A mainstay of the Pilsen neighborhood for more than 45 years, Nuevo Leon offers everything you would want out of a Mexican restaurant -- flavorful dishes, a friendly, festive atmosphere and a lively crowd. Everything, that is, except alcohol.
Which only adds to its accessible, affordable appeal, in our opinion. Nuevo Leon was opened in 1962 by the Gutierrez family, who migrated to Chicago from Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The family-owned and -operated establishment (son Daniel is now in charge) retains that hometown charm, with servers dressed in traditional attire and complimentary chips and salsa and small bowls of pickled carrots and jalapenos delivered to every table.
Menu items include everything from the basic (an array of fajitas, enchiladas, tacos) to the authentic (chicken in a homemade mole sauce, beef tongue sauteed in salsa). The signature dish, filete al Nuevo Leon, is a generous New York strip steak accompanied by rice, fried potatoes, refried beans and guacamole. In other words, come hungry.
And, if you're arriving thirsty, make a pit stop at nearby Amador Liquors (1167 W. 18th St., 312-226-3192), a neighborhood staple for Modelos, Coronas or even a pre-made margarita mix. We won't tell anyone. And, Nuevo Leon doesn't charge a corkage fee -- talk about welcoming service!