El Mariachi – Biggest Tequila Bar, Best Guacomole and Freshest Mexican Food in Chicago
Established in 1996,
a father and his 2 sons opened a small 10-table restaurant in the Boystown/East Lakeview community. El Mariachi has gradually grown over the years by following a strict policy of only serving top quality, authentic dishes and margaritas. The restaurant steadily grew in popularity with the support of loyal patrons who loved the families recipes of authentic food.
At the newest location, El Mariachi Tequila Bar & Grill, they offer a much bigger menu, fresh tableside guacamole that is made to order and an extensive selection of over 175 tequilas! (all 100% Blue Agave). This makes it the biggest tequila bar in Chicago!
DID YOU KNOW? There are two basic categories of tequila: mixtos and 100% agave. Mixtos use no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the remainder.
When tequila is produced it can go thru many different stages and techniques, just like wines. Some distilleries cook mature agave in huge stone ovens, some may go through steam ovens, and some are allowed to ferment in wood tanks or stainless steel barrels. Each technique can produce different flavors.
Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:
- Blanco (“white”) or plata (“silver”): white spirit, un-aged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels;
- Joven (“young”) or oro (“gold”): is the result of blending Silver Tequila with Reposado and/or Añejo and/or extra Añejo Tequila;
- Reposado (“rested”): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels;
- Añejo (“aged” or “vintage”): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in oak barrels;
- Extra Añejo (“extra aged” or “ultra aged”): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels.
If you’re lucky, on some evenings they pass around samplings to customers. Ask about some “sipping” tequila at the bar, and the staff will quickly educate you and even provide “flights” of tequila to show you the differences between the various grades and brands. A nice way to start off an evening. And of course the selection of Margarita styles and options is huge!
From the start, from the airy crisp fresh home-made tortilla chips to the 2 fresh flavors of salsa, the quality here is evident.
I have dined here probably a dozen times or more since this newest location opened. The food is always good and hot, presented in an appealing way, and most times comes up in a timely manner.
When I dine out, I like to split an entrée and have room to try other things as well. El Mariachi has some great starters that should not be missed. They offer one of the best black bean soups I have ever had and a delicious chipotle and tomato based tortilla soup, which is topped off with avocado and sour cream.
A nice appetizer I enjoy in the summer is their traditional shrimp ceviche. And in the winter I love their Queso Fundido. It is one of the best I have ever had. Just the right texture and not too greasy or oily. They use a very high-quality cheese.
Queso Fundido is billed as a “cheese fondue”. And I think many diners order this dish at Mexican restaurants expecting a warm semi-liquid sauce in a pot, to dip in. But it’s not. It’s more a cheese spread of sorts. It’s melted cheese, not a cheese sauce. It traditionally comes with chorizo sausage added, I like mine plain, but I have also ordered it with some chopped shrimp or chopped chicken added to it. And it is served with some flour or corn tortillas to make a little sandwich appetizer or I just like to scoop it onto their delicious chips and top it off with a dab of their salsa!
If you love guacamole, you have to get it here and they make it to order tableside. It’s ALWAYS good. Never thinned down like some restaurants will blend in sour cream. Just fresh, pure, quality ingredients. Just recently a new chef came onboard and suggested they add just a few drops of avocado oil to the guacamole which gives it a nice smooth texture and finish.
Entree’s range from a big assortment of carnes/meats, mariscos/seafood and pollo/chicken dishes. And all of the traditional Mexican favorites are here as well; Burritos, Flautas, Fajitas, Enchiladas, Tacos and a variety of combinations. People will tell me they don’t like Mexican food – I bring them here and they love it. There is something for everyone. Most of food is traditional Mexican but many come with a fresh approach. A variety of sides include Lime Rice and Mexican Corn. There are four Vegetarian dishes as well and many of the traditional fare can be made vegetarian.
The father here created a topping of specialty seasoned shrimp and sauce which he calls “Costena“. And it is available on the grilled steak, on the chicken breasts, or on the catfish, which I am told is extremely popular. I LOVE IT on the chicken!
I think most all of the entree’s here are generous portions and filling and it’s very easy to split an appetizer, share an entree and save room for a dessert. YOU WILL BE FULL!
Fresh made dessert includes traditional Flan (baked custard with light carmel sauce), Banana’s Flambéed with Tequila, melt-in-your-mouth Margarita Cheesecake, traditional Sopapillas (fried dough with cinnamon, honey and ice cream) and for the chocolate lover, a moist and rich flourless chocolate cake made with nuts and cherries and some gran marnier! See why I said you need to save some room for dessert?! Most people over eat at their meal and leave no room, and a taste of something sweet with a dash of Mexican coffee, is the perfect finish.
The back garden patio is fantastic in the summer. Unlike so many patios here in Chicago, you are shielded from the noisy street and the busy buses. Secluded with sunlight or shady spots, whatever you want…all tucked into a secret little garden in the back. Summertime heaven. The patio is not open real late at night, out of respect for the neighbors.
Also this summer, the restaurant will be offering some unique spaces on the property which will be available for rent for private parties and events. Then in the fall, the family hope to unveil their newest property; at 3445 Broadway (right by the original location 3420) in the old Triangle Photo Building will be home to their new (yet unnamed) traditional Steakhouse with Mexican flair!
There are lots of specials on various nights –
MONDAYS 1/2 Price Margaritas $16 Margarita Pitchers
TUESDAYS 1/2 Price Sangrias $15 Sangria Pitchers
WEDNESDAYS 1/2 Price Margaritas $16 Margarita Pitchers
THURSDAYS $4 Cantaritos $2 off any tequila
SUNDAYS $18 Rio Grande Margarita (60 oz.)
SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS Special Brunch Menu 11 am-3 pm
$3 mimosas & bellinis $3 bloody marys
BE THEIR FRIEND/FAN ON FACEBOOK AND GET THE SPECIAL
SCOOP ON PROMOTIONS ONLY FOR THEIR FACEBOOK FANS
Adrian, one of the two brothers who helps run the restaurant has been working with his father since the age of 11! He prides himself on quality management. “We pride ourselves on selecting quality ingredients and not skimping to save a few pennies, like some restaurants might do. And we watch the restaurant very closey and listen to what the customers tell us for feedback. We run reports to see what sells best and we change the menu around as needed. We are going to launch another new menu any day now!”
El Mariachi Tequila Bar & Grill 3906 N Broadway Ph. 773.549.2932
Mon-Thurs. 5:00pm-11:00, Fri. 5:00pm-12am, Sat. 11:00am-11:00pm, Sun.11:00-10:00pm
El Mariachi Restaurant – Original 3420 N Broadway Ph. 773.549.7020
11:00am-11:00pm 7 days a week