Las Palmas (Restaurant, Wicker Park)

Location: 1835 W. North
Phone: (773) 289-4991
Cuisine: Mexican

Chicago is a city filled with a ton of awesome Mexican restaurants. This is certainly no secret, but it can lead to a bit of paralysis in decision making. The same feeling of “oh my god too many options!” can overwhelm just by strolling through Wicker Park and trying to decide where to grab a meal. There are just too many delicious options for a hungry belly to process.

This is why it’s taken me to long to make the trip to Las Palmas. I think it’s a fairly decent excuse, but good luck convincing my taste buds. They’re a bit pissed it took so long.

My first impression of the restaurant was that they got the look right; bright, zesty decor executed with minimal kitsch. The main dining room had a warm, dimly lit vibe accented by a nice combination of Mexican folk art and work from the nearby Pop Chicago Galley. The backroom, where I was seated, is a glass-enclosed patio dressed with similar art and highlighted with lots of lush, green plants. As a functioning alcoholic, the first thing that caught my eye on the menu was the extensive, and slightly intimidating, tequila and Mezcal selection. I went for the Mezcal, neat and garnished with a lime. Think slightly mentholated tequila with hints of anise and clove that’s had a shitty day and is looking to pop someone in the face. Two thumbs up.

Las Palmas, contrary to how I set this article up, doesn’t really aid the indecisive. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. Everything on the menu sounded delicious, and luckily it all delivered. The queso fundido was smooth and creamy, anchored by sweet Poblano rajas. The pollo Oaxaca was delightfully cheesy and tender; the flavor of the chicken unearthed by a subtle salsa miel picante. Too many chicken dishes are assaulted with overpowering sauces that blow right past tasty into sear-your-balls-off-hot-for-the-sake-of-hot territory, but this plate would’ve earned even my grandmother’s approval. For the veggie lovers, the enchayotadas were a nice blend of chayotes, carrots, portobello mushrooms, and corn chips, stuffed into corn tortillas and smothered in a jalapeño-tomatillo salsa. Topped with crema, Chihuahua, queso añejo and a garlic-vinagrette salad, the whole thing could have been a messy hodgepodge. I mean, it sounds like a bunch of non-meat piled on a plate. The truth is that every ingredient snapped, crunched and melted in harmony.

After dinner it seemed almost requisite to sample one of the Las Palmas famous Margaritas. The Ecomargarita, made with organic and kosher ingredients, was nice, but the stand out was the Jarochita, and shockingly not-too-sweet combination of vanilla bean and pineapple infused tequila with a splash of Malibu. That drink alone has me aching to return to Las Palmas. I’m looking forward to slowly working one down on the outdoor patio in the spring.

Last note: If you do plan on dining inside on the weekends, make yourself a reservation for the front room. Nice as the neo-conservatory feel of the back area was, you can’t beat the more amorous atmosphere of the front, especially when the live music kicks in.

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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