Chicago is known as the city of famed chef Rick Bayless, so naturally I wanted to finally dine at one of his half dozen restaurants since let’s face it, a Rick Bayless meal at O’Hare Airport (that would be Tortas Frontera) or a meal I made myself using Rick Bayless ingredients bought at the supermarket just doesn’t count. So even though both of my dinner meals during my recent trip to Chicago were accounted for, I figured that since Xoco had an awesome sounding breakfast/brunch menu, that would be the perfect time to dine there.
Xoco—pronounced “SHO-ko”—is the Aztec word for “little sister.” Located in the city’s River North neighborhood (an area I love as it’s decidedly more residential and authentic), it serves up Mexican street food in a counter setting. It doesn’t take reservations, you simply go in, place your order, and wait for your food to be brought to you.
I was slightly worried about it being mobbed when we went since it was a Rick Bayless eatery after all and on a weekend day too. However, I suppose the non-stop rain that occurred all that day probably kept the crowds down; we ourselves arrived sopping wet after our 15 minute walk from the Magnificent Mile area. It did look as though seating extended to the back.
Even being a smaller venue, I found the breakfast offerings to be quite extensive, ranging from breakfast tortas to chilaquiles to the world famous huevos rancheros. They also offer ready to go items, meaning you place your order and voila, a moment later you’ll have your smoky bacon mollete or your chorizo egg empanada.
I went with the Wood-Oven Chilaquiles ($7) and opted for the chicken which was $3 extra. Just like the night before at Tanta, this portion was too…huge. It came in a deep individual-size cast iron dish and even though I ate a ton to the point of feeling bloated, looking at it seemed like I’d barely made an indentation. But they were delicious, the perfect item to eat when trying to get warm and dry out. I’m sure the large amount of cheese added to my feeling of fullness.
Daily specials are offered and for his entree D went with Saturday’s, which was Xoco’s Breakfast Enchiladas ($9). And for $3 extra, you could add either chicken or chorizo. He opted for chorizo but ended up with chicken. By the time he discovered it, he had already taken a bite and was hungry so he let it go.
And because I can never turn down a good churro, we got three of them. I tried ordering just one, attempting to not be totally gluttonous, I swear. However, the woman at the counter said I had to do three even though the online menu did list their prices individually. So quien sabe/who knows? They were $2.25 each and included pistachio, hazelnut, and chocolate peanut. These also came with a chocolate sauce for dipping.
As for drinks, D opted for the Oaxacan Coffee Press Pot (12 ounces for $4.75, 16 ounces for $6.50). I went with something I was curious about but after getting it, the Authentic Hot Chocolate ($3) which is fresh ground chocolate and water. Just like hot chocolate in Spain, this was super thick to the point where it tastes like you’re drinking melted chocolate, straight up. However, the annoying thing was I didn’t get my hot chocolate. The drinks waitress brought D’s coffee and the churros, but no hot chocolate. I just assumed it would be coming momentarily. But then our entrees came and still no hot chocolate, so I had to request it again. It was clearly forgotten even though we were charged for it. I did eventually get it though.
I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed, even a little miffed with the inconsistent service in regards to our ordering (not getting the meat that was requested, forgetting about a drink). Thankfully, everything else more than made up for it. Dining at Xoco was just another testament to how wonderful a food city Chicago is. And one I quite frequently wish I lived in, save for the winter months perhaps.
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