CHIReview

Here’s the problem with this place: all the food is fantastic. Which means that whatever you decide to order represents a different, delicious thing you’re choosing not to have. This may make you sad. But the good news is that you’ll be happy with whatever you do get, because everything on the menu is really, really, really good.

5 Rabanitos is a casual, upbeat, affordable Mexican restaurant in Pilsen. The fact that it’s also BYOB makes it that much more appealing. There’s a long menu of tacos, huaraches, moles, tortas, and other Mexican dishes you’re going to want badly. (Not to mention a separate menu for vegetarian options.) The food FOMO will set in about as soon as a server takes your order, so here are a few of our favorite things you really can’t miss. But again, it’s hard—maybe impossible–to go wrong.

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The carne asada taco here is one of the best in Chicago. It’s lightly topped with radish, onion, and cilantro, so the well-seasoned meat can really shine. If you’re a fan of heat, try the ahogada torta, which has an arbol chile broth that will burn your face off and/or cause an out-of-body-experience. From the “main course” section of the menu, get some excellent chicken enchiladas, served with a dark mole that tastes like it has 500 ingredients and has been developing flavor in the kitchen for weeks. The pork tenderloin also shows off the kitchen’s talent for sauces - the meat itself is very tender, but the guajillo chile peanut salsa it’s served with really makes the dish.

This place is usually crowded, in part because people tend to stay long enough to finish all the alcohol they brought. But no matter how busy it is, you’ll be greeted by staff members who actually seem to care about finding you a table. So there’s no need to stare resentfully at everyone else and count the beers they have left - relax and know that you’ll be seated eventually. Once you are, you probably won’t want to get up, either.

5 Rabanitos is likable and versatile. You can come here on a casual date, with a group of friends, or really just with anyone who likes eating things that taste good. The friendly service and excellent food make this an indispensable restaurant to have in your rotation. The biggest problem is that you can’t try everything at once. Clearly, the only solution is to come here over and over until you’ve tried everything—then start from the beginning again.

Food Rundown

Tacos

We’ll be blunt: the tacos here are great. Filling-wise, you can choose from al pastor, pibil, chorizo, carne asada, beef barbacoa, carnitas, vegetables, and tinga. If you want something that isn’t on this list, and they have the ingredients, they’ll go ahead and make it for you. But if you can’t find something on that list you want, you’re just not trying.

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Plantains

These come with candied pecans, a chipotle cream sauce, and queso anejo. They’re on the menu as an appetizer, but we prefer to treat them as a side. Either way, a must-order.

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Queso Fundido

If you want something with a lot of melty cheese, this is it. It comes with chorizo and poblanos (and tortillas on the side), and manages not to be too oily.

Huarache

The huaraches are topped with beans and cheese, and then you have the same protein/vegetable topping options as you do for tacos. Our favorite is the tinga - the chicken is juicy and flavorful, and the fried masa complements it really well.

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Ahogada Torta

5 Rabanitos’ ahogada torta has crispy carnitas, black beans, tomato, and pickled onions. It also sits in a chile broth that will burn the soul from your body. (In a good way, if you like that sort of thing.)

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Chicken Enchiladas

The dark red mole on the chicken enchiladas is outstanding. It tastes like a team of mole engineers has been working on it for years.

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Pork Tenderloin

Tender pork that comes with roasted chayote, green beans, and rice that’s mixed with diced sweet plantains. The whole dish is pulled together by a tasty and complex peanut salsa. It’s a great combination of sweetness, salt, and starch.

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Mexican Cinnamon Bread Pudding

You really need to get a dessert here. Like the Mexican bread pudding. It’s served hot, and comes with strawberry ice cream we thought we’d hate. We don’t.

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