Mexican Street Food From a Top Chef Master

Rick Bayless debuts restaurant in River North

By Marcus Riley
|  Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009  |  Updated 3:00 PM CDT
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Chicago Chefs Go Green

XOCO

Several tortas (Mexican submarine sandwiches) are on the menu at XOCO.

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The most complicated thing about Rick Bayless' new restaurant is probably the name. It's spelled XOCO, phonetically pronounced show-ko, and is Mexican slang for "little sister."

Once you get that out of the way, you can move on to the food, which is a contemporary take on traditional Mexican street food and snacks anything but complex. Expect piping hot churros, empanadas, hot chocolate (ground from Mexican cacao beans in-house), tortas (Mexican submarine sandwiches) and made-to-order caldos (meal-in-a-bowl soups) with everything from roasted vegetables to seafood and pork belly.

To try and duplicate the feeling of a Mexican street food stall with its wood fires and tantalizing aroma, Bayless uses a wood-burning oven in the kitchen.

But don't bother trying making a reservation here, because they don't take them. The restaurant only seats 40, so grab you grub and park it at one of the communal-style tables.

And be sure that if you do get your food to go, the packaging will be fully compostable -- a necessity since the restaurant has been awarded LEED Silver certification.

XOCO will be open Tuesday through Saturday for the first month. Mondays will be added in October.

XOCO, 449 N. Clark Street (enter on Illinois), (312) 334-3688. VIEW FULL MENU

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