Finding Mexican food in Chicago isn't difficult. Finding a Mexican restaurant that combines a modern atmosphere with authentic flavors, well, that can be a little harder. Fortunately, your search can end at Zocalo, a restaurant and tequila bar in River North. The inviting interior boasts a natural, rustic feel with wood accents set amongst earth-toned walls decorated with local artistry. The small plates the restaurant serves up are splashed with color as well.
The carne apache (beef cured in a lime dressing with watercress, red onion, cherry tomatoes and Serrano chiles) and the pescado (fish marinated in lime juice with tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, roasted red pepper, avocado and orange segments) have enough flavor to tantalize any tongue. So do filling dishes like the cazuela de barbacoa, guajillo chile-marinated beef cooked in a banana leaf and garnished with onions and cilantro, and pollo en mole rojo served with seasoned vegetables and poblano rice. But save some room for dessert; the Pastel Tres Leches will set you over the edge with its three-milk sauce and white chocolate mousse and raspberry toppings.
But what's a Mexican dinner without tequila? The long menu here (featuring over 100 varieties) gets some much needed simplification, with the drinks categorized into four sections: Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo. Want to try 'em all? The bar is open late on Friday and Saturday nights, when you can work off your dinner dancing to live Latin music.
Reviewed By: Janis Mabalay