Chilam Balam (Restaurant, BYOB, Lakeview)

Location: 3023 N. Broadway
Phone: (773) 296-6901
Website: http://www.chilambalamchicago.com/
Cuisine: Mexican
Reservations: Taken
CASH ONLY

This tiny sustainably minded Mexican restaurant was the best dinner I’ve had in awhile. Maybe it was because my friend and I chose it last minute for a nice Friday night out and had no expectations going into it, but this really plays to the truth that Mexican food doesn’t have to be all tortillas, cheese, and fatty foods. The restaurant is small plates, and everything is designed to share, so make sure you go with people that have similar tastes. The dishes are creative in their flavors and textures; don’t go expecting just a slight spin on tacos. We tried a squash blossom flan with crab and plantain chips that was definitely a twist on traditional flan.

Their menu changes almost monthly to stay in line with their farm fresh vision and dedication to never adding unnatural additives to enhance flavors. The service was fantastic. The owners mingle with the customers and make sure everything is going smoothly, but in a casual way that makes you never expect they could own the place. Since it’s a BYOB spot, we brought a bottle of wine, and our server offered to make us a pitcher of sangria with it. I would say definitely take them up on it — the sangria was fantastic and they’ll make it for you strong or mild. The owner/chef Chuy Valencia was chatting with us about our dinner and even offered to make us a dish he’d been working on. I usually have a problem with the texture of sweetbreads, but Chuy served us up delicious fried sweetbreads in a blackberry sauce that made me forget I was eating pancreas.

Even the music was a spin on the traditional. American favorites like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson were mixed into Mexican favorites or versions of the popular song while we ate at the small bar by the kitchen. The decor uses a lot of warm colors, hanging lanterns, and simple art to compliment the exposed brick. The staff dresses in different Threadless t-shirts, and when I asked about them, they said the local store gives them a discount since they know they wear them when they work. I love local businesses that support other local businesses, so good work Threadless!  All in all, a perfect evening at this garden apartment restaurant.

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Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.

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