Sunday, February 16, 2014


Location: 449 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL60654
XOCO on Urbanspoon Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless on Urbanspoon
A Quick Word:
The names Chicago and Rick Bayless are like peanut butter and jelly.  They go hand-in-hand these days because of his many famous restaurants in the city.  He offers a spectrum of Mexican cuisine from the high-end, gourmet Mexican food at Topolobampo to the street-like food at XOCO.  Personally, I prefer the latter.  At XOCO, you encounter several methodically designed wood burning oven tortas, as well as large, complex soups.  These tortas aren't you typical Mexican joint sandwiches... here you will encounter premium ingredients and perfectly paired salsas.  The price is a little on the steep side, easily surmounting the double digit threshold with just one torta or one soup.  And, the location in the heart of downtown can be frustrating for many since the line seems to always be out of the door.  But, if you have some time and a few extra bucks to spare, definitely wait.  The flavors are amazing and this is the cheapest Rick Bayless food you can enjoy.  For those reasons, a 4.5-mile rating was given.

What I Ate:

Pepito Torta

It was a tough decision, but I eventually narrowed my choice to the Pepito Torta.  This mexican sandwich was served on their warm, crusty torta bread and filled generously with braised short ribs,  caramelized onions, jack cheese, black beans, arugula, pickled jalapeños, and a cilantro crema.  A salsa verde was served on the side.  On first bite, you realize that all of the ingredients could honestly stand alone, but they are even better together.  The tender meat is contrasted by that crusty bread and the crunch from jalapeños.  The salsa had enough heat without overwhelming your tastebuds.  And, that crema gave the illusion of a creamier sandwich.  I love cilantro and that crema added enough freshness to the sandwich.  The cheese was either non-existent or overpowered by the other ingredients so maybe a strong cheese could be used?  Great sandwich, filling, and memorable in the category of tortas.  I will be back.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- If you have a long layover or are at the airport early, this is a must try restaurant.  Not only are their prices exactly the same as downtown's XOCO restaurant, the food quality is superb and the ingredients just as fresh.  It takes 10 minutes to make your torta to order so plan in a few extra minutes.

- Don't expect to ever arrive at XOCO without a line.  Rain or shine, I have always had to wait several minutes if not longer just to get inside the door and then a little longer in the line that snakes to the counter.  The wait is well worth it.

How far would I walk for this food?

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