Saturday, March 9

Tortas, Tacos & Tequilas!

The newest addition to Chicago's Rockit Ranch restaurant group recently opened in River North. Taking over the former Martini Ranch space is ¡Ay Chiwowa!, a tequila bar/taqueria/dance party hot spot. The concept for ¡Ay Chiwowa! has an interesting story behind it. When the Martini Ranch space was up for grabs, the folks at Rockit Ranch swooped in and asked the public to vote on the concept for the space. The winning concept was a dive bar theme with Mexican food and drink offerings.

Rockit Ranch President, Arturo Gomez, whose family is from Mexico, played a large role in developing the concept. Arturo kindly walked us through the menu when we stopped by on a Friday night. The space is narrow but divided into three separate rooms. The after-work crowd filled up the dive bar and created a lively and energetic atmosphere.

¡Ay Chiwowa! offers more than 80 different types of tequilas, as well as kegged cocktails and margaritas. We sampled two of the kegged cocktails, Chupacabra (cazadores reposado, passion fruit tea, grand marnier, pineapple, lemon grass syrup, lavender spice) which was my absolute favorite, and Copa de Nada (disaronno, bacardi coco, bacardi oakheart, cazadores aƱejo, bacardi 8-year, pineapple juice, fruit salsa topper). We also tried the famous beerita, a margarita with a Coronita on top, as well as the Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita, White Chocolate Pina Colada, and of course, some tequila. It was hard work, but someone had to do it. Tequila is offered straight up or on the rocks and you can add a sangrita shot on the side. The sangrita is a housemade concoction of tomato juice, shrimp stock, habanero and spices that is traditionally sipped with tequila. Unfortunately, I forgot my fancy camera the night we went, so my mediocre iPhone photos will have to suffice.

Chupacabra & Copa de Nada
Tequila & Sangrita
Tackling Billy's Beerita

I'll take the $4,000 bottle of tequila, please!

We started out snacking on some mango guacamole which was tasty but could have used a bit more spice. Luckily ¡Ay Chiwowa! offers three homemade sauces, so I was able to add some spice to the guacamole. We also tried the queso fundido topped with crumbled chorizo and served with warm homemade corn tortillas. I loved the gooey chihuahua cheese and made a little quesadilla with the corn tortillas.
Mango Guacamole
Queso Fundido with Chorizo
Continuing on our food tour, we landed on an order of al pastor tacos with marinated pork, pineapple and pickled onions. The tacos were tiny but tasty.

After hearing great things about the bread on the tortas, we tried the chicken version. This savory sandwich was by far the best food item of the night because of the juicy chicken coated in adobo seasoning. The bread was perfectly crispy on the outside and doughy in the middle. I thought it was interesting they topped the sandwich with refried beans, but I totally dug it. Definitely a must-try.

Chicken Torta
The Gomez Shrimp was also recommended to us since it was Arturo Gomez's family recipe. Three jumbo shrimp were coated in mustard, fried onion and a family marinade. These weren't my favorite item we had, but they still had an interesting combination of flavors.

Gomez Shrimp
We ended the night on a sweet note with a pair of warm, fresh churros paired with a hot cajeta dipping sauce. The churros were perfectly fried and were amazing when dipped in the cajeta sauce which tasted similar to a gooey caramel.

Overall, ¡Ay Chiwowa! was a great place to kick back with a few cocktails while noshing on tasty tortas and tacos. The prices are a bit steep for the size of the menu items, but hey, it's River North. I definitely recommend heading over for one of their kegged cocktails or grabbing a late night bite after hitting their dance floor that's open until 4 am! ¡Ay Chiwowa! gets 3.5 stars for their funky dive bar atmosphere, killer cocktails and knowledgeable servers.


¡Ay Chiwowa!
www.aychiwowa.com
311 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL
312.643.3200
Ay Chiwowa on Urbanspoon

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