Archive for September, 2009


I read about Rick Bayless’ brand new Mexican streetfood(ish) place Xoco yesterday in the Trib and the Decider and my first thought was to wait a few weeks for the lines to die down. But then work got all busy and I didn’t get out of the building to get some lunch until 2:30 and I took the chance that the lunch rush would be over.

Xoco - a lack of line

I was correct. At 3:00 pm there was practically no wait at all — there were just a few people ahead of me in line (two places ahead of me in line was restaurant PRer Ellen Malloy and Rick Bayless came running over to take a picture of her with his iPhone).

Xoco - Rick Bayless being interviewed

Rick Bayless was very much a presence in the open kitchen of Xoco — snapping photos, clanging around with pots and pans, and doing an interview with a Spanish-language television host (above). I try not to get starstruck, but yeah, he’s a handsome man.

Xoco - Churo and Limonada Xoco - Torta Cubana

For lunch I got a churo, a limonada, and the Torta Cubana. I had meant to save the churo for dessert, but my sandwich took a little while to come (I’ll let it slide—it’s the first week) and so I ate the churo to tide me over. The churo was delightful—sweet, cinnamony, warm, and just the right ratio of crispy and doughy. The limonada was similarly delightful — thick with lime flavors and fairly tart.

The Cubana sandwich was good, but not the best Cuban sandwich I’ve ever had. Notably, there was no pickle, which I would consider a component that really makes a Cuban sandwich. Not to rag on it too much — it was a good sandwich and the bacon on it was incredible. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten a Cuban sandwich at a Mexican joint. I’ll definitely be back to try some of the other offerings.

Xoco is only open for lunch and dinner right now, and they’re not offering takeout (which is a wise choice, given the time it took for my eat-in order). The breakfast offerings already on the menu look incredible and I can’t wait for them to open earlier.

Novelty Golf

Erica faces the Skull

Novelty Golf and Games* in Lincolnwood (3650 West Devon Ave) has everything you’d want from a miniature golf setup: big random sculptures, mechanical rotate-y things (including a windmill), and oddly difficult holes. The Bunny Hutch is right next door and there’s an Oberweis across the street for pre-game hot dogs or post-game ice cream, respectively. There are two 18 hole courses and there’s a second game discount if you just can’t get enough miniature golf.

* the “and Games” is batting cages and an arcade.

Margarita Tour

Here was the plan: a Saturday afternoon with nothing important to do, two couples, four places known for margaritas. Each person would order an appetizer and take care of the bill at one restaurant, so that it all evens out.

Stop 0: Sotol

It’s important to be properly fortified before you set out on a journey like this, so we had a sip of Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol before we took the train south. Hmm… smooooth.

Stop 1: Uncle Julio’s Hacienda, 855 W North Ave

We all were going to mostly stick with traditional (or at least, non-frozen) margaritas, but the Swirl is the signature drink at Uncle Julio’s and I’m a sucker for a signature drink. The florescent flamingo lets you know you’re not in for subtle flavors, but I did enjoy it.

Everyone else got the Julio’s Gold margarita on the rocks and we got a bowl of Chile con Queso for the table. Hmmm… cheeeese.

The Swirl at Uncle Julio's Margarita at Uncle Julio's

Stop 2: Adobo Grill, 1610 N Wells

At Adobo the signature dish is the Guacamole which is prepared fresh, tableside. (I’m also a sucker for food that’s a show) so that had to be our appetizer. And we had the Adobo Margarita all around. None of us were brave enough to add a “smoky floater” to our Margarita (an extra shot of del Maguey Chichicapa), which in retrospect I regret.

Margarita at Adobo Grill

Stop 3: El Nuevo Mexicano, 2914 N Clark

We had a lot of choices when we were assembling the route for this tour, and Cesar’s, just a few blocks north, was a strong contender with, if nothing else, their huge neon sign proclaiming that they have “killer margaritas”. So I’m not sure how El Nuevo Mexicano made it onto the list, but it turned out to be a good choice if for no other reason than that it was getting to be dinner time and Cesar’s was pretty packed. (Margarita tours can’t wait!)

I was starting to feel the alcohol by this stop and so I ordered a pomegranate margarita under some sort of mistaken impression that the fruit juice would be healthier or something. Instead, it was a bit too sweet for my tastes and so it was the only drink I was unable to finish on the tour. We had a plate of Garnachas with ground beef which were tasty, but a small portion for four people.

Pomegranite Margarita at El Nuevo Mexicano

Stop 4: La Fonda, 5350 N Broadway St

I was back on my game by the time we got to La Fonda. It was my turn to order the appetizer and I was feeling a bit noshy so we got two kinds of plantains (hmm… plantains) — the Tostonachos Caribenos and sweet plantains, and some rice and beans. We got the Gold or Special or whatever (I forget their name for their Top Shelf margarita) all around. I think it might have been my favorite of the tour, though that may have been the 4 previous drinks talking.

Margarita at La Fonda

Like I said, there are plenty of places that didn’t make the cut just because of time and not drinking-ourselves-into-oblivion. Next time maybe we’ll hit Frontera Grill, Cesar’s, and wherever you suggest in the comments…

Brief Updates from MBHQ

You’ve no doubt by now noticed that the sites got a bit of a re-design and some things got changed around last week. We wanted to highlight two changes to make sure everyone knows what changed.

The first and biggest is COMMENTS! Registration is no longer required to post a comment on any post. Of course if you already have an account you can still login to ensure your comments are attributed to you, but those who don’t can now post a comment without any long term commitment. Also, on the right you can see some of the recent comments so you’ll always know what the active discussions are. This was the most requested thing we’ve heard from people since our last redesign and we’re excited to see where it leads.

The next change is also something that was heavily requested, and that is a change to the ADS on the sites. You’ll immediately notice fewer of them, but what might not be as obvious is those smaller square ones to the right are specific to this city only and are being sold for a flat rate for a period of time rather than a confusing CPM/traffic/network model. Depending on the city, these range from $7-$175 for a full week. If you purchase one, during that time your ad will be the only one in that spot and will show on every page. We set these up both to make it easier for smaller local businesses to get their ads on our site, and also to help us bring in ads that relate better to our local audiences. Also, keeping these sites online is expensive and every little bit helps.

There are a bunch of other things we changed but we’ll leave those to you to investigate and take advantage of. Hope you like it, and we look forward to seeing you in the comments!!

The folks at MBHQ

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