Since I’ve moved to Chicago (or, the ‘burbs of Chicago), I decided to invest some time in checking out all this foodie paradise has to offer. Around the time I made this decision, Chicago just haaaappened to be named the “Best Restaurant City of the Year” by Bon Appetit Magazine. Yum.
Helping Chicago to receive this illustrious designation is the Logan Square Mexican restaurant, Mi Tocaya Antojeria. Chef Diana Davila serves up fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine, and lesser known regional delicacies set against the backdrop of a quirky and culturally themed decor inside, and beautiful but small, outdoors space, that features fresh flowers, and a festively colored picket fence.
Before I get into the food let me tell you, it’s definitely a neighborhood restaurant. When we arrived, I immediately recognized the signs of gentrification all around; a new Starbucks, a vintage, yet very millennial anime store, hipster bars and restaurants lining Logan Blvd, all next to what is clearly Section 8 housing. I’m from Baltimore City. And Baltimore’s name has long been a dog whistle for real estate developers looking to come in and profit off the of the community’s blight. I understand the benefits, and sometimes necessity of gentrifying an area, I just don’t like the ripping of long term residents from their homes, family stores being traded for chains, and ‘hoods losing their cultural identity. You know?
Although the small-time activist in me couldn’t quiet these socio-political thoughts, I still didn’t see Mi Tocaya as a part of the superficial gentrification fray. It’s neighborhood corner store construction, warm staff, and kitschy, yet familiar Latin American themed design gave it a real neighborhood feel, as if Mi Tocaya had been their before the grand gentrification plan. Now, on to the food.
I immediately ordered a mezcalita (a mezcal margarita). Mezcal is the deliciously smoky cousin of tequila. It’s made from heart of an agave plant, called the piña. Once the piña is extracted, it’s baked in a pit oven for about three days (which gives it that distinctively delicious smoky taste), then mashed, water is added, and it’s left in a large vat to ferment. Mi Tocaya’s mezcalita was smoky and deliciously sweet, layered with lip puckering lime, the sweetness of raw sugar, and an almost distinct, buttery under-note. For appetizers we (my girl Tiffany and I went together), ordered queso fundido, which was deliciously traditional, melted asiago cheese with a crispy crust, fried onions and green peppers, and a heaping serving of chorizo on top. We also ordered ceviche de camaron, it was fresh, aromatic with just a hint of citrus. The plate was garnished with an avocado mousse, and the chef added (just for us!) some deliciously fresh octopus to the mix. Mm. Of course we had the traditional chips and salsa, the chips were clearly handmade and the salsa, spicy, just like I like it. My mouth is actually watering at this point. Anyway! Next, we ordered tacos, because, who doesn’t love them, I ordered the shrimp al ajillo tacos. The shrimp was grilled to perfection, garlicky and smoky, with salsa roja, grilled corn, and pecans that added a sweet crunch.
At the end of the meal we were satisfied, not stuffed, but we were good until dinner. Mid-meal I immediately knew I’d be back to this Logan Square spot. Long story short, if you live in the Chicago area, or are a Mexican cuisine enthusiast outside of the area, you have to try Mi Tocaya Antojeria. I wouldn’t stere you wrong, I’m brutally honest about food. If you go, let me know!