Mezcalina brings Mexican roots to Chicago

December 8, 2012 8:29:06 PM PST
There are plates of rice and beans with chiles.. and large Mexican folk art pieces on the walls. It could be a new cafe in Pilsen, but it's actually one of the most hidden away pockets of Mexican culture in the city. Technically, it's Lakeshore East, a man-made community off Randolph, just East of Michigan Avenue. Here, the Mexican Black Coffee chain has opened its first restaurant - Mezcalina - hoping to spread its culture beyond Pilsen.

"They thought about making something else about a coffeeshop, and put a restaurant, with very peculiar decoration and different type of Mexican food," said Manuel Ba?uelos, the cook at Mezcalina.

They're focusing on the cuisine of Oaxaca, so that means mole; in this case, a deep, dark mole served in an inky pool, next to a double-cut pork chop that's grilled, along with zucchini.

Ceviche is also an important dish in Oaxaca, but unlike other regions, the difference comes in how it is sliced and presented. Typically, it's simply fish that's been cooked in citrus juices, such as lime. At Mezcalina, a host of seafood such as whitefish and shrimp, are tossed with serrano peppers and chile manzano, offering up a starter that's both tart and fresh.

"Basically it's marinated in lime juice and red onions, pepper, cumin, little bit of herbs," said Ba?uelos.

A hard-to-source Oaxacan chocolate is used in the lava cake..

And from the "bizarre ingredient" department: chapulins, that is, fried grasshoppers.. A typical snack in that part of Mexico, featured here on a giant tlayoda, or cheese-and-bean-covered tortilla with avocados, resembling an enormous Mexican pizza. Apparently, the sight of grasshoppers in Oaxacan markets is nothing new.

"The first center you see is a huge lady with a basket of grasshoppers," he said.

Now those 18 Black Coffee locations in Mexico are all simply coffee shops. This is the first one of the group to have a full restaurant connected. However, they've maintained their roots of course, keeping a coffeeshop intact in front of the restaurant with some sweets, some teas, coffees and of course the fancy coffee drinks.

The restaurant also serves an impressive number of mezcals and tequilas.

Mezcalina
333 E. Benton Pl., Ste 100
(312) 240-5000
http://www.mezcalina.com/


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