For a few months now, I’ve been curious about the little storefront on the corner of Ashland and Montrose, just a few blocks from our house. Every weekend, droves of hungry diners wait outside Mixteco Grill, the Mexican restaurant deemed by some critics as “Chicago’s new Frontera Grill.” Mixteco has received great press, and rightly so. Chef Raul Arreola is a veteran chef of Mexican cuisine, with stints at Topolobampo, Fonda del Mar and several other Chicago restaurants.
Choices at Mixteco are a bit scaled back with only a hand full of selections: no combo dishes or platters here. Instead, the menu leans towards rustic, simple dishes like wood-fired shrimp, sopes, empanadas, baby chicken with guajillo and pulled-beef chile rellenos. Mixteco is BYOB for the time being, so visit the liquor store conveniently located across the street. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
We started our meal with Guacamole Con Chicharron, avocado with tomato, serrano chiles, cilantro, onion and lime served with pork chicharron (deep fried pork belly). I was expecting the chicharron to be served on the side for dipping, but instead diced pieces were mixed into the guacamole. The addition didn’t do much for the appetizer; I found the guacamole to be underwhelming and a bit too mild. The accompaniments of radish, jiacama and cucumber were puzzling and didn’t add much in terms of either flavor or texture.
We continued with three sopes (corn masa boats): two filled with chicken in a red mole sauce and one with mushrooms and a pasilla chile sauce. The otherwise neutral palletes of corn were elevated to showstopping status by a dose of the daring, smoky mole rojo, one of Chef Arreola’s signature mole sauces.
Pescado A La Verzcruzana, Mixteco Grill, Chicago.
A main course of Mahi Mahi, zucchini, fingerling potatoes and other vegetables, wrapped in parchment and then grilled, was outstanding. This is the kind of Mexican food that’s so difficult to find; un-Americanized, simple and delicate flavors with superior ingredients. The smooth poblano sauce served on the side offered quite a kick!
We also sampled Enchiladas Rojas: tender pieces of shredded chicken wrapped in fresh tortillas and bathed in chocolately, spicey mole. This dish was so basic, and at first seemed bland in comparison to the Mahi Mahi. But after a few bites, once the sweet spice settled on my tongue, I was hooked and couldn’t stop eating these suckers!
Add Mixteco to your list of places to try for either weekend brunch or dinner!