CHICAGO — I had a hard time convincing my friend to join me in a visit to Chicago’s Adobo Grill. “I hate Mexican food,” he said. “Just give it a try,” I said.
Adobo Grill is now one of my friend’s favorite Chicago restaurants. Like most people, the only “Mexican” food he had tried was bastardizations and variations on a Mexican theme. Tex-Mex is only scantly associated with true Mexican cuisine, and many restaurants outside the Southwest do their own interpretations of what Mexican food is based on what Tex-Mex is. It isn’t difficult to understand why someone would dislike those results.
Adobo Grill gets back to the basic roots of Mexican cuisine. Perhaps still not a literal translation, it comes close, and the total experience is a pleasant and satisfying one.
Be sure to start with the guacamole, which is prepared tableside based on the guests’ preference. You may or may not have garlic, onions, tomatoes added to the pulpy avocados, or you may voice a preference to how much of those ingredients you prefer. But allow the server to put in the proper amount of cilantro and salt to pique the taste.
It was delicious, and we decided one of the reasons it was so much better than anything we had made is that Adobo uses fresh limes — I’ve always used lemons.
There was a lot of guac, so we decided to make a meal out of that and a couple of other appetizer courses, although they really resembled full entrees. I ordered the chorizo and zucchini cazuela, a casserole of more sausage than zucchini topped with cheese and served with warm corn tortillas so we could make little tacos. Wonderfully greasy.
My friend had the gorditas, sometimes referred to as Mexican sandwiches and here translated as “little fat ones.” The thicker tortillas were topped with braised shredded pork, sour cream and ancho seasoned salsa. There
were three good-sized gordies and we ate them all up (who are the little fat ones now?).
Like many Mexican restaurants these days, Adobo features a long list of tequilas and tequila based drinks. I was intrigued by the restaurant’s signature mojito, made with tequila instead of rum. Yum. Very addictive; it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving the El.
Servers were friendly and quite efficient. When I went looking for the restroom the young man I asked didn’t just point the way but showed me to the door. Thoughtful.
The restaurant in Chicago’s Old Town is small but bright and cheerful. It’s also lacking in the kind of South of the Border kitsch that many Ameri-Mex restaurants feel obligated to showcase.
Click here to see Adobo Grill’s Web site.