Tacos, Burritos & Doughnuts The Size of Your Head

October 22, 2012

Restaurant facade
On quite possibly one of the last warm days of the fall season, the BF and I went on an ethnic adventure to the Pilsen neighborhood. In search of some authentic Mexican fare, we consulted the BF's sister for a restaurant recommendation. Her recommendation was to try a sit-down place called Nuevo Leon.

Upon arriving on a Sunday afternoon, we were greeted with a line that was out the door. I knew this had to be good--why else would people be standing in line? Nuevo Leon is a no-frills, cash-only, BYOB restaurant serving up authentic Mexican favorites. As we inched our way forward in the line, I hovered over the locals (Mexican and non-Mexican alike) to see what they were eating.

Waiting in line inside
After waiting about 15 minutes in line we were seated in the adjoining dining room and greeted with plates of a warm tortilla with beans and pork. The homemade tortilla was earthy, wholesome and fresh, but I wasn't too sure about the accompanying pork and bean gravy.

Corn tortilla with beans and pork
What's a Mexican restaurant without chips and salsa? Good thing, Nuevo Leon not only offered three homemade salsas but also, pickled carrots and jalapenos and piping hot tortilla chips. I loved the variety of salsas, from hot to mild to smoky, and the chips were deliciously greasy and crispy, especially with the six-pack of Pacifico we brought with us!

Pickled vegetables, chips & salsa
We were in the mood for guacamole so we ordered a small and dipped right in. The avocado dip was creamy and fresh, but it lacked heat and crunch from onions and tomatoes. However, being the food explorer I am, I quickly discovered how delicious that guacamole could be, when paired with a bit of the smoky salsa.

The BF had a healthy appetite so he ordered a chicken burrito that came with lettuce, tomato, chihuahua cheese and guacamole. While the portion was certainly hearty, the burrito needed to be hotter and the chicken more tender. The BF said it actually tasted better the next morning when he reheated the other half.

Chicken burrito with lettuce, tomato, chihuaha cheese & guacamole
I was in the mood for some tacos, so I went with two chicken and one barbacoa, for some variety, of course! The tortillas were served without rice or beans, which was odd, but the portion was gigantic. The tacos were served deconstructed with lettuce, onion, tomato and cilantro on the side. I loved the juiciness of the chicken and barbacoa, and you could tell the barbacoa had been stewing for hours. I also appreciated the side of limes for squeezing on top of the tacos (and in our beer!).

Chicken and barbacoa tacos with lettuce, onion, cilantro and tomato
After our meal, we ventured down the street to the Nuevo Leon Bakery. The small storefront featured cases of beautiful Mexican pastries. I had been looking forward to the bakery portion of our outing because of my love for baked goods and as soon as I stepped inside, the sweet smells of fried dough filled my nose.

As is typical with most Mexican bakeries, you take a metal tray and a pair of tongs and go "shopping" through the cases of baked goods, selecting your delicious treats. You could pretty much go crazy in here and still only owe about $5, everything is that cheap. I loaded my tray with a pumpkin empanada, giant doughnuts, cupcakes and cookies and quickly began eating them out of the bag. Baked goods are my weakness!

Pastries at Nuevo Leon Bakery
Overall, it was fun to venture out to a new neighborhood to try some authentic Mexican fare, but I wasn't quite sold on why so many people were waiting in line. While I did enjoy the flavorful tacos and BYOB policy, I can't say it was the best Mexican food I've had.

Nuevo Leon gets 3.5 stars for its dirt cheap prices (two of us were stuffed for under $20), flavorful meats and mouthwatering pastries, but I think I'd probably be more likely to try a different Mexican spot the next time I'm in Pilsen.

Nuevo Leon
1515 W. 18 St.
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 421-1517

Nuevo Leon Bakery
1634 W.18th Street
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 243-5977

Nuevo Leon on Urbanspoon

1 comment

  1. It's safe to say that I haven't tried tacos that big before. I can already imagine how much I'd enjoy the mound of meat and salsa inside it.


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