Xoco Review: Xoco

Xoco Review: Xoco

Guest post from Jonathan today! He’s back with us today with a writeup about Rick Bayless’s most recent restaurant, Xoco. It’s in Chicago so it’s a bit of a tease for most of us, but living vicariously is nice sometimes.

Xoco(SHOH-koh), Rick Bayless’s ode to Mexican street food, is only a few blocks from my apartment and I (like apparently the entire known world) had been aching to try it. And so every few days since it had opened I’d walked by to see if it was a good time only to find that the line was firmly out the door; so I would keep walking. But no, this day I decided to stay. I was taking a stand, and I was going to try Xoco.

I arrived a little before 6 pm and the line was already peaking out the door. It seems that ever since that Top Chef Masters win, people are rediscovering Rick Bayless. The group of exasperatingly energetic college students in front of me noted that their friends who had arrived earlier were at the front of the line and had taken about 40 minutes to get there. With a sigh, I pulled out my Blackberry and began to beat down a few levels of Brickbreaker.

20 minutes later, I was at least standing inside of the restaurant. The line would only move in small spurts because only people with numbers could order and you would only get a number if the hostess had a seat for you.

After 45 minutes, I was indeed at the front of the line. The problem with waiting so long in line to order is that once you get to the front of the line you feel like ordering a ton to justify the wait. So that’s what I did. I ordered 2 tortas (Cochinita Pibil & Head Cheese), a caldo (Seafood), 3 churros and an Almendrado chocolate.

I was especially excited about the caldos, which are only served after 3 pm. The menu had a few promising soups, like the pork belly vermicelli or the wood-roasted chicken pozole, but I ended up choosing the seafood. The caldo was full of potatoes, shrimp, mussels and catfish. The broth was spicy with just a hint of tartness. The seafood itself was spot-on. The shellfish were spot-on, and the catfish simply luscious.

The tortas (sandwiches) were delicious; but how good can a sandwich be? Apparently pretty good. The cochinita pibil was filled with wood-roasted suckling pig with achiote, black beans and pickled onions. A spicy habanero sauce was placed on the side. The head cheese and smoked tongue sandwich, which is a sort of special sandwich but offered daily, was a smooth delight. The tart goat cheese adds a nice milky flavor and smoothes out the sandwich.

The Almendrado is a chocolate shot with almond milk. I was not immediately aware of the almond, but it got progressively present as I continued to drink. The hot chocolate overall was rich, earthy, and not overly sweet. Perhaps there is something to the restaurant’s grinding cacao beans on the premises. The churros were a perfect finish. The curled sticks were crisp and chewy at once.

There are certainly more things I want to try at Xoco and am willing to go back. I like having a nice neighborhood restaurant that can serve a nice bowl of soup to keep warm in these Chicago winters.

Xoco449 N Clark St.Chicago, IL 60610312-334-3688

Posted by Danny on November 3, 2009 at 3:51 pm

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