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Chicken Mole
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki Chicken Mole

The best Chicago BYOB restaurants for Mexican food

Bring along a six pack or bottle of wine to wash down tacos and guacamole at these BYOB Chicago restaurants

By Amy Cavanaugh, Elizabeth Atkinson and Sara Freund

Almost nothing is better than the wealth of great Mexican food in Chicago, except when the restaurant you sit down at also happens to be BYOB. When you're craving tacos but don't want to shell out for booze head to these Mexican restaurants in Chicago with your favorite craft beer or bottle of wine.

Not sure what to drink? If you're going with beer, try German-style bocks, which match the chocolate, cinnamon, nuts and cumin in complex moles. If you can’t find one, try an American brown ale, or Negra Modelo works in a pinch. For wines, whites such as a Spanish albariño work with fresh, green chiles, while reds like Rioja complement with dishes made with dark, dried chiles.

BYOB Mexican restaurants

5 Rabanitos

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

The green walls and old Spanish love ballads playing in the background give this restaurant an irresistible charm. This menu packs hearty, flavorful dishes that are easy on the wallet like the carne asada or beef barbacoa tacos for $2.25 each. Dive into the creamy guacamole garnished with radishes or caldo de res, a savory soup with braised short rib in a Serrano chile broth.

Corkage fee None
Best nearby liquor store Carniceria y Licoreria Maribel, 1801 W Cermak Rd

Martha Williams

Chilam Balam

Restaurants Mexican Lake View

The brightly hued, subterranean Mexican restaurant is more underground dinner party than stuffy exercise in fine dining, though the food reaches elegant levels. Memelas are filled with smoky black-bean puree and goat cheese where queso fresco would otherwise be, and steak comes out rare, set on a guajillo-chile sauce that will call for the attention of every one of those fresh, warm tortillas on the table.

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Binny's, 3000 N Clark St.

Chicken Mole at Ixcateco Grill
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

Ixcateco Grill

Restaurants Mexican Albany Park

The colorful Ixcateco Grill offers up southern Mexican style dishes. Mole sauces here are prepared authentically by slow roasting the ingredients for hours, even days. Try dishes like Albondigas a La Mancha, meatballs drenched in mole over pineapple puree or Pollo en Mole Negro, half a roasted chicken in black mole with garlic potatoes.

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Buy Low Liquore Store, 3360 W Montrose

La Ciudad

Restaurants Mexican Uptown

La Ciudad's dining room is slicker than most Mexican spots at this price point, and the menu leans slightly to De Fed specialties (for instance, quesadillas are fried and empanadaish, true to Mexico City style). Housemade salsas and moles make plates like an otherwise commonplace enchilada platter pop; same goes for the steak sopes, made with masa that is ground in-house. 

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Azusa Liquor, 4411 N Broadway

Photograph: Martha williams

Mixteco Grill

Restaurants Mexican Lake View

The mole at this bustling BYOB steals the show. Seafood tamales are topped with Oaxacan yellow mole, and the wood-grilled chicken breast is served with mole verde. In truth, we don’t really need any of the proteins here. All we need is some mole, a bowl to put it in, and some handmade tortillas to sop it all up.

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Fine Wine Brokers, 4621 N Lincoln Ave

Quesadilla La Reina del Sur

Restaurants Mexican Bucktown

Meatless Mexican? Yes, please! This BYOB serves traditional taqueria fare with all manner of mock meat: carnitas, al pastor, even chicharron. While good, we prefer the fresh veggie fillings like cactus and peppers, plus a squash blossm quesadilla.

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Danny's Buy Low, 2220 N Western Ave

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

La Palapa

Restaurants Mexican Mckinley Park

This Mexican seafood spot is named after the Spanish word for a thatched-roof beach hut, where you'll dig into limey ceviche pescado and coctel mixto pulpo camarón, the latter bathing tender chunks of octopus and plump shrimp in a spicy V8-like tomato sauce that trumps the ketchupy versions found elsewhere.

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 960 W 31st St

Photograph: Martha Williams


Restaurants Mexican River West/West Town

The sister restaurant to Chilam Balam, Shaman serves lots of Mexican small plates, including guacamole (a paragon of the form, creamy avocado brightened with pickled onions, strips of sundried tomato lending interest) and mahi mahi ceviche, balanced by a citrusy dressing and bright, crunchy cucumber. 

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store You've got your pick—Lush Wine & Spirits, 1412 W Chicago Ave, or the Noble Grape, 802 N Bishop St.



Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

When a Topolobampo vet opens his own taqueria, you expect certain upgrades from a typical counter-service taco-slinger, and here, you get them: chunky guac dotted with pomegranate seeds accompanied by fresh-from-the-fryer chips sprinkled with sea salt; fish tacos with a perfectly fried filet, crunchy cabbage, fresh pico de gallo and a hint of serrano aioli; the most impossibly tender chunks of chicken in its pollo adobado taco; and maybe the least saccharin horchata in Chicago. One thing you’d expect from a fancier taqueria that you don’t get here: inflated prices.

Corkage fee None  
Best nearby liquor store Vas Foremost Liquors, 2300 N Milwaukee Ave

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