Rick Bayless brings Mexican food with street cred to the streets of Chicago

by Terry B on January 26, 2011

Mexican street food as celebrated by America’s authority on Mexican cuisine is the subject of my latest USA Character Approved Blog post.


Street food is enjoying a moment. Whether it’s food taking to the streets in gourmet food trucks or street fare from the world’s street corners and marketplaces moving indoors, the street is increasingly becoming the source of some of the most exciting food these days.

One direction street food has taken is fusion mash-ups. I recently wrote about Korean tacos, for instance. They first showed up in LA on the Kogi Korean BBQ Truck. Now they’ve gone bricks and mortar at Chicago’s Del Seoul. Celebrity chef and Mexican food authority Rick Bayless’s cuisine is the exact opposite of fusion.

His restaurants are all about providing genuine regional cuisine that challenges our stereotypes about Mexican food. His newest restaurant, XOCO, is a tiny 40-seat spot that focuses on Mexico’s beloved street food and snacks. From huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and frothy hot chocolates in the morning to meaty tortas (Mexican submarines), meal-in-a-bowl caldos or soups and cold beers later in the day, it’s all authentic and delicious. To find out more about the 2009 Top Chef Masters winner’s street food spot XOCO and why it has happy diners lining up in the street, check out my latest post on the USA Character Approved Blog.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) January 26, 2011 at 3:19 am

I’ve enjoyed every Rick Bayless restaurant dining experience I’ve had, and look forward to trying XOCO on my next visit to Chicago.

Terry B January 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Hi, Lydia! It’s funny, but living in Chicago, we don’t take advantage of having constant access to Rick Bayless’s restaurants. Never go there. Kind of like New Yorkers not visiting iconic landmarks. But XOCO has definitely gotten our attention. Marion’s already been, and I’m looking forward to getting there too after sampling some of her leftovers.

[email protected] January 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Thanks for the tip! I love Mexican food and will stop by XOCO next time I’m in Chicago!

randi January 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Lucky you! Not alot of authentic Mexican restaurants outside of Toronto. The best Mexican food I ever had was from a street vendor in an unpronounceable small town. It was similar to a steak fajita with a strange looking onion. So much flavour.

Alana D January 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I’m always looking to try a new restaurant…especially where Rick Bayless is chef!! Thanx.

Terry B January 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I hope you enjoy it when you do, Annie.

Randi—After being bored with Mexican food for a while, we’re back into exploring what really is a wealth of Mexican restaurants here in Chicago. One of our most recent finds was Taqueria Ricardo, a little place tucked in the back of a neighborhood supermercado. The food was delicious and plentiful.

I think you’ll like it, Alana. Go at off hours, if you can—it will cut down on time in line. Also, the caldos are only available after three o’clock.

Ronnie Ann January 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Oh man, Terry. I have XOCO envy. Sounds great. Here in otherwise food-rich NYC, great authentic Mexican food is not so easy to come by. Where I live in Brooklyn, my local fave (and it was only pretty good) alas closed last year and I am hankering for some real Mexican food. Please send some. Thanks.

Dime Store Foodie January 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I love that he is serving hot chocolate! It is spiked with some chiles? A local chocolatier here in Portland makes the most delicious chocolate that has a hint of chile pepper, and it is to die for! At first all you can taste is the chocolate and then the heat hits you in the back of the throat, a real sensory challenge. Haven’t had a chance to eat at any of his restaurants, but I hear they are delicious, and true to authentic Mexican cooking. Lucky you!

Terry B January 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I’ve heard that about New York, Ronnie Ann, that their Mexican food offerings leave something to be desired. Good luck on tracking down a new source!

Dime Store Foodie—XOCO offers five different hot chocolates, one of them with chile in it. All are made from cacao beans they grind on the premises.

Grace January 28, 2011 at 1:35 am

My experiences at Rick’s other Chicago restaurants have not been positive. Xoco, on the other hand, set a new bar. The tortas were excellent! I look forward to another visit at the end of February, and will try the hot chocolate with chile–thanks for the suggestion!

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