Mexican Restaurants to Spice Up Your Life

There’s nothing more festive than a Mexican restaurant for a fun get together or special occasion.

And whether you’re toasting with a margarita, sangria or limonata, you can’t help but feel happy, knowing that guacamole will most likely be involved.  Enjoy these North Shore and Chicago Mexican restaurants:

Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo/XOCO, 445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434
Welcome to Rick Bayless’ world. Frontera is the one that started it all, Topolo is fine dining and takes reservations, and XOCO is the new kid on the block for amazing sandwiches, soups, churros and hot chocolate.

Salpicon, 1252 N. Wells St., 312-988-7811
Chef Priscilla Satkoff kicks up the flavor a notch, giving modern twists to her native Mexican cuisine.

Lupita’s, 700 Main St., 847-328-2255
The weekly dinner specials are the draw here; recent dishes include Quesadillas with Zucchini Blossoms and Halibut Baked in Banana Leaf. An Evanston classic.

That Little Mexican Café, 1010 Church St., 847-905-1550
One of the best lunchtime buffets around, and I’m addicted to their tableside guacamole and shaken Porfirio margaritas.

Guanajuato, 73 Green Bay Rd., 847-242-0501
Named for Chef Margarita Challenger’s hometown, the restaurant delights with specials like El Molcajete, a mix of steak, grilled cactus, black beans and salsa. Don’t miss the creamy, homemade ice cream in exotic flavors like corn and avocado.

Lalo’s, 1432 Waukegan Rd., 847-832-1388
This homegrown, family-owned local chain has its roots in the heart of Pilsen.

Las Palmas, 1829 Waukegan Rd., 847-998-8700
With locations in Evanston, Highland Park and Mundelein, Las Palmas blankets the North Shore.  Fajitas are a specialty, but save room for the Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Highland Park
La Casa de Isaac, 431 Temple Ave., 847-433-5550
Owned and operated by a Jewish-Mexican family, they’re closed Friday afternoon and Saturday until 1 hour after sundown for the Sabbath. Love the cultural mash-ups like King David’s Quesadillas with lox, cream cheese and onions, along with more familiar regional dishes.

Tacos el Norte, 118 Washington Ave., 847-432-1730
Huge, reasonably priced menu with all the usual suspects, plus authentic favorites like Beef Tongue a la Mexicana and Torta Milanesa; this place lacks pretense.

Zapatista, 992 Willow Rd., 847-559-0939
Made-to-order guac and  Campechana Seviche are a great start to your regional Mexican meal. Beautiful room and great for large parties.

Park Ridge
Hay Caramba, 122 S. Prospect Ave., 847-518-0747
Despite the snow outside, the gorgeous sunlit atrium will make you think you’re in Cabo. A popular stop on the way back from O’Hare.

Libertad, 7931 Lincoln Ave., 847-674-8100
Nuevo Latino-inspired, with a fascinating collection of small plates to tempt your palate.

Wholly Frijoles Mexican Grill, 3908 W. Touhy Ave., 847-329-9810
This long-time favorite belies its strip-mall location. Always a wait, but worth it.

Yolo Mexican Eatery, 5111 Brown St., 847-674-0987
Small and intimate, family-run Yolo serves dishes you won’t see anywhere else, like Mignon Meztli, a filet in mushroom cream sauce with arbol peppers.

Depot Nuevo, 1139 Wilmette Ave., 847-251-3111
The Elderflower and Super Fruit Margaritas are reason enough to stop by. Bonus: The food’s super tasty, too.