For our final night of gluttony in the US, our friends talked us into Chilam Balam, a new little Mexican place in the Lakeview neighborhood. I was hesitant to go some place new, rather than an old favorite from our days living in the area, but after so many of them raved, I figured we could give it a go.
In a city filled to the brim with great, cheap Mexican restaurants and tacquerias, Chilam Balam stands above the rest. It hosts a seasonal menu that supports local and sustainable farmers and suppliers - no large cans of refried beans here. The whole theme is to offer Mexican small plates, like tapas, with a farm to table twist. I am not sure how many places are doing this sort of thing in Chicago, particularly in the Lakeview neighborhood.
One of the best parts of Chilam Balam - it’s BYOB. I always loved how many places were BYOB in Chicago, mostly due to strict liquor licensing. What is special about Chilam Balam is that it is BYOB for beer, wine, and Tequila! So, we brought in a bottle of Cuervo from the CVS. They gave us a pitcher of margarita mix, and even salt rimmed glasses. Spoiler alert: we finished the bottle…
Interestingly, the name Chilam Balam loosely translates to "Book of the Jaguar Priest" in the Mayan language. It refers to the 2012 “apocalypse” that everyone was stressed about a few years ago. The owners, though, understand it more to mean that eventually, we will finish the natural resources that the earth gave to us. Their goal is to start thinking local, green, and sustainable, so that the Jaguar Priest will leave us alone.
Kind of cool, and very fitting considering our gluttonous trip through Chicago was coming to an end - certainly not a sustainable way for us to eat. In fact, a sustainable eating philosophy was the entire opposite of our tour through Chicago. It was entirely fitting, then, for our friends to drag us to Chilam Balam for our final night, as we started again to head east to our new, healthier lifestyle.
So, what did we eat?
Mahi mahi ceviche with habanero, tomato, cucumber, and fresh lime:
Corn masa memelas with black beans, aged goat cheese, arbol salsa and dressed shoots:
Cauliflower tacos (that were surprisingly good) with tomato arbol salsa, cabbage, avocado, radish, and crema:
Pan seared quail with green sesame mole, tamalon, quelites (I am not sure what these last two ingredients were but the quail was good):
Grilled tuna with aguachile, pickled strawberries, grilled knob onion guacamole:
Grilled flank steak with roasted potato, crispy onion, guajillo chile and cilantro:
Pork carnitas with pinto beans, guacasalsa, pineapple salsa:
Grilled pork ribs with honey-pasilla sauce, radishes, crema and queso fresco:
All of the food was prepared thoughtfully and fresh, and all super delicious. By the time the giant order of pork ribs came, I was full to the brim. Couldn’t even touch it. My two healthier girlfriends, one of whom is a vegetarian, barely ate anything all night. So, the boys finished off the last of the food. They were happy to be gluttonous. I was happy to have spent our last night in Chicago with friends.
And, this pork rib, one of the last items to be eaten that night, was certainly enjoyed. The look on Mike’s face says it all.
Located at 3023 North Broadway, Chicago
Open for dinners only, closed Monday
Also, serving brunch Saturday and Sunday, 10-2
BYOB!!! Bring your bottle of Tequila