Bib Gourmand restaurants are selected by Michelin’s famously anonymous food inspectors, who choose restaurants serving high quality food on their menus and make it possible to order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included).
From tacos to enchiladas and everything in between, here are eight Mexican Bib Gourmand eateries to dine at in Chicago.
Dos Urban Cantina“After several years at Topolobampo, the husband/wife duo behind this gem have taken their knowledge and skills to craft this consistently delicious and inventive cuisine. And, the chefs’ deep understanding of Mexican ingredients has allowed them to create elegant and well-priced compositions. Chunks of slowly braised pork carnitas are hearty, tender and brought to an entirely new level with squash that pops with bright flavor—all balanced with a bracing tomatillo broth. For dessert, indulge in excellent Mexican sugar pie topped with whipped cream and pecan toffee that is out of this world. The space is comfortable and roomy so that the steady stream of thirty-somethings never make it feel crowded. Curved booths and romantic lighting lend a soft feel.”
Frontera Grill“The linchpin in Rick Bayless’ empire, Frontera Grill is decidedly unique in its homage to regional Mexican cuisine and displays a near cult-like devotion to local product. The service at this dining room, psychedelic in its color scheme, can verge on vapid, but find a seat on the bar side for a warmer (and worthier) experience. The ever-changing menu is cohesive with a mix of classics and specialties like sopa azteca, a nourishing pasilla chile broth poured atop crisp tortilla strips, cool avocado, grilled chicken and jack cheese. A version of the classic from Morelia, enchiladas a la plaza are first flash-fried, then folded over seasoned cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Pair this plate with a side of spinach in green chile and you won't be unhappy. Ever.”
Sol de Mexico“Far more authentic than the average chips-and-salsa joint, Sol de Mexico brightens the scene and palate with a lively atmosphere (cue the mariachi music!) and delectable house specialties. Walls painted in tropical pinks, blues, and oranges are a cheerful canvas for Dia de los Muertos artifacts. To sample the kitchen's skill, start with sopes surtidos 'xilonen'—four molded masa cups with a variety of fillings like caramelized plantains doused in sour cream or tender black beans topped with crumbly house-made chorizo. Then, move on to the pollo en mole manchamanteles, which translates to 'tablecloth stainer.' Rich and slightly bitter with a comforting nuttiness, the aptly named mahogany sauce begs to be sopped up with freshly made tortillas.”
Mi Tocaya“Boasting a lively, charming ambience; friendly, knowledgeable service; and a delicious menu courtesy of chef/owner Diana Dávila, Mi Tocaya is a welcome addition to the burgeoning Logan Square food scene. Bring friends, order a delicious seasonal cocktail, try something new from the menu, and you’ll no doubt leave with a newfound love for Mexican cuisine. The short but intriguing listing of "small cravings" (antojitos) is influenced by the less-explored Aztec cuisine of Mexico. Sample dishes like guisado de nopalitos, a fragrant, earthy stew with cactus, zucchini and charred chiles, served with delicious knobs of salt-dusted fried cheese curds and warm corn tortillas. But don't overlook the warm tacos, sure to transport you to the streets of Mexico City.”
Chilam Balam“Chilam Balam’s cozy subterranean space feels like an undiscovered hideaway, but the secret of this lively Mexican hot spot is out. Though waits can be long, the accommodating staff goes the extra mile to mix up margaritas with BYO tequila or walk guests through the rotating roster of shared plates. Familiar favorites and seasonal specials make for a festive mix of adventurous, yet universally pleasing dishes. Flat corn tortillas form a sandwich-style enchilada, stuffed with fork-tender beef brisket and topped with crunchy strands of sweet potato slaw. Salty chorizo and green papaya tlacoyos show that opposites attract, and peanut butter empanadas—primed for dipping in Oaxacan chocolate sauce and dulce de leche—take a childhood favorite to new heights.”
Quiote“Logan Square may be buzzing with Mexican restaurants, but Quiote rises above them like a brightly hued piñata. Warm and inviting, with food that satisfies from sun up to sun down, this place embodies the very essence of a neighborhood spot. While the menu's assortment of small and large plates is meant for sharing, the kitchen aims to please and will create a typical three-course meal upon request. Expect authentic Mexican fare with a creative twist, as evidenced by dishes such as the chorizo verde, a green-tinted pork sausage resting on smashed and griddled potatoes with sweet rings of onion and a golden raisin vinaigrette, or seasonally inspired plates like the flavorful crab tostada. As for what to drink? Three words: subterranean mezcal bar.”
DeCOLORES“This Mexican restaurant’s slate-colored walls feature a beautiful rotation of work from local artists, making the walls a great conversation starter even before the delicious fare hits your table. The lovely bar is yet another bit of artistry, featuring shelves tucked around a series of metal branches; and a wonderful, colorful flower motif on the back wall. A relaxed atmosphere, warm service staff and well-made cocktails seal the deal. At this kitchen, many of the recipes have been passed down through the family for generations—and one taste of the silky mole poblano, laced over chicken and served with excellent refried beans and yellow rice, will transport you back to the motherland. Round out dinner with a wickedly good homemade cheesecake flan.”
Lonesome Rose"Lonesome Rose won’t be lonely for long as it’s quite easy to fall in love with her. With big windows draping its space in light all day long, this bright Humboldt Park charmer feels like it was ripped right out of a Southern California postcard—the sun's rays streaming down on bright white brick, blonde wood and a few saturated pops of color. Brought to life by the folks behind Longman & Eagle, this kitchen's menu features thoughtfully prepared Mexican food, made in-house and impeccably fresh. Don't miss the delicious ceviche, studded with tender cubes of pineapple and pickled jalapeño. Other top contenders have included the tuna tostada, tacos, as well as street corn laced with tomatillo salsa, cotija, edible flowers and a chile 'gastrique.'"
Hero image courtesy of Dos Urban Cantina.