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‘Soulful’ Tzuco Earns High Praise from a Critic

Plus a look at some of the year’s most notable openings

The dining room is heavy on wood accents, leather chairs, and glass cases filled with vines and Mexican artifacts.
Tzuco marks the return of chef Carlos Gaytan.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Jeff Ruby calls Tzuco “one of the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago.” Chef Carlos Gaytan’s new spot is a “love letter to his Guerrero hometown of Huitzuco” and “everything seems brash and yet engineered to please.” Appetizers are heavy on “masterpiece[s] with a great story,” such as the pulpo enamorado, a homage to Gaytan’s mother that features roasted octopus, tuna aioli, and a tartare-like potato salad. Guacamole gets an “inventive” twist with dried, aged Guitzuco cheese and roasted grasshoppers, while guajillo-rubbed skate wing feels “plucked from a beachside shack in Puerto Vallarta.”

Main courses are similarly full of “showstoppers.” Trout is wrapped in cornhusk, cooked in a wood-burning oven “until it soaks up a deep smoky flavor,” stuffed with a tomato-almond pesto, and topped with an avocado-tomato salad. But Ruby’s “favorite restaurant experience of 2019” comes from folding “tangy, fatty” pork shank into house-made tortilla and “feeling the aftershock of habanero pickled onions and pineapple vinegar.” Desserts are a bit of a letdown as jericalla, a flan–creme brulee hybrid, curdles too much. In the end, though, Tzuco “feels soulful, thanks to its backstory and razor-sharp focus on lush flavors.” [Chicago]

The Chicago Tribune does a review roundup of seven notable restaurants that opened in 2019. At Hogsalt Hospitality’s Ciccio Mio, the food is “executed with such care that it might just be the best version of a dish you’ve had a thousand times before.” Cebu is another winner, offering Filipino delights like “wonderfully sweet, funky and salty” pork barbecue skewers, and lechon that sports “shatteringly crispy skin, and juicy, tender meat, with all its fatty bits bursting with flavor.” On the other hand, Papa Cenar “doesn’t quite meet its ambition.” The “hit-and-miss” menu is marred by items like octopus that lacks flavor and “middling and expensive” falafel. It’s not a total disappointment, though, as mussels in a shrimp-based broth are “well worth a visit.” [Tribune]

Two new burger joints in the Loop “merit a casual escape-the-desk break” according to Graham Meyer. Wahlburgers, the chain from celebrities Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their family, offers “funky” concoctions like the barbecue bacon with white cheddar, jalapenos, house-made barbecue sauce, and avocado spread. Fries are “thick and skin-on, flaunting a hot, smooth interior and a firm exterior,” while thin crispy onion rings taste like an “exploded Awesome Blossom.”

At Dead Lawyer’s Pub, the burgers arrive with “thick, well-browned patties on a soft, buttery bun and the usual fixins.” Specialties include the “Law Clerk’s Dream” with goat cheese, a balsamic reduction, and roasted, marinated bell peppers. Complementing the sandwiches are shoestring fries that manage to have a “soft inside” and “burly flavor from the fry oil.” [Crain’s]

Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink

1846 West Division Street, , IL 60622 (773) 276-7422 Visit Website

Ciccio Mio

226 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60654 (312) 796-3316 Visit Website

Gadabout

5212 North Clark Street, , IL 60640 (773) 944-0429 Visit Website

Cebu

2211 West North Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 799-8650 Visit Website

Tzuco

720 North State Street, , IL 60654 (312) 374-8995 Visit Website

Wahlburgers

2 East Ontario Street, , IL 60611 (312) 265-1290 Visit Website

Papa Cenar

2445 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 697-8463 Visit Website

Young American

2545 North Kedzie Boulevard, , IL 60647 (773) 687-8385 Visit Website

Flat & Point

3524 West Fullerton Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 904-7152 Visit Website

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