Posted by: Hungry Korean | November 28, 2011


Was in Chicago for a week for Thanksgiving and the last weekend there, we stayed with my brother and his wife. They took us to some great spots I have to say and thank them for that.  Saturday was a rainy day so the plan was to hit the Shedd Aquarium but before that, they took us to Rick Bayless’ more affordable lunch shop that is supposed to serve up Mexican street food. He’s pretty famous for his Mexican cooking and I believe he even won Top Chef Masters!  You can also find him often on PBS channels. He’s made quite a name for himself but especially loved in Chicago.

Even in the pouring rain, there was a line outside. No kidding! The wait at 2pm was a whopping one hour but my brother assured us it would be worth it. The place is set up so you wait in line, place your order, pay and you get assigned a table to eat. Once you sit, you wait until the food is delivered to your table. The restaurant is small.

Shot of the interior while waiting in line:

We placed our group order and got our seat assignment.

My brother and I both got the horchata which is coconut milk, almond milk and cinnamon. It was soooo good!

It was delicately creamy and slightly sweet and the cinnamon reminded me so much of fall. It’s served cold but the drink itself was very comforting.  Incidentally, the sandwich I ordered had quite a bit of heat to it and the milk proteins in this drink really helped to mellow the spice on my tongue.

Cookie Monster got the cubana sandwich:

The Cubana is a torta from the griddle encasing smoked Gunthorp pork loin and bacon, black beans, avocado, artisan Jack and chipotle mustard. It was ok. Maybe one of the better Cubana’s ever sampled but it wasn’t anything extraordinary….although I did just have one bite. (I was obsessed with my sandwich and really didn’t care about anything else.)  It was served with a side of salsa and there was a strong smokiness from the pork loin and bacon – for me a little too much. Cookie Monster really liked it.

Close up:

My brother’s fiancee got the special of the day which was a goat sandwich. I did not try it as I’m not fond of goat meat really.  My brother and I both got the Ahogada.  It’s supposedly the signature dish at Xoco and most popular item. He urged me to try it and given that my brother has never steered me wrong in food suggestions, I had to get it.

He got his extra spicy with a side of habanara sauce (crazy suicidal – but homeboy can take his heat!) and I just got mine spicy, no side sauce.

What is an Ahogada you ask? It is golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce and pickled onions.  That sauce is what makes this dish. It’s tomato-y with a kick. Since I got mine spicy, there definitely was a lingering heat and burn on my lips and tongue but in the most addictive way possible.  That sauce!!!  The pork in the sandwich was nice enough and tender and the pickled onions cut the greasiness of the pork meat.  The bread was excellent and extremely tasty and soaks up all that spicy sauce extremely well.  Trust me, it’s spicy but you will find yourself dipping that sandwich in that sauce again and again.  When I looked inside, there was black beans smeared along the insides. Wonderful!  This is a heavy dish but so worth the calories!

Close up:

You see how that bread has just sopped up all that wonderful goodness?

We were all stuffed but we finished off our meals with some freshly made churros with chocolate dipping sauce:

The churros were served warm from the fryer and sprinkled generously with cinammon sugar but they were a bit strange to me and Cookie Monster because the churros were made from a corn based batter. You could really taste the corn and it sort of reminded us of eating a corn taco shell doused in sugar. The corn batter also took away from the delicate crisp typically found in churros – these weren’t that light as air and I missed that.

Stuffed from my meal, I really sort of wanted to go back to my brother’s apartment and take a nap but we did motivate ourselves to the aquarium and had a great time.  The point is, although it was heavy, I was really pleased with our meal at Xoco and recommend you brave the wait and try this place if you are ever in the Chicagoland area. I am now a Bayless convert!  I’ll blog about the fabulous dinner we had later that night tomorrow.

Xoco, 449 North Clark Street (enter on Illinois St.), Chicago, IL


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