Wednesday, October 6, 2010

xoco, chicago il
449 north clark st, chicago il
wednesday, october 6th, 2010

xoco is top chef winner rick bayless's quick service restaurant located in downtown chicago. the cuisine is his take on mexican street food. the we arrived at the restuarant around 3pm on a wednesday afternoon. i had heard that the lines at xoco can be extremely long, and knew it may take an hour or so before we got our food.  upon arrival, we were greeted by a hostess, and given a table number. we were told to order at the counter, and then she would seat us. luckily, there were only two or three people in front of us, making the wait minimal.

xoco's main feature is a wide variety of tortas, which are basically mexican sub sandwiches. the restaurant also serves breakfast before 10am, and adds caldos (soup) to the menu after 3pm. after perusing the menu for a few minutes, we made our selections. we ordered at the counter, and were shown to our table.
xoco is a fairly small space, and only has seating for maybe 30-40 diners. the decor is bright and modern, and has a nice feel to it overall.
although xoco has a decent selection of wine and beer, we both opted for the house made limonada. being equally sweet and sour, the limonada was a very refreshing beverage.
after a minute or two, our chips and salsa arrived. the chips were freshly made, and were a bit thick than your standard chip. this gave them a little extra bite, which was nice. two types of salsa were served. a tomatiilo and a 3-chile. both were good, but not exceptional by any stretch.

approximately ten minutes after receiving our chips and salsa, our tortas arrived. pictured above is the ahogada. this torta features pork carnitas, black beans, pickled onions, and is served in a bowl of spicy tomato broth. the pork has perfectly cooked, and extremely tender. i was a bit leary of the pickled onions, but everything in the sandwich really melded together nicely flavor wise. what really took this sandwich to the next level was the spicy tomato broth. perfectly spiced and bursting with flavor, the broth really made this a sandwich to remember.
our other selection was the pepito. consisting of braised beef short ribs, caramelized onions, jack cheese, black beans, and pickled jalapenos, this torta was also incredible. my wife and i split each torta, and each had our own favorite, hers the pepito and mine the ahogada.

we finished up our meal with xoco's famous churros. made to order, the churros were hot, fresh, and delicous.
to go with the churros, we enjoyed an order of caramel/maple/bacon/strudel soft serve ice cream. the ice cream had a very interesting combinaton of flavors, with the bacon playing a very small role in the overall taste.

all told, xoco made for an incredible quick service style lunch. at $45 for the two of us, it is safe to say that this is the most expensive "order at the counter" restaurant i have ever been to. however, it is also head and shoulders above any place like it. if rick bayless is able to make food this incredible in a quick service format, i cannot wait to try his more formal establishments, the frontera grill and topolobampo.

XOCO on Urbanspoon

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