***** (5 stars)

At last! My search for a great, authentic Mexican restaurant in downtown Chicago is complete. Mezcalina is the real deal.

It’s located off the bucolic but hard to find Lake Shore East Park (go down a four story spiral staircase at the end of N Park Dr south of Wacker). The space (and even the dishes) are shared by the Black Coffee Company. Beautiful large murals grace the walls, and a decorative bar runs along one side.

Of course there is a full bar with a wide range of tequilas and mescals, but I tried a bottled sangria soda, a non-alcoholic concoction that tasted a lot like sangria.

Complimentary tortilla strips are served with two excellent salsas, a red and a green.

I started with the ceviche tasting, which featured shrimp, octopus, and the day’s special, corvina. All were good, but the octopus was outstanding, tender and bursting with fresh flavors, the best octopus ceviche I’ve had.

Nearly all of the menu is authentic Mexican (with the exception of nachos) so of course I tried the tacos. A bargain at only $3 each, they are served on traditional corn tortillas (single ply, though, not double as in Mexico). Each was served with handfuls of fresh cilantro, a wedge of lime, and raw or pickled onions, according to type.

The carne asada was a bit chewy, but the pollo mole was wonderful–tender, moist and suffused with the rich, dark, slightly bitter sauce. But the pork pibil was the most remarkable, with layers of complex flavors from the marinade, and huge hunks of tender shredded pork. Definitely the best pibil I’ve had anywhere.

I sat at the bar, and the bartender was friendly and helpful.

This is definitely a place I’ll be returning to often. Yay! Real Mexican food in Chicago!

333 E Benton Pl
Ste 100
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 240-5000