El Xangarrito in Ravenswood – NBC Chicago

Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen in Chicago, but every once in a while I stumble upon a hidden gem.

Only two cooks run the small kitchen at El Xangarrito, a simple Mexican restaurant on a side street in Ravenswood. One of them is Rogelio Marroquin, a veteran of several Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. He and his wife opened the restaurant during the pandemic, with a combination of his recipes and front-of-house hospitality.

“We thought we could open a restaurant to showcase his cuisine, his ideas,” said Erika Marroquin, Rogelio’s wife and co-owner of El Xangarrito.

Ceviche is like a whiff of the tropics, painted by Seurat. Plump prawns are combined with fresh cilantro, mango, red peppers and cukes; a drizzle of fresh lime then a vigorous mix, plus cubes of fresh avocado, then mounted in a ring mold for presentation points, surrounded by a sweet tamarind sauce and crowned with micro-vegetables. You know what those tortillas are for.

The carne asada is grilled while three corn tortillas are covered in chihuahua cheese. Once the beef is cooked, it is rolled up in the tortillas, which are then drizzled with a smooth mole negro.

“The black mole is usually a bit sweeter than the red; the red is going to be a bit spicier than the other,” Marroquin said.

Mole is to Mexico what curries are to Thailand. Each contains nearly two dozen ingredients. From chocolate and peanuts in the Negro, to almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds in the red Coloradito. The thing all moles have in common: dried chiles, in this case ancho and pasilla, which are roasted, rehydrated and then tossed with these other ingredients.

Back to these enchiladas, Marroquin tops them with crumbled queso anejo and a drizzle of heavy cream, topped with tangy, pickled red onions to balance out that richness.

The Coloradito coats the cooked chicken, which is then sautéed and heated; served with garlic green beans and Mexican rice. A sesame seed garnish echoes the ground seeds inside the slightly spicier sauce, browned by the reddish pasilla peppers. A sweet cinnamon horchata is the perfect foil for some of these more assertive sauces.

“The sauces are also made by Rogelio, our chef, and each one just tastes different,” she said.

Reservation strongly recommended as there are only 11 tables. And don’t forget, it’s BYOB, so bring your favorite wine or Mexican beer.

Here’s where you can go:

El Xangarrito

4811 N. Rockwell Street


NBC Chicago

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