photo credit: Diego Parilla
Like most major cities, Chicago has a lot of super-hyped restaurants. You want a loud, crowded spot with a celebrity chef in the kitchen and great food? We have plenty of those. They’re usually in downtown neighborhoods and run by former Top Chef contestants. Tzuco, an upscale Mexican restaurant in River North, is both. But this spot is a good alternative to the usual suspects in the neighborhood, especially if you’re planning a business dinner or a group outing.
The food is Mexican with some French twists thrown in, and most things are flavorful and well-executed, from their tetela with tinga de pollo, to chorizo and mussels in a saffron beurre blanc. The carne asada is tender, and comes with a delicious chipotle goat cheese fondue. The cochinita pibil is also expertly cooked, and the meat falls off the bone.
But while you’re here you’ll know you’re in a busy, high-volume restaurant. Plates arrive quickly after ordering, there's frequently dish pile-up, and there isn’t a lot of attention given to each table. And it can be hard to justify that kind of experience in this neighborhood at this price point, especially when there are plenty of other fantastic Mexican restaurants in Chicago. That said, if you're looking for a busy spot for a lively group dinner, Tzuco is a good option.
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Tinga De Pollo Tetela
The tetela at Tzuco is triangle-shaped fried masa filled with beans, and also comes with a pile of shredded chicken. It’s surrounded by a ring of chipotle and enough sour cream to make you remember that sour cream is delicious.
All the ingredients listed in this tuna ceviche (including onion, garlic, serrano peppers, cilantro, cucumber, and avocado) made us believe it would be a flavorful dish. But everything is swimming in a tomatillo juice, and that’s all you can taste.
The pork shank falls off the bone and is perfect for making some tacos.
The carne asada is tender, and comes with a very tasty chipotle goat cheese fondue.
The chili-oil spiced tentacle sits next to potato salad made with carrots, peas, and tuna aioli. Everything on the plate is actually tasty, but none of these ingredients taste like they belong together.