Chicago's 10 Best Mexican Restaurants

Photo: Courtesy of Antique Taco.
We have an insatiable appetite for overstuffed tacos, cheesy enchiladas, and sizable sopes (not to mention margaritas). But, if a summer trip to Cabo isn't an option, don't fret. We've rounded up 10 of the best spots for Mexican eats right here in Chicago. Any excuse for guacamole, right?
While Antique Taco wins our hearts with its market-inspired tacos (we dream of the garlic-shrimp option), Cemitas Puebla is our go-to for delicious signature sandwiches. The unique combination of avocado, meat, adobo chipotle peppers, and Oaxacan cheese, all nestled between two slices of sesame seed bread, is seriously crave-worthy. But, when something a little more refined is in order, Top Chef contestant Carlos Gaytan of Mexique and famed chef Rick Bayless have got you covered with dishes that are as pretty as they are tasty. We hope you're hungry — there are some amazing dishes ahead.
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Photo: Courtesy of Antique Taco.
Antique Taco
Not only do we love the flavors chef Rick Ortiz pulls together for his tasty tacos (try the pork carnitas with adobo rub, tamarind glaze, bacon, spinach, onion, avocado, queso fresco), we also love that he utilizes ingredients grown right here in the Midwest. Ortiz'' market-fresh mentality (and love of antiques) makes this Wicker Park spot a casual and cozy respite for enjoying anything-but-average eats with a unique flavor profile. And, while you'll find chips and guac on the menu, the habanero popcorn (made with olive oil and cheddar cheese) is an unexpected-yet-tasty alternative.

Antique Taco, 1360 North Milwaukee Avenue (between Wood Street and Wolcott Avenue); 773-687-8697.
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Photographed by Catrin Reyes.
Sol De Mexico
Laid back but sophisticated, out-of-the-way Sol De Mexico incorporates largely organic ingredients in chef Clementina’s Guerrero-inspired sopas and entrées, such as the Costilitas de Cordero en Mole Negro, an aged rack of lamb with black mole sauce. Try the five-course degustation menu for $45, or $65 with wine pairings, and, after dinner, head to the tequila bar for a rare aged spirit.

Sol De Mexico, 3018 North Cicero Avenue (at West Nelson Street); 773-282-4119.
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Photographed by Catrin Reyes.
Cemtias Puebla
Looking to think outside the tortilla shell? Then you have to try one of Cemitas Puebla's signature Cemitas sandwiches. As seen on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, this Humboldt Park eatery specializes in authentic Poblano food just like mamacita used to make. Everything from the chipoltes to the salsas is made in-house, and the papalo (a.k.a. summer cilantro) is grown the owner's garden.

Cemitas Puebla, 3619 West North Avenue (between Monticello and Central Park avenues); 773-772-8435.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Adobo Grill
For some, all you need to enjoy the experience at this Old Town mainstay is an order of the table-side guacamole and a hand-shaken margarita. But, if you stop there, you'll miss out on dishes like the garlic marinated shrimp (Camones a la Diabla) and the adobo marinated chicken breast, both of which are served with homemade tortillas. If you're looking to while away a Sunday afternoon (read: day drinking), don't miss the brunch. There's nothing better than a plate of chilaquiles to soak up the debauchery from the night before.

Adobo Grill, 1610 North Wells Street (between North Avenue and Concord Lane); 312-266-7999.
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Photographed by Catrin Reyes.
Chilapan
Logan Square continues to thrive as a hotbed for some of the city’s most exciting restaurants, and that’s definitely the case with chef Jorge Miranda’s acclaimed Chilapan. While Miranda’s mother is from Michoacán, and his father from Guerrero, and “chilapan” itself is an Aztec word that means “chiles with water,” Miranda branches far beyond traditional, and even regional, Mexican food. Instead, he incorporates many influences found throughout Mexico, including French, Italian, and Asian cuisines. Dishes like the pollo Oaxaca, a pan-seared chicken breast topped with a roasted-tomato, honey-chipotle salsa and melted chihuahua cheese, keep Logan Square denizens coming back for the out-of-this-world flavors. Chilapan, 2466 West Armitage Avenue (between Campbell Avenue and Bingham Street); 773-697-4597.
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Photo: Courtesy of Salpicon.
Salpicón
Chef Priscila Satkoff has been whipping up contemporary Mexican fare since 1995. What is that you ask? Well, for starters, don't look for a chimichanga. Satkoff marries ingredients like Oaxacan chiles, pineapple, and plantains with hearty proteins like a Maple Creek Farms double-cut pork chop to give diners a pleasantly surprising experience. And, while margaritas and a large tequila selection grace the menu, Satkoff's hubsand, Vincent, has personally chosen the vintages on Salpicón's award-winning wine list, so say yes to a buttery Chard with your Pescado al Carbón — charcoal-grilled fish served with salsa fresca.

Salpicón, 1252 North Wells Street (between Goethe and Scott streets); 312-988-7811.
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Photo: Courtesy of Mexique
Mexique
Chef Carlos Gaytan honed his French technique at the Sheraton North Hotel, Union League Club of Chicago, and Old Town favorite Bistro Margot before opening up this West Town hot spot in 2008. Melding his knowledge of both Mexican and French cuisines, Mexique’s dishes, like the Mar Y Tierra (braised pork belly with smoked sea scallops, celery puree, and hibiscus), and Cordero (herb-crusted rack of lamb, braised lamb barbacoa huarache, eggplant marmalade, and roasted garlic salsa) quickly won a devoted local following.

Gaytan was named Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation in 2011 and Mexique receiving a Michelin star in 2013. He also was asked to appear on the most recent season of Top Chef, where he placed fourth out of 17. Suffice it to say, tables are a wee bit more difficult to get these days.

Mexique, 1529 West Chicago Avenue (at North Ashland); 312-850-0288.
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Photo: Courtesy of Topolobampo.
Frontera Grill and Topolobampo
You could say it all started when Rick Bayless spent six years conducting culinary research in Mexico and penned his first book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico. The name says it all, and its essentially been Bayless’ mantra ever since. Intent on bringing real-deal flavors back to the States, Bayless and his wife Deanne opened Frontera in 1987, and its more formal sister, Topolobampo, in 1989. While Bayless, who rose to even greater fame by winning the first season of Top Chef Masters in 2009, now has other restaurants, Frontera and Topolo remain as popular and widely acclaimed as ever, with the latter receiving a Michelin star every year since the first Chicago guide was produced in 2010.

Visit Frontera for its menu of hardwood grilled dishes rich in moles and chile-thickened braises, or, for a more elegant night out, try Topolo, where the menu features festival food, wild game, and regional specialties. At both locations, the menus change monthly, so you're always guaranteed a chance to try something new.

Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, 445 North Clark Street (at West Illinois); 312-661-1434.
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Photo: Courtesy of Chilam Balam.
Chilam Balam
Local, sustainable ingredients are the name of the game at Lake View’s Chilam Balam — and if you don’t think that ups the flavor ante, just try to get a seat on a Friday or Saturday night. Chef Natalie Oswald’s seasonal small plates menu packs ’em in with dishes like mahi-mahi ceviche with habanero, cucumber, and fresh lime, and cochinita pibil (slow-cooked pork with black beans, oranges, pickled onions, and habanero). Between its BYO status, sharable-plates concept, and lively decor, Chilam Balam is a bustling, vibrant, delicious experience.

Chilam Balam, 3023 North Broadway Street (at West Barry Avenue); 773-296-6901.
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