Chicago offers a range of authentic Mexican food

May 5, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Except in Mexico. ABC7's food reporter says while the day is notable, it's not the all-day and all-night party it has become in the U.S. and as he reports, Chicago's "authentic" Mexican dining scene extends well beyond River North.

The tortillas are a dead giveaway. Just the fact that the kitchen is using pure corn masa dough to make each one, is a sign that they put more emphasis on the food than on the cerveza at Salpicon - which has been making regional Mexican food in Old Town the past 17 years. On Cinco de Mayo, they don't change their strategy one bit.

"We don't really do anything special, but we are extremely busy because everybody wants to celebrate, and have like cervezas and have like Victorias, tequila and get drunk. But actually what we do at Salpicon, is a real authentic Mexican food, like we do every day," said Priscilla Satkoff, the chef and owner of Salpicon.

Like a mole negro, as deep and dark as warm leather, blanketing grilled chicken and flecked with sesame seeds. Even enchiladas - a dish that's been bastardized by Tex-Mex kitchens - gets careful attention: those warm tortillas envelop baked walleye that's been marinated in achiote and annatto seeds.. baked in banana leaves. They're topped with a little bit of roasted tomatillo cream sauce, mixed with cilantro, then rolled up and topped with a bit more of the sauce, along with queso fresco and red onions.

"People can understand more that Mexican has a range of different ingredients and different regions," she said.

Of course, there are margaritas aplenty here - you can choose from dozens of premium tequilas - and desserts are simple, yet elegant, like creamy rich flan hidden beneath a sugar dome.

"People know more what real Mexican food is. So, which is extremely good an I'm very, very happy because finally people can understand that Mexican food has another level," said Satkoff.

So, this may come as a surprise to some people but Cinco de Mayo is not a major Mexican holiday; Independence day in September is. Although, any excuse to eat authentic regional Mexican food is just fine with me.

1252 N. Wells St.
(312) 988-7811

Other authentic Mexican restaurants:

Frontera Grill
445 N. Clark St.
(312) 661-1434

2459 W. Armitage
(773) 697-4597

Mixteco Grill
1601 W. Montrose
(773) 868-1601

Fonda del Mar
3749 W. Fullerton
(773) 489-3748

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