeling adventurous, try one of the succulent beef tongue dishes.  Nuevo Leon: 1515 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608.
  8. Salpicon. One of the more upscale Mexican restaurants in Chicago, Salpicon features a wide selection of unusual tequilas and tequila-based drinks. If you can't decide what to imbibe, try one of the tequila flights, which offer a sampling of four different liquors. The menu is somewhat limited, but all the dishes are made with top-shelf ingredients. Salpicon: 1252 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610.
  9. Adobo Grill. This small Chicago-based chain of Mexican restaurants sparkles brightest at its Old Town location. Guacamole is freshly made tableside, with a variety of ingredients to choose from. Be sure to try a mojito: Adobo makes theirs with tequila instead of rum.  Adobo Grill: 1610 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614.
  10. Dona Torta Chilanga. You may have to unhinge your jaw to eat one of the tortas here. All the sandwiches are whimsically named for Spanish bands and soccer teams, and all are made to order. Want five different kinds of meat on your torta? Go to this Mexican restaurant.  Dona Torta Chilanga: 2152 W Cermak, Chicago, IL 60608.
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