Habanero Baja Grill

chef amado lopez

A casual quick service Mexican restaurant from the chef who opened XOCO for Rick Bayless: Chef Amado Lopez. The love for and depth of knowledge about Mexican cuisine can be felt throughout the menu. We sampled three tacos, all served on tortillas made by hand in house. The barbacoa was aromatic, fried tilapia spicy with chipotle mayo, steak was juicy and well-seasoned, paired with pickled red onion for tang. The housemade red salsa features guajillo, ancho and arbol, an earthy heat that builds on the palette. Green salsa has a sweet, grassy chile flavor accented with herbs.

habanero baja grill 3rdarm

I found out they were “soft” open this week when they posted a photo of a vegetable caldo on instagram. One look at the steaming brothy bowl filled with arugula, hominy, chile poblano, tortillas, lime and more was all it took. My girlfriend and I placed a large to-go order for caldos (soups) and cemitas (sandwiches) and enjoyed hot chocolate and churros while we waited. The chocolate is less rich than XOCO, which makes it more drinkable and the perfect cure for the cold winter we’ve been having, especially paired with the sugary crunch of a churro.

habanero baja grill 3rdarm

Chef Amado and I worked together for years at XOCO and I must say I was sad when he moved on: It makes me happy that he has made a new home to fill with his generous spirit, high standards, and the authentic aromas and flavors of Mexican street food. The folks who live and work in the West Loop have a great new place to eat!

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