Ixcateco Grill

July 19, 2016

Brace yourselves, I'm about to tell you about my new favorite Mexican spot in the city, Ixcateco Grill. If there's one thing I know and love about Chicagoans, it's that we will travel for good food. Case in point: Ixcateco Grill in Albany Park.

The BF and I joined our friends for a date night at Ixcateco Grill during the middle of the week and noticed the dining room filled up very quickly. It's not a huge restaurant, so I'd recommend making a reservation via phone in advance (especially now that the word's getting out about how good it is). It's also not super fancy, but it has character thanks to the neon walls and vibrant artwork. Ixcateco Grill is BYOB so make sure you grab some booze on your way over.

Chef Anselmo Ramirez, formerly of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, features cuisine from Mexico's central and southwestern regions. The menu is limited, but well-executed, so you won't need to worry about order regret.

We started our meal with a selection of shared appetizers including the ensalada de pulpo, or octopus salad with cherry tomatoes, jicama, pea shoots, green beans, and Oaxacan pasilla dressing. The texture of the octopus was superb. It was super tender and soaked up every ounce of the dressing it was bathed in. Seeing grilled octopus on a menu these days is like seeing a poke bowl, everyone's doing it, but Ixcateco's version is a must order.

Ensalada de Pulpo

Our next shared appetizer was the queso borracho, or drunk cheese. They take a hefty portion of melted chihuaha cheese and top it with garlic red potatoes, peppers, and red chilies. In the words of Ina Garten, "how bad can that be?" Put a chunk of that on a warm homemade tortilla, and you're instantly in heaven.

Queso Borracho
One of Ixcateco Grill's signature items are its picaditas, or masa boats filled with chicken carnitas, avocado cream sauce, queso ranchero, and pickled cactus. They are pretty dense and hearty, but feature a nice balance of flavors and textures from the creamy sauce and pickled cactus.

Admittedly, we were pretty stuffed when it came time for our entrees, but the appetizers at Ixacteco Grill are so yummy, you're going to want to order more than one. The entree portion of the menu includes six options, including meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. Our table went mostly the meat route, including the pollo en mole negro, or chicken in black mole. The dish includes half of a boneless roasted chicken atop a dark pool of smoky black mole, as well as garlic mashed potatoes. If you love mole, you will love this dish. It's rich, complex, and so much better than half of the moles I've tasted.

Pollo en Mole Negro
The second dish at our table was the vegetarian chiles rellenos, a classic dish with roasted poblano peppers stuffed with sauteed vegetables and Oaxacan cheese. Again, if you're a fan of this dish normally, you'll likely enjoy Ixcateco's version. I thought this dish was beautifully plated, and I enjoyed the vibrant pops of color.

Chiles Rellenos
Lastly, we enjoyed the cochinita pibil, which is slow roasted achiote marinated pork shoulder served with a side of black beans, and a pickled cactus salad. The tenderness of the pork was amazing; you simply pulled each delicate piece apart with a fork. The natural juices of the pork are well absorbed, and you can taste it in every bite. I couldn't get enough of the homemade tortillas, so I ate the pork on those and dipped them in the natural juices.

Cochinita Pibil
Ixcateco Grill has so many positives going for it. It's affordable (everything is under $20), BYOB, inventive without being too pretentious, flavorful, and a friendly and casual space. It's definitely worth the trek north (it's not a far walk from the brown line), and you're bound to leave feeling like you just found your new favorite hidden gem.

I'm giving Ixcateco Grill 4.5 ghosts out of 5!

Ixcateco Grill
3402 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
Ixcateco Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. I WANNA GO! Go back with me!! Also, love your Ina quote! :)


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