While Frontera is Rick Bayless’ iconic flagship restaurant that’s been holding it down in River North since 1987, Xoco is the younger, casual, sister restaurant right next door. You’ll find street food favorites like tortas, caldos, hot chocolate, and desserts that are tough to turn down, particularly the churros. And now that Xoco has been around for a few years, it’s no longer incredibly busy, so you can come in for a quick bite solo or with a couple of others when you want. That’s not to say it won’t be crowded on a weekday at noon, but it’s always manageable.
And a manageable scene at Xoco is what you want because it’s meant to be easy, and rather quick. Order at the counter, and if you’re eating there, make sure to remember your assigned number that will correspond to a seat in the back. There aren’t a ton of good, casual restaurants in River North that don’t involve a kale salad, and that’s where Xoco saves the day.
Probably the most popular item at Xoco, and for good reason. A carnitas sandwich with black beans and pickled onions that comes submerged in a tomato-arbol chile broth.
Braised short ribs with caramelized onion, Jack cheese, black beans, and pickled jalapeños. The jalapeños give it a nice touch.
Wood-roasted suckling pig, achiote, black beans, pickled onion, and habanero. Another one of our go-to orders.
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, Xoco does an excellent take on a Cuban. Pork loin, bacon, black beans, avocado, spicy morita, jack cheese, and chipotle mustard are all grilled together to make a great sandwich.
This carne asada special is good stuff. The steak coupled with woodland mushrooms, homemade crema, and Xoco’s great salsa verde go together nicely.
Whatever your childhood version of chicken soup is, that’s this. Chicken pozole with big pieces of sweet pozole corn, chicken, chile, and lime. It’s big and comforting.
If you want a stew with a little more flavor and kick, this is a great option. Blue shrimp, mussels, catfish, potatoes, and other veggies come in this spicy red chile broth.
Order them all. Or at least order one, and maybe the one drizzled in chocolate.
All of the desserts are great, and the flan cake is no exception.