Zia’s Cafe

One of the fun things about going out for New Mexican food is the Who’s on First routine you get to do when you suggest it to your friends:

“Hey, there’s a New Mexican place on Armitage I think we should try.”

“It seems kind of out of our way just for a new Mexican place.”

“Well, I’m really in the mood for some New Mexican food.”

“Yeah, but aren’t there Mexican places all over the city?”

Repeat until you remember to mention “Sante Fe” or “green chiles”.

I’ve been craving New Mexican cuisine fairly constantly since I got back from my honeymoon this summer in Sante Fe. And the bar was set pretty high then, since we were basically eating our way through the Sante Fe Reporter‘s Best Of 2006 and Restaurant Guide lists. So, I found myself, eventually, in Zia’s Cafe (340 W Armitage), one of the few New Mexican restaurants in Chicago.

Erica got the chicken enchillada with green chiles and I got the chicken stuffed sopapilla with green chiles, so our meals were mostly identical except for the wrapping around our chicken. I was really happy with the right side of my plate, but somewhat disappointed with the left. Which is to say, the stuffed sopapilla was really good — the green chiles were alright and the chicken was great, tender and spicey. But the other side of the plate was filled with bog-standard Chicago mushy refried-beans and “Spanish” rice — not the flavorful whole beans I’d come to expect from my (admittedly skewed) time in Sante Fe. The sopapillas that came with the meal, though, totally won me over. They were hot and light and delicious with the intense honey that was right on the table.

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