On our recent trip to Chicago, Sarah and I stopped by XOCO, Rick Bayless’ take on Mexican street food, for breakfast. Sarah has been a Rick Bayless fan since before the Food Network was in existence, and we’ve always wanted to visit one of his restaruants. We were glad we did.

I ordered the open-faced torta with soft-poached egg and tomato broth ($4). The melding of flavors and textures was great. The sharpness of spicy hot peppers and acidic tomato was perfectly balanced by the saucy richness of the very soft egg. The only downside is that it’s hard to eat without a fork once the egg bursts.

Sarah ordered the chorizo-egg torta ($7.50), which was also excellent. All of the flavors–chorizo, egg, peppers, cheese and buttery avocado–melded well but were also distinct. The salsa verde on the side was a nice touch.

Jonathan’s amaranth granola and yogurt ($4) was also yummy, packed full of nuts as well as fresh and dried fruit. I was happy to eat what he couldn’t finish.

The “bean to cup” chocolate (ground from fresh cacao beans on premises) is also not to be missed. I had a chocolate café con leche, which would be a great start to any morning. While Starbucks-style mochas are basically adult candy, XOCO’s version is much less sweet but simultanously richer in flavor. A mild acidity in the chocolate and cinnamon shone through, but the whole milk made it very easy to drink.

Jonathan had Almendrado, hot chocolate made with almond milk. Again, this is something I could easily drink daily.

We enjoyed our food so much that we made a return visit on our way home. This time I had a “meal deal” with a cheese and poblano empanada, churros and coffee (for about $7, I think). Their empanadas are flaky (more like a pastry than the more commonly fried version) and flavorful. I love poblanos, and they really came through. Their churros (sort of like Mexican donuts) are also far better than anything one would typically find, crunchy and fried on the outside but slightly soft on the inside, with a mild cinnamon and sugar coating with just a hint of savory spice. We ordered Jonathan some as well, and we were all sad when we finished all of them halfway through our trip home.

We really, really wish Rick Bayless would open one of these in Cleveland.

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  • http://exploringfoodmyway.blogspot.com Tom Noe

    It sounds like you had a great couple of meals that were tasty and also an excellent value. The amaranth granola sounded especially interesting. I know that amaranth is common to that cuisine, but I would’ve never thought about using it in granola.

    I, too, hope that Rick opens something like this in Cleveland. I have a feeling it’d be very popular.

  • http://poiseinparma.wordpress.com/ Alicia

    I ate at XOCO back in December. We probably waited about 1/2 in line, but it was totally worth it. I had the short rib soup, which was probably the best bowl of soup I’ve ever consumed. I would go back in a second. Wouldn’t it be fantastic for it to open here in CLE?!

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