New Rebozo Chicago
46 E. Superior St. 312-202-9141
Rating: 3 (out of four) Off to a good start
No matter how hyped a suburban restaurant becomes, I rarely end up making the trip from the city to try it out. That's been the case with New Rebozo. I had heard about the restaurant's signature moles from friends and family members over the years and watched it get rave reviews on "Check, Please!" a few seasons back. But up until two weeks ago, I would have had to travel to Oak Park to experience it. Luckily, the Lopez family, who's run the restaurant for 21 years, finally listened to the customers urging them to open a city location.
The New Rebozo crew completely remodeled the ground-level space just off Michigan Avenue, which was previously another Mexican restaurant, Cantina 46. It's modern and understated, with a red accent wall, art from Mexico and a small patio perfect for River North people watching. But I wasn't there for the ambience. I went to finally try those moles.
Chips 'n' dip: The second my friend and I sat down, our smiling waiter delivered a bowl of warm tortilla chips and homemade salsa, which had a nice kick. Given the choice of two guacamoles--the regular ($10) or the daily special ($12), which came topped with diced strawberries, mango, grapes and jicama--we opted for the latter. While fruit can sometimes make a dish too dessert-like, the refreshing mix didn't overpower the avocado; it was large enough for four to share, although the two of us polished it off.
Margaritas: After downing one too many sickeningly sweet margaritas in my lifetime, I'm often skeptical of the drink, but Rebozo's was easy to drink, not overly sugary and mildly tart. It had a hefty pour of tequila for the price, $9. Other 'rita options include a version with mezcal ($11), fruity varieties ($10) and the two-serving Shaker Margarita ($17), which comes in lime, tamarind or pomegranate flavors.
Beyond 'ritas: After downing a fine but forgettable mojito for round one, my friend opted for the michelada ($7). Made with sangrita (a blend of juices and spices that give the drink its red color) and the Mexican beer of his choice (in this case, Pacifico), it came finished with a salt rim. Our waiter proudly told us he made the sangrita, which included grapefruit and orange juices and arbol chilis. It was a zesty drink that's hard to explain—like a really interesting bloody mary, but with more beer.
Tacos: The Chicago menu is smaller than what's on offer in Oak Park, but it still has two tacos options. We split a plate of the tacos chetumal ($20), tender slices of well-seasoned steak, smoky bits of bacon and sauteed peppers topped with melted chihuahua cheese in corn tortillas. We poured on the pancho villa, a chipotle-based, medium-spicy sauce that came on the side. While this definitely wasn't typical taqueria fare, the price still seemed steep for three tacos with no sides. Chalk it up to the prime real estate?
Beyond tacos: Right in the middle of the menu under the "Para Saborear" section was six mole dishes. Sure, there were some other dishes on the menu (enchiladas, stuffed poblanos), but these are the stars of the show. Chef Paco Lopez makes 18 moles on a rotating basis, six per night. Two dishes let you sample all on one plate: Molisa ($17), sauteed chicken with a tasting of the moles, or Fiesta Mole ($20), six cheese or chicken enchiladas, each topped with a different mole. We went for the Fiesta with the finely shredded chicken, and got to try pumpkin, hazelnut, chocolate, almond, sunflower and cinnamon moles. I thought we knew what mole was before New Rebozo, but I was wrong. Each tasted so distinct, with layers of spices and rich chili flavor. We scraped them off the plate to pile more sauce onto every bite. Would the moles been worth a car ride to Oak Park after all? Yes, but luckily I can take the Red Line instead.
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