El Mariachi

Sunday dawned bright and warm: perfect festival weather compared to last week’s wilting temperatures.  Chicago Pridefest was slowly waking up from Saturday’s hot and rainy festivities. Becky was feeling a little under the weather, and Jodie was fatigued from a long week at the shop, but we rallied our tired old selves out to explore what El Mariachi Tequila Bar and Grill had to offer for our brunching delight.

Setting the Scene

We arrived at around 11:30 on Father’s Day. The restaurant was busy and lively, but not packed to the brim. The patio might have been a different story, but we weren’t brave enough to venture out. Music was at the perfect background-noise level. The TV in the bar was showing a FIFA match between Portugal and Mexico, also at a good conversational volume. Noise was lively, but not overwhelming for conversation.

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Amenities and Accessibility

Access to the restaurant is through two narrow doors, but with a ramp. The main dining area and bathrooms were wheelchair accessible. The bathrooms were clean, with two stalls. Again, we didn’t check the patio for ease of access, but we would appreciate any feedback from our delightful readers on this subject.

Food and Drink

Their brunch menu was a manageable page-long, but offered a variety of options for every brunch orientation: meat is the dominant component, but there were also plenty of vegetarian dishes, and a solid balance of sweet and savory options. They manage to do a lot within a single page. Substitutions and additions also didn’t seem to be a problem for us, as it can be in many brunch establishments. Chips and salsas (pico de gallo and fire-roasted) alleviated Jodie’s crabby hanger while we decided what main courses to order.

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We chose the mimosa brunch, which, for two hours, includes bottomless mimosas and a brunch entrée of your choice.

Given last week’s experience of pre-made mimosas, we were a bit skeptical when we spotted pitchers of mimosas sitting on the bar. However, after taking our first sips, and observing how often the pitchers were swept off the bar and into waiting glasses (actual glasses, not plastic mugs), our concerns were alleviated. Their champagne of choice was Wycliff, a Brunch Baes preferred brand, but we didn’t observe what kind of orange juice was used. Regardless, the mimosas were on point and freely flowing.

For her entrée, Jodie ordered the steak omelette with flour tortillas. They offer both corn and flour, but Jodie prefers the texture of the flour tortillas. They were perfectly warmed, a little crispy, but still very tender and easy to fill with omelette-y delights. The steak itself was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was the standout of the dish, as one would hope, even among the sparkling flavors and textures of the eggs, Chihuahua cheese, and veggies. The background dancers made the star of the show that much brighter. Three tortillas, overflowing, were not enough to finish the meal. One more tortilla would have made it  truly complete.

Becky decided to order the chilaquiles (one of her favorite brunch offerings), a presumably safe choice at a Mexican restaurant. The bartender affirmed her decision, saying it is one of their most popular dishes. According to the menu, the chilaquiles are “made of homemade crispy corn chips, simmered in your choice of salsa (verde, ranchera, or chipotle) and topped with cheese, sour cream, and eggs” your way. Becky decided to go with the chipotle salsa, as the bartender said the ranchera was “very spicy,” and eggs over easy, no sour cream.

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The food came out very quickly and the chilaquiles looked as they should have, however Becky was not impressed with the lack of any other vegetable in the dish. The chips were also not “crispy” as advertised, but soggy from the overwhelming amount of salsa in the dish. The eggs were closer to sunny-side up than over easy, but they were still cooked well. Because of the lack of more nutritional components, she asked for a side of sautéed veggies, which came out relatively quickly, and were beautifully cooked and colorful.

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In terms of flavor and satisfaction, the eggs were good, the veggies a great addition, but the chips were just too soggy to eat at the time, and the salsa was lacking the kick she was hoping for. Not a failure on the restaurant’s part, but she brought most of the food home to doctor up and reinvigorate the chips with some crunch. Her biggest order regret was not ordering the chilaquiles deconstructed with the ranchera salsa: chips, eggs, salsa, cheese separate and add a side of avocado. On a return trip, this will be attempted. Check back for posts about this in the future!

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BONUS TREATS

  • The staff. Our bartender, who recognized us from other non-brunch visits, kept our glasses full, even after boxing up our food and getting our check. Two hours means two hours!
  • Speed. If you have to get brunch in a hurry, the food comes out fast.
  • The chips and salsa. It was so good. The salsas were fresh and lively, full of palate-awakening flavor for our sleepy faces.

Mimosa Rating

El Mariachi earns a bubbling 8 out of 10 mimosa rating from us. The food is prepared with almost inhuman speed, the service is outstanding, and the atmosphere is delightful. On our next visit, getting outside of our ordering comfort zone may bump this rating up.

Pro Tips – Optimize Your Experience

  • Grab TP before you sit if you utilize the wheelchair-accessible stall. Otherwise, it’s a long reach from an awkward position.
  • With the speed of food delivery, if you’re not in a rush to get to a festival or game, wait until your second mimosa (at least) to order your entrée.
  • Try both salsas. You won’t be disappointed.
  • If you have a party of more than four in the summer season, get reservations. We were the only people at the bar, but it was relatively early and a beautiful day.  This restaurant is in the heart of both Boystown and Wrigleyville, so game days and gay festival days (Pridefest, Pride, and Market Days) are bound to be busy.
  • Come back for their dinner menu and try one of their margaritas. They are perfection on a hot summer day.

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