Good day or night depending on where you are in the world! Welcome to another chapter in the Mastication Monologues saga where I managed to visit a very small but good Mexican restaurant. Luckily I was invited to my friend Roberta’s bday party (muito obrigado!) to try the food at Los Nopales located at 4544 North Western Avenue Chicago, IL 60625. It is a bit of a ways away from La Villita or Pilsen, but I still recommend that you make the drive up.
First, I found out that it is a BYOB restaurant which is very nice since they’re not like other restaurants trying to push their kiddie-pool sized margarita specials onto your table with all of their marketing might. However, there is a 3 dollar corkage fee for wine bottles and six packs and four dollars for margarita bottles, just fyi. When I finally arrived after Google Maps gave me wrong directions, I walked in and noticed how small the establishment really is. It is on the cramped side at times if really crowded, but the food/ambiance/staff more than make up for it. The tortilla chips on the table were on the thinner side and perfectly fried without leaving that nasty, greazy residue that some Mexican restaurant chips leave on your fingers. These munchies were accompanied by two different types of salsas: one tomatillo blend which was a bit spicier than the tomato based mild salsa. My fellow party-goers had also already ordered the chicken taquitos which were drizzled with sour cream and placed around a molehill of guacamole. The sour cream did not do much to enhance the taste of the taquitos which were muy deliciosos. The chicken was all white meat, and its flauta blanket was crispy and golden brown. This appetizer was amped up by the guacamole which was really zesty with hints of lime and a nice consistency that wasn’t like caulk but not too soupy.
As for the main course, I ended up indulging in some chorizo tostadas. The plate that came to me was an interesting land of contrasts. A majority of the area was covered with two well-portioned tostadas topped with minced chorizo, diced tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and sour cream. The meat was crumbly but highly seasoned with cumin and spices that really made each crispy tortilla mouthful pop. That was another part of the tostada that really grabbed me was the fact that these tostadas were very sturdy and did not break when I was holding and eating them. Then came a swath of yellow Mexican rice that was surprisingly different from the run of the mill orange Mexican rice that often contains peas, corn, and carrots. Nevertheless, it was very delicious and was had a very slight buttery taste. The only downside (although I’m negatively biased towards refried beans) was the large pool of what was supposed to be refried beans. Whereas I have had some legitimately good frijoles, these were just sub par as the individual beans were destroyed into a muddled brown blob. It definitely received the bronze olympic medal on this all around eating event. At the end of the meal, we got some fried ice cream, but I only had one spoonful. I know I can’t formulate an accurate judgement based off of this one spoonful, but the batter was pedestrian and was overshadowed by the ice cream.
So if you’re looking for that south of the border taste without having to book a flight to Oaxaca, head up north to Los Nopales in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.