If you told someone to list the top 5 chefs in Chicago, chances are, their list would include Rick Bayless. Bayless is a renouned, Michelin-star restauranteur who is credited with making upscale Mexican cuisine a mainstay in Chicago.
We decided to grab lunch at XOCO, Bayless' new fast-casual eatery with a solid menu of authentic Mexican street food and a unique approach to counter service.
Once you approach the front of the line, the hostess will give your party a seat number. After you place and pay for your order, the hostess escorts you to your table and your food is brought out upon its preparation. Interestingly, they will not allow you to order if there are no seats available, guaranteeing that you will have a place to sit down once you order.
(Be forewarned, if dining at XOCO, you should be prepared to wait 30-60 minutes before ordering.)
XOCO specializes in bean-to-cup hot chocolate. This means that they roast and grind their own cacao beans to make their chocolate. I highly recommend the Almendrado, which is ground chocolate and almond milk. It's thick and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness.
Tom chose the braised goat torta with tomatillo salsa, onion and cilantro. The goat was super-tender, flavorful and just a hint of heat.
It was a bit chilly that day, and I thought it would be great to warm up with a big bowl of soup. The pork belly vermicelli doesn't disappoint. Crispy pork belly in a spicy broth with zucchini, avocado and fideos (Spanish-style vermicelli noodles). This one is not for the faint of heart; there's enough heat in this bowl to clear your sinuses.
We spent a little over $30 for lunch, but if you want to eat Rick Bayless' food in Chicago, this is your cheapest option. With locally sourced ingredients of outstanding quality, I absolutely believe it's worth every penny. And, if I ever find myself back in Chicago, I'll probably jump back in line and wait for a table at XOCO.
449 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654
Average Sandwich Price: $10-$12
Average Entree Price: $9-$13
Average Dessert Price: $4-$6
Friday and Saturday 8:00am-10:00pm