When we first walked up to 5 Rabanitos, my date asked if we were in the right spot—the signage doesn’t provide a lot of promise that it’s going to be a great meal, but once we were in the door, his attitude changed immediately. It’s nothing fancy, but the green walls and a sparse dining room with old Spanish love ballads playing in the background give it a charm that’s perfect for devouring as much Mexican food as possible.
Chef Alfonso Sotelo, a XOCO alum, helms the kitchen, providing delightfully comforting dishes with just the right amount of personality. His dishes are flavorful and heartening—if I could sit and eat his food for hours I would.
This is definitely a spot where you can hunker down and order a huge plate of tacos without breaking the bank—each is only $2.25. I’d pick at least two of the carnitas tacos, but there’s no doubt in my mind that all varieties are delightful. The only question our server asked after running through our large order was if we also wanted an order of guacamole (the answer is always yes). The refreshing and creamy dish came out on a beautiful plate garnished with radish slices. Actually, everything here is garnished with radishes as a tribute to the restaurant’s name—“rabanitos” is Spanish for radishes.
The rest of the menu doesn’t disappoint, whether you’re having the ceviche verde with avocado tomatillo lime salsa, dotted with bits of jicama and cucumber and pieces of tender calamari and shrimp, or the caldo de res, a delicious soup with braised short rib swimming in a light Serrano chile broth that includes vegetables like potatoes, green beans and avocado. Entrees are fantastic, too, such as the cochinita pibil, an amazingly juicy and tender dish served with black beans and pickled onions with a side of house-made tortillas—warm and steamy and perfect for making heaping tacos at the table. Whatever you choose, you have to stay for a thick and spicy champurrado (a kind of Mexican hot chocolate) after your meal.
Compared to other taquerias in Pilsen, the presentation at 5 Rabanitos is what sets it apart. You can see the heart that goes into every dish from the way that it’s plated. To top it all off, Sotelo takes time away from the kitchen to stop and talk to each table, showing his excitement for what he does and making sure everyone is satisfied. I know exactly where I’m heading the next time I have a craving for tacos.
Atmosphere: The restaurant isn’t fancy, but the Mexican music helps set the mood for a delicious meal.
What to eat: Must orders include the guacamole, caldo de res and cochinita pibil. If you don’t get an entrée, ask for a side of the house-made tortillas. They’re delicious with anything.
What to drink: It’s BYOB, so bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack. If you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage, the horchata is delightfully fruity and bright, and the champurrado is a sweet dessert.
Where to sit: You can sit anywhere you’d like, but I recommend a table close to the cash register. While the food is fantastic, service can be a little slow and it’s easier to grab your server’s attention if you’re close. Also note: it’s cash-only, but you’ll find an ATM on-site.