(Photo taken from the website http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco.html)
Xoco is…hold your breath…a fast food place. I know, I know, I was kind of shocked. All of Chicago and apparently much of the foodie world were all aTwitter in September 2009 over the opening of Rick and Deann Bayless’ new street food joint. I was a little surprised to walk into a Chipotle. Hey, it’s nice, but it doesn’t give off the vibe of authenticity I was expecting. Looks clean, decent art, open food prep area, don’t get me wrong, this is not your typical Jack-in-the-Box, but it doesn’t look all that different from any other chain (perhaps that’s the plan?).
Now, the food – according to the Baylesses, XOCO (meaning “Little Sister” to Frontera and Topolobampo) “proffers contemporary expressions of Mexico’s most beloved street food and snacks: hot-from-the-fryer churros and flaky empanadas; frothy Mexican hot chocolate (ground from Mexican cacao beans right in our front window!); warm, crusty tortas (Mexican submarine sandwiches); and made-to-order caldos (meal-in-a-bowl soups) that feature everything from roasted vegetables to seafood to pork belly.” Shooting high, promising the world, but does it deliver? First of all, I can’t imagine getting the Woodland Mushroom Torta (Wood-roasted garlic mushrooms, Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese, black beans, wild arugula, 3-chile salsa) on the street in Mexico, anywhere. Is it good? Absolutely! Pricey? Somewhat. “Big, bold Mexican marketplace flavors?” Not so much. I’d prefer it much spicier or with stronger flavors at least. You tell me garlic mushrooms? Let me taste that garlic! My buddy had the XOCO Salad (wood-grilled chicken, marinated black beans, arugula, romaine, crispy tortilla threads, avocado-lime dressing), which he enjoyed, but thought it lacked tomatoes. I had the above-mentioned torta and also a Bean-To-Cup Chocolate (fresh-roasted cacao beans ground on premises), the Almendrado: chocolate shot + almond milk – that was really good.
Here’s the test: Would I go back? Yes. While not inexpensive, and definitely not street food in vibe or preparation, the meal was simple, quickly made, and tasted fresh and healthy, which is definitely not fast food.
Have you eaten at this restaurant? Leave a comment and let everyone know how you liked it. Or leave me a comment on whether this was a useful review.
This post originally appeared May 11, 2010, on Midwest Multisport Life.
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