The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Chicago Eats – Xoco

I FINALLY got around to trying Rick Bayless’ Mexican streetfood place – Xoco. It’s been open for a few years but the few times that I was in the area and ready to try it out, the line was wayyy too long.  This time around I had no other plans so waiting wasn’t an issue. There were about 20-25 people ahead of me…

xoco line


…but it only took them 10-15 minutes to get to my order. Had I known that it flew that fast, I probably wouldn’t have bailed out those other times.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rick Bayless, he’s like the king of Mexican food.  Notice that I didn’t qualify that with “here in the US”?  That’s because he may just be the king of Mexican food in all parts of the world INCLUDING Mexico.  I’ve been to his other restaurants which are in the same building as Xoco – the fine dining Topolobampo and the somewhat casual Frontera Grill.  Both are not to be missed.  He’s also been on TV quite a bit as host of his own PBS show and as winner of Top Chef Masters.  I used to see him at the gym when I lived in Chicago and can personally attest to his being one of the friendliest guys I’ve ever met with a towel around his waist.

I was planning on having one of their tortas (Mexican sandwiches).  When I went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago, I had The Pepito at O’Hare Airport and it was (and still is) one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Here it is again –


beer-braised beef short ribs, pickled jalapenos, Chihuahua cheese, black beans, cilantro crema, and arugula.


But it was mid-March in Chicago and darn cold outside, so I opted for a bowl of their shortrib red chile soup –

Braised Tallgrass shortribs, red chile broth, roasted vegetables, epazote, wild arugula, lime.

Braised Tallgrass shortribs, red chile broth, roasted vegetables, epazote, wild arugula, lime.


No regrets. It’s deep, earthy, smoky flavors was exactly what I needed for that windy day.

Because of that change in plan, though, I wasn’t sure it would fill me up. Plus, I was concerned about not being able to get back to Xoco any time soon. And I was really kinda hungry. What I’m trying to say is, I somehow felt the need to order the Chicharrones –

Pure heaven - pork rinds with Tamazula hot sauce, queso añejo, onions, cilantro, lime.

Pure heaven – pork rinds with Tamazula hot sauce, queso añejo, onions, cilantro, lime.


OK, fine. I’ll admit. I let my genetic predisposition to all things pork get the best of me.

But I also let my semi-All-American upbringing get the best of me as well by ordering the fried dough elegance that is the hazelnut churro.

xoco churro


To my credit, I didn’t order the shot of chocolate to dip it in.

But I did buy a bag of the Bacon Caramel Corn for the kids.

xoco bacon caramel popcorn


And yes, it did make it home to them.


Xoco on Urbanspoon





About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

16 comments on “Chicago Eats – Xoco

  1. El Guapo
    May 7, 2014

    Wait – the best sandwich you ever had was in an airport???

    • unbelievably, yes. And I live in Ann Arbor, home of Zingermann’s deli which is supposed to have some of the best around (they’re overrated).

      Chicago came up with a brilliant idea of featuring some local restaurants in the airports – not just the usual shopping mall fare. So Bayless has a sandwich shop in the American Airlines terminal. It’s more casual, but not dumbed down – fresh, local ingredients, etc. Even had a shot of Tres Generaciones tequila after the sandwich

  2. alifemoment
    May 7, 2014

    Chicharrones seems nice, never had it before, is it a south America dish?

    • Chicharrones is just the Spanish word for fried pork rinds – same kind you find in the potato chip aisle of the supermarket. I’m pretty sure they’re worldwide. Adding all the other stuff was their recipe, though.

      • alifemoment
        May 7, 2014

        Thank you very much for your information, very kind, I love cooking and discovering new flavours 🙂

  3. Antisocial Patty
    May 7, 2014

    Rick Bayless’ molé is on my list of things to eat before I die. That food looks amazing. Wow.

  4. Liza M.
    May 7, 2014

    I’ve been to Frontera and love it! However, I recommend going hours before you’re hungry,especially on a weekend. We had to endure a 3 hour wait. They told us to come back in two hours just to get our pager. It was worth it though. Next time I’ll try Xoco.

  5. a2sicilian
    May 7, 2014

    Yum yum yum yum yum. I too have passed on the long line at Xoco, and the only-10-p.m. reservation available at Frontera. This post made be decide that on my next Chicago trip, nothing is stopping me.

  6. a2sicilian
    May 7, 2014

    I have to say, not even being a huge sweets fat, the warm cinammon churras with chocolate sauce at Frita Batidos in A2 are pretty damn good. (Once change–I’d make the sauce more bittersweet–doesn’t have quite enough chocolatey bite.)

  7. Laura
    May 7, 2014

    I went to Xoco more times than I’d like to admit when I worked in Chicago a few summers ago. So, so good!

  8. jbdieter
    July 6, 2014

    Just experienced Xoco (see my blog Musing about Eating and Boozing) loved it!

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2014 by in Dining, The Chi, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .
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