Yolo Mexican Eatery

I’m usually pretty quick on the uptake, but it was only after the third MIB reader told me about a great Mexican restaurant in Skokie that I realized it was time for a visit.

After a wonderful dinner there, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t go sooner.

Yolo is a small place – it seats no more than 35 – but cozy and warm. White tablecloths hint that the food here is a step up from sizzling fajitas and nachos (which are more Tex-Mex than truly Mexican, by the way).

There are some unusual dishes here, and a few favorites done especially well. The welcoming fresh, warm tortilla chips and pureed tomato salsa (just the right amount of spicy) brought out to the table as you peruse the menu are a good start.

We loved the Tacos Quiximos ($8.95), soft corn tortillas stuffed with sautéed wild mushrooms, poblano peppers, epazote (a fresh Mexican herb), cheese and sour cream, topped with shredded radish. Oozy and delicious.

More masa: the Tlacoyitos Veracruz ($8.95), three corn cakes filled with fava bean puree, one topped with chorizo, one with sautéed mushrooms and the last with steak, garnished with lettuce, cheese and red sauce. The masa cakes were firm, but with a tender crumb, and the earthy fava beans were the perfect foil to the textures on top.

The Ceviche de Camaron (Shrimp Cocktail, $12.95) might be the best I’ve ever had; the shrimp are marinated in citrus (orange, lemon and lime) and tossed with mango, pineapple, cucumber, carrots and avocado. Delightful.

You can’t judge a true Mexican restaurant until you’ve sampled the moles, and an authentic place will have several.  Given the choice of Mole Negro Oaxaca, Tamarindo and Verde (all $14.95), we went with the Mole Verde over a bone-in chicken breast, meltingly moist and falling off the bone. The green mole is a sauce built on leafy greens and herbs, tomatillos, onions, garlic, chiles and pumpkin seeds, and it’s amazing here.

While the creamy sesame sauce on the Salmon en Crema de Ajonjoli ($17.95) was terrific – an interesting combination of tomato, cream, and sesame seeds among other ingredients – the salmon itself had a strong flavor that I was not fond of. Maybe just an off night for the fish.

A basic dish taken up to the next level was the Filete Tajin ($14.95, pictured at top), a perfectly grilled steak, sliced and topped with a cooked sauce of tomato, onion, cilantro and Serrano chile, served with guacamole, rice and beans. Shovel all of that onto the fresh tortillas that come alongside, and your stomach will be mighty pleased.

Save room for the Flan Yolo ($4.50), a lovely take on the classic homemade baked custard. The Crepas de Manzana ($4.95), fresh crepes filled with caramelized apples in a brandy sauce, are topped with vanilla ice cream and chopped walnuts. It’s a little on the sweet side but addictively tasty.

Yolo Mexican Eatery is a BYOB restaurant, and if you forget your bottle at home, there is a liquor store helpfully available around the corner. If you’re not an imbiber, they have a different housemade Agua de Fruta Fresca ($2.50) available daily; on our visit, it was a refreshing Jamaica (hibiscus). Service is friendly and efficient.

This is a perfect example of a neighborhood gem, a little off the beaten path but well worth seeking out.

Yolo Mexican Eatery