Zapatista

This new offering in Northbrook is an offshoot of the original Zapatista in downtown Chicago, with plans to open in Naperville in the near future.

Though not packed during a recent weekday lunch, it’s a large space with additional seating in two private rooms. In other words: It’s friggin’ huge! A pretty bold move in this economy.

We started our meal with the Guacamole ($7.99), made to order in one of the inviting tabletop molcajetes. We asked for medium spicy, but it arrived over-salted. They graciously remade it and we polished it off speedily with the warm chips and delicious homemade salsas.

We loved the Tinga de Pollo Tostaditas ($8.99), Puebla-style shredded chicken with black beans and tomatillo-cascabel salsa. The different tastes and textures meshed wonderfully.

The entrees were largely successful. The Seared Shrimp and Tamal ($15.99) was a hit, with 10 sautéed shrimp in a creamy chipotle salsa accompanied by a tamal of poblano pepper and queso fresco. Tamals are too often heavy and dense; this was fluffy and light. All combos come with Mexican rice and fantastic, lick-your-plate refried black beans.

An entrée-sized Tropical Salad ($8.99) of mixed greens, mango, pineapple, strawberry, jicama and queso fresco with a balsamic-morita chile vinaigrette was refreshing, and for an upcharge of $4, topped with six plump shrimp. A lovely presentation of Grouper Veracruzana ($19.99) rounded out the entrees. The pan-roasted grouper was stacked on top of roasted Yukon Gold potato wedges and sautéed spinach along with the traditional tomato, caper and Mexican oregano sauce.

You’d think that we had had enough—and you’d be right—but in the name of science (and food criticism), we ordered the Orange Flan and the Sopapillas con Piloncillo (all desserts are $6.99.) So glad we did! The flan was bursting with the bright flavor of orange liqueur. The soapapillas–three pillows of fried tortilla–were served with Homer’s cinnamon ice cream and a brown sugar syrup for pouring or dipping. The coffee was strong and hot (insert your own joke here!)

We left Zapatista fat and happy. I look forward to returning for dinner sometime soon, but I’ll make a reservation. I hear it’s packed at night!