Sunday, March 12

Mesa Urbana

While I spend most of my hours dining out in Chicago, I spent most of my time growing up in north suburban Northbrook. When I heard about a restaurant in my hometown that was on Chicago Magazine's Hot List, I knew I had to check it out.

Mesa Urbana defines itself as a Mexican fusion restaurant. It's located in a no-frills strip mall in an unassuming store front. Don't let its surroundings deter you - the restaurant is lively, warm and of course delicious.

On the Saturday night I stopped by, nearly every table was taken. By the time I left, every table and seat at the bar was taken, and patrons were waiting for tables. This is a place where people from the neighborhood come to congregate, and not just older couples. During my visit I saw older couples, families with young children, and groups of friends. There's definitely not a one-size-fits-all clientele here.

Owner Moe Taleb and our server went over the menu with us suggesting we share a few small plates and order our own entrees. The menu is divided up into salads, appetizers, tacos, seafood/meat/vegetarian entrees,  and sides. They also offer a selection of beer, wine, and house cocktails made with fresh juices. We opted for margaritas including a strawberry pineapple variety, and the house Urbana margarita with a hint of cucumber, orange and lemon. The Urbana margarita was fantastic - it was pleasantly strong, refreshing, and well balanced.

Northbrook Restaurant
Strawberry Pineapple Margarita & Urbana Margarita
As a fusion restaurant, Mesa Urbana's menu takes notes from all over, including Asia, France, and Italy. We started with one appetizer that emphasized some of these influences: the ceviche trio.  The trio included three preparations, Mexican (octopus), American (shrimp), and Asian (grouper). I preferred the Asian variety marinated in soy sauce, and while the others were tasty, they are very different from what you might expect when ordering ceviche. If you're looking for a super acidic version, these won't satisfy that desire.

Northbrook Restaurant
Ceviche Trio
At the recommendation of our server, we also tried the queso fundido with pan seared rock shrimp, muenster cheese, tomato, poblano peppers, pico de gallo, and avocado. I loved the salsa and the heat from the poblanos; obviously it was tasty - it's gooey melted cheese after all.

Northbrook Restaurant
Queso Fundido
Looking around the crowded dining room, there was one dish that kept appearing on tables, the salmon al carbon. It sounded delicious on paper so I thought I'd see if it lived up to the hype. The salmon is served medium rare with caramelized mango, green papaya,  and avocado creme fraiche. This was one of the best salmon dishes I've had and the subtle sweetness of the mango and papaya was a pleasant contrast. I dipped each bite of salmon in the avocado creme fraiche which had a nice touch of lime.

Northbrook Restaurant
Salmon Al Carbon
We also tried the special of the evening, a 6 ounce filet served with shrimp, orange hollandaise, and grilled asparagus. The steak was cooked to order (medium rare), and the sauce was truly unique. It wasn't super heavy like hollandaise can be - it was a bit lighter and brighter with the citrus flavor. On the side, we also tried the camote, or Mexican sweet potato (not pictured). The purple potato was the most delicious sweet potato I've probably ever tried. It didn't hurt that it was topped with cinnamon, thyme, and butter! While delicious, $7 for a sweet potato is a bit steep. We also tried a side of cauliflower with lemon, garlic, and shaved romano cheese.

Northbrook Restaurant
Filet and Shrimp
While we had absolutely zero room for dessert, we somehow powered through to enjoy one of three offered desserts, a pumpkin bread pudding with ice cream and mixed berry coulis. There was also a slice of roasted acorn squash that was an unexpected, yet perfect component of the dessert. Needless to say, we polished off every bite.

Northbrook Restaurant
Capirotada de Calabaza
Overall, we enjoyed our time at Mesa Urbana. It's a welcome addition to the community and I love its unique menu. I will say the menu is a bit pricey, especially for the area. Entrees will run you anywhere from $20-28 and those appetizers ($12-$18) and cocktails ($11-$12) can add up quickly. However, the food is prepared with high quality ingredients, we were pleased with most dishes we tried, and those margaritas packed a punch!

Note: my meal at Mesa Urbana was complimentary; however, all opinions expressed are my own.

Mesa Urbana
3566 Milwaukee Ave.
Northbrook, IL 60062
847.383.0700
Mesa Urbana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, December 31

My Top 16 of 2016!

Top Chicago Food Blogs

It's hard to believe 2016 is coming to a close! I feel like it was yesterday that I was making my list of my favorite dishes of 2015! This year was another year filled with incredible food and drink, in Chicago and beyond, and that's why it's always so hard to pick my favorites. I'm so fortunate to live in one of the best food cities on the planet, and thankful for all of the incredible food-related opportunities I've experienced each of the last (nearly) 7 years since I started The Ghost Guest!

In no particular order, here are the best things I ate this year:

1) Cacio Whey Pepe at Monteverde


2) Pizza with Prosciutto, Apple, and Goat Cheese Curds at Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)


3) Octopus, Cucumber & Peanut Salad at Duck Duck Goat


4) Burger Six at 25 Degrees



5) Dark Chocolate Covered Caramel Cheesecake at Found


6) Sausage Strata at Sociale


7) Bruschetta di Burrata at Coda di Volpe


8) Pineapple Aguachiles at Leña Brava


9) Bigeye Tuna with Cashew, Coconut & Caviar at Grace

Photo Credit: Grace
10) Sweet and Sour Eggplant with Cashews and Pancetta at Giant


11) Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich at The Budlong



12) Ribs at Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City, KS)


13) Laminated Brioche with Serrano Ham, Manchego, Caviar, and Gold Flake at Steadfast


14) Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel Sandwich at Russ & Daughters (New York, New York)


15) Whole Chicken & Chamomile at Roister


16) Fried Cheese Curds at Nosh & Booze


Cheers to another year filled with incredible food and drink! Happy New Year!
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