Yummy Organic & Green Mexican at Chicago's XOCO

A reunion in Chicago with three dear friends, who share a passion for the Spanish language, Latin America, and delicious food, prompted a trip to XOCO (Mexican slang for "little sister"), Rick Bayless’ Mexican street food quick-service cafe. While Bayless has long been a stalwart of the Chicago restaurant scene, the chef has become even more of a global culinary figure by winning the first Top Chef Masters competition and recently serving the Obamas at the White House state dinner with Mexican president Felipe Calderon. Brave XOCO’s long lines (no reservations accepted) so that you can be rewarded with some of the most creative, local, sustainable Mexican comfort food in a Gold LEED certified space.

Bayless has thoughtfully designed every element of XOCO. From the location near public transportation, to the roof’s soy-based reflective coating, to the water efficiency practices, to the revolutionary ventilation system, to the first-rate recycling and composting programs, Bayless is setting a new precedent on sustainable restaurant design. XOCO’s sustainable practices also extend to its ingredients and sourcing. All of the meat is humanely raised and you can read about the local farms that service the restaurant as you wait in line to order and customize your meal. (More on their commitment to sustainability here).

The menu is simple and satisfying: tortas, salads, and sopas (meal-in-a-bowl soups served after 3 pm). The tortas, or Mexican sandwiches, deliver unique and tantalizing flavor combinations. Favorites include the torta ahogada ("drowned sandwich", pictured left) in which a pork sandwich is served "drowned" in a red sauce and the mushroom vegetarian torta. While the mushroom torta was simple and delicious, the menu is definitely slanted towards the carnivorous locavore.

For dessert, Bayless serves traditional Mexican desserts as well as some unique options, which have a quirky vibe reminiscent of David Chang’s Milk Bar. We devoured the sweet churros (pictured right), which can be enjoyed with a variety of chocolate options from traditional Mexican hot chocolate, to rich and creamy Spanish hot chocolate, to chocolate with almond milk. The highlight of the dessert course was the Mexican sundae: soft serve ice cream, brownie bits, and chilies. Wrap up your meal with a cup of Chicago’s finest Intelligentsia Coffee.


449 N. Clark St.

Chicago, IL 60654


XOCO image via Matt Vanderzalm/Gourmet

This post was written by Colleen

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