Being a huge fan of New Mexican Cuisine, I was very happy to see a place finally open in the Chicago area. Zia is located on Armitage, next door to Geja's, Sushi-O-Sushi, and by Ben and Jerry's.
First Good Sign: Honey containers on each table. This can mean only one thing... Fresh Sopapaillas!!
The restaurant itself is fairly small, but very nicely decorated with Southwestern styled art and vibrant colors. The owner is from New Mexico, and while this is his first restaurant, the recipe's are from his family's restaurant's in New Mexico. He seemed very happy to make recommendations, or offer explanations.
The meal started off with chips and Salsa (first bowl free, after that $2.95), both chips and salsa were extremely fresh. The salsa was a little sweeter than I expected, and not quite as spicy, but the freshness factor alone made it pleasant.
The menu is fairly small, and traditional, I was very tempted by the green chile cheese fries as an appetizer, and the stuffed sopapaillas for an entree. Ultimately, though I went for the chicken enchiladas served Christmas style (for those not familiar with that New Mexican term, it means with red and green Chile). The enchiladas were very good sized, and served with spanish rice, and beans, both very well prepared. A couple of Sopapaillas came with the meal and were fantastic and very authentic. The owner said that he gets the Chiles directly from Hatch, and I don't doubt that. However, on this day the red chile sauce was better than the green. It is my experience that red chile is much more consistent in flavor, while fresh green chile can be even better, green chile that is not fresh is not quite as good.
All in all, the prices are very reasonable, entrees run $8-12. I think it needs a few more months to iron all the kinks out, but it is a very worthy addition to the food scene in the area. Please note that as I found out the hard way from a previous attempt to visit, THEY ARE CLOSED ON SUNDAYS.
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