Only a few months after opening, Ixcateco Grill – located at 3402 W. Montrose in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood – has become one of the hottest spots to experience world-class, authentic southern Mexican cuisine. Chef/Owner Anselmo Ramirez has created an intimate, casual restaurant with some superb renditions of the dishes from the regions surrounding his hometown of Guerrero, Mexico.
And here’s a bonus . . . it is BYOB with no corkage fee!
Ramirez worked in the kitchens of Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill and Topolobampo for 13 years and spent time learning with chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris. No surprise that he has hit gold with his own restaurant. When they opened in the fall of 2015, they were swamped with customers, a bit overwhelming for the staff. “It was a good problem to have,” says Ramirez, who is thrilled by the response of his customers. Despite the hectic nature of his kitchen, Ramirez finds time to some out for a quick hello to his new fans.
Chef Ramirez has a strong commitment to using only fresh, locally sourced, seasonal products. As a result, the menu will change monthly as available materials shift with the seasons. On a recent visit, I sampled:
- Picaditas (Masa Canoe filled with slow Roasted Poultry Carnitas, Avocado Cream Sauce, garnished with Queso Ranchero and Pickled Cactus) – The masa was superb! It was slightly crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside. The chicken cooked in the carnitas style was delicious, and the pickled cactus was a perfect tangy accompaniment. This was a stand-out appetizer for me.
- Carne Asada (Adobo marinated Wood Grilled Skirt Steak, served with a Tomato Molcajete Sauce, Black Beans and Guacamole) – This is an iconic menu item for most Mexican restaurants, and Chef Ramirez plans to keep this on the menu even when he changes other items seasonally. The steak was perfectly prepared (just on the rare side of medium rare) and the Tomato Molcajete Sauce was just spicy enough to give the dish a special zing without overpowering anything else.
- Tres Leches Cake – This is another iconic Mexican menu item and Chef Ramirez has created a beautiful version. The chocolate garnish adds just a hint of savory to the sweet cake, and as you would expect the cake itself was luscious and just sweet enough without being sugary. The portion is large enough to be easily shareable.
With so many years in the industry, Chef Ramirez has staffed his restaurant with seasoned professionals. They definitely know how to treat a solo diner. Whether you are alone (enjoying part of a bottle of wine for yourself) or in a group – you will be treated well and will have a superior culinary experience.
Ixcateco Grill is an intimate casual Mexican restaurant featuring authentically prepared dishes from the southern regions of Mexico, by chef/owner Anselmo Ramirez. BYO is encouraged. The restaurant is located at 3402 W. Montrose in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Weekend brunch service Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Ample street parking is available. All major cards are accepted. For reservations, please call the restaurant at 773-539-5887. The website is www.ixcatecogrill.com.
Table For One, Please!
All photos courtesy of Cindy Kurman, Kurman Communications, Inc.