When you hear buzz about a new Mexican restaurant opening in Albany Park, you may not take note. When you hear that the same restaurant has Chef/Owner Anselmo Ramirez, you add it to the list of spots to check out as soon as it opens.
If Chef Anselmo’s name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, you will definitely know the places he worked at for years – Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. Yes, he has an excellent background as an alum of these beloved and top-notch Mexican restaurants. Chef Anselmo now brings those skills, along with his knowledge of Southern Mexican cooking, to his own restaurant, IXCATECO GRILL.
We made our way over to Ixcateco on Wednesday evening and easily found street parking in the busy neighborhood. The space itself is minimal, colorful and authentic. You should note that it’s BYOB – woot! We actually didn’t bring anything along with us this time, as we had a few pre-dinner cocktails, but next time, I’m busting out my wine bag with a bottle of bubbles!
I eat Mexican food very often, ranging from plates on the fancy side from Mercadito, to a $5.99 taco dinner at Los Comales on 18th Street. I’m going to venture to say that Ixcateco is kind of a combo of the two extremes. It’s as casual and comfortable as a Pilsen restaurant is, but with service and food as great as Mercadito or other higher-end Mexican spots.
The menu features a mole that’s been simmered for two days, delicious “picaditas” and classic entrees. The ingredients that are as locally-sourced and sustainable as possible, so you know the end result is as good for you as it is delicious.
To snack on while we decided on our entrees, we got chips & guacamole and the “picaditas”. The GUACAMOLE was good, fresh, lots of lime like I like it, and for once I didn’t need to add salt!
PICADITAS are “masa canoes” as the menu describes it, topped with chicken carnitas, avocado cream sauce, pickled cactus and queso ranchero. Um, yum. I haven’t had nopales (cactus) in forever, so I was particularly excited to see it as a topping. Overall, it’s a tasty appetizer.
For our entree, we both decided to get the CARNE ASADA. The dish is served with black beans, guacamole, a roasted tomato salsa, and homemade tortillas. The steak itself was cooked perfectly. Add a bit of everything on the plate into a warm homemade tortilla, and it’s a winner!
Basically everything coming out of the kitchen at Ixcateco Grill is perfectly seasoned and just delicious. If you’re in the area, pick up a bottle of wine and make your way over to this place. You will not be disappointed by the food.
P.S. Say hi to the host, Larry! He worked as the maître’d at Topolobampo for 25 years!
3402 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618