Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Yes, I went to a Rick Bayless restaurant. Despite the way I feel about Red O, I dediced not to hold that against the latest addition to the Bayless empire in Chicago, Xoco, a torta shop. There was no "door host" blocking the entrance at Xoco, but rather a friendly hostess inquiring whether we wanted to eat in or take out and how many were in our party. At Xoco, customers order and pay at the cash register and then the food is brought to their tables. Seats are assigned by the hostess, so there are no scrambles for tables.
We lucked out and got two counter seats without having to wait. The Saturday special torta of the day is goat barbacoa ($12) , which is what I ordered after seriously pondering the chicken soup which sounded wonderful on such a cold day. The goat torta is made with goat barbacoa, Oaxacan pasilla-tomato salsa, avocado, onions and cilantro on a toasted roll.
The sandwich arrived reasonably quickly and the meat was tender and flavorful. The crunchiness of the exterior of the roll and the softness of the bread inside and the fillings made for a satisfying textural bite. The torta was filling and more than enough food for lunch, but churros had been ordered.
At Xoco the churros are made to order. We were told to alert a server seven to ten minutes before we were ready for them and they would bring them out to us. Coated in cinnamon and sugar these churros are in a whole different league than the versions found at carnivals and street fairs. The real deal, the churros were light and airy and had enough flavor to be great on their own or to complement a chocolate dipping sauce.
Xoco is already very popular. Arriving soon after eleven, when they begin serving lunch, we got the last two seats. The hostess quoted a forty minute wait to the people behind us in line. It is a worthy stop on a Chicago itinerary and reasonably priced. Lunch was about $20 per person. It is located on the same block as Chef Rick Bayless's other restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. A thank you to Chef Walter Manzke, who suggested that I visit.
Xoco: 449 N Clark St @ Illinois St, Chicago. Phone: (312) 334-3688. Website: http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco.html