Chicago is known for many things when it comes to food. Of course, deep-dish pizza and one-of-a-kind hot dogs are at the top of that list. So it’s easy to forget that the city is also well known for its take on Mexican food. Rick Bayless almost single-handedly changed the map of America’s preference for Mexican food. His Frontera Grill landed Mexican cuisine at the top of the list of best eats in Chicago and still stands as some of the best Mexican in Chicago. But thirty years later, the Mexican catering Chicago offers up has expanded into every conceivable nook and cranny, bringing new flavors and styles to the local food scene. We spotted a few trends, too, when we toured the town. Here are ten of the best when it comes to Mexican catering Chicago-style.
Corn is a central ingredient in Mexican cooking and the best Mexican in Chicago treats this humble ingredient with the respect it deserves. At Restaurante El Mogote, the Mexican street corn is dressed with lime-infused mayo for a fresh and creamy take. On the taco platter, you can’t miss the cochinita pibil taco. The pork is slow cooked with fresh citrus and topped with pickled red onion and a sweetly spicy habanero sauce. Fish tacos are pan-seared and served with a piquant chile de arbol aioli. This is street food that warms you up even during the brisk breezes of a Chicago spring.
When enjoying Mexican catering, Chicago always does right by chips and guacamole. And North of the Border’s take always brings the crunch. At the taco bar, choose between soft and hard-shell tortillas, and pile on the ground beef, shredded chicken, or refried beans. Add on cheese, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onion, limes, hot sauce, sour cream—and, of course, guacamole—and you’ve got a Mexican classic every time at North of the Border.
Gourmet empanadas are the name of the game at Savory Crust. The empanadas are made with fun fusion fillings. Start with the chicken curry, which is made with coconut milk, peas, onions, and Indian spices. The chicken pot pie is just like mom used to make, if mom made empanadas. You’ll truly savor every bite of this delightful new take. The guava and cheese empanadas are sweet enough for dessert, but savory enough to serve as appetizers. No matter how you slice it, it’s win-win on an all-day buffet.
Fajitas may be the ultimate Tex-Mex dish and Salsa Verde’s fajita bar brings these “little strips” to life. Choose between grilled chicken and steak. (Or don’t choose and have a little of everything.) They’re topped with grilled peppers and onions, along with all the fixings. Or, as an alternative, try the crispy chicken flautas. The buñuelos (little fritters) make for a sweet treat to end your meal. For a spirited meal any time of year, order the chicken tamales. Steamed in a corn husk with corn masa, they are a holiday tradition in Mexico, blissfully available all year in Chi-Town.
Salads might not be top of mind when you’re thinking about Mexican catering in Chicago. But the Azteca salad with romaine, green cabbage, black beans, and diced avocado is a multicultural blend that makes for a satisfying and filling lunch or dinner. The build-your-own-fajitas bar is a local favorite. But if you really want a treat from Azteca Grill, let your tastebuds do the walking straight to the churros. They are made of fried dough cut into pencil-length pieces and served with cinnamon-sugar and chocolate sauce. Churros turn dessert into bite-sized treats. But you definitely won’t eat just one.
The menu at Golden Brunch is extensive. It includes American classics like continental breakfast and cinnamon rolls. But when you eat at Golden Brunch, it’s for the Mexican dishes. You can’t go wrong with the breakfast burrito, especially when you can customize it with bacon and ham, chorizo, or artichoke hearts, along with all the rest of the cheesy burrito-goodness. Or try the chicken fajitas, with sides of seasoned rice and beans, grilled chicken, peppers, and onions. It’s familiar fare, even when your city sits closer to the Canadian border than the Mexican.
The multicultural menu at Mesa Urbana offers playful dishes like the watermelon beet salad with feta cheese and tequila vinaigrette. But to hit all the international notes, order the light urban eats. The package includes chicken lettuce-wrap tacos, seasoned with a spicy teriyaki-peanut sauce and papaya and portobello tacos, brightened with Mexican herbs. And as a perfect side, get the grilled corn with cheese, lime juice, and crème fraiche: it takes Mexican comfort food to a whole new level.
Ordering the best Mexican in Chicago does not get any easier than at Atolito where your decision is as easy as calculating how many people you need to feed. The ultimo package has it all—chicken fajitas, steak fajitas, vegetarian enchiladas, and diablo chicken enchiladas. Add a tray of the juicy shrimp ceviche to feed the pescatarians, and you are done and done.
With the same simplicity that Atolito brings to lunch and dinner, Breakfast by Atolito offers a morning of Mexican-American flavor in easy-to-choose packages. The hot breakfast package comes with cheesy eggs, scrambled eggs, ranchero eggs, french toast, and pancakes. Add on chicken apple sausage, fruit, and orange juice, and you’ve got a well-balanced way to start your day. And for the ultimate eye-opener, don’t forget to add a box of coffee to get your crew going.
Tortas, aka Mexican sandwiches, are the sure to be the next big trend in Mexican catering in Chicago. At Bullhead Cantina, try the smoked brisket torta. With cilantro-vinaigrette coleslaw and red salsa slathered with chipotle BBQ sauce and mayo, it is a meat lover’s dream. For vegetarians or omnivores, the build-your-own taco bars provide options like tilapia, sweet potato, portobello, and roasted beets.
Are you looking for fresh Mexican flavors for your next event in Chicago? Start