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Restaurants & Bars 3

El Zarape (Wheaton, again)

tony | Sep 27, 200209:15 AM

Well, my wife constanly sees this place on her train ride home to our palatial 1000 acre emu ranch(2 bedroom apt.) on the fertile banks on the Fox River. We decided to venture out of the norm of the old West Chicago standbys and try something a bit more upscale than a taqueria. It's pretty nice inside this place, homey without being cloying and there's a cool mural of a Mexican street scene with two guys preparing their birds for a cockfight. But you can't eat a painting, so on to the food.

A decent choice of Mexican beers and Jarritos. I got the Bohemia, which went well with the food and she got a Sidral/Apple pop. Presented first were, decent salty chips served with a thick brownish/orange medium heat salsa and a thin soupy red tomato salsa served warm. For an appetizer we chose a small sincronizadas. Not something I was expecting to see in a Mexican restaurant in Wheaton. Basically a quesadilla with ham, cheese, sauteed onions and tomatoes. Served with some shredded lettuce and a glop of sour cream. Tasty and well prepared but the ham was of suspect quality, although it didn't subtract from the general effect of the dish. Before I go any further, the menu is pretty tame and not many out of the ordinary choices but what we had all stood up well.

The wife chose the special of Calabaza y Nopales Enchiladas. Shredded zucchini and slices of cactus sauteed and mixed with salsa verde and then topped with cheese and served with a side of black beans. A light entree, but full of flavor and the vegetables weren't destroyed or overcooked. No cactus slime.

I went with Chicken in Mole Puebla Style. The yardbird was served with rice, frijoles and tortillas(choice of flour or corn). The beans were much better than average and had a definate smokey flavor. Lard was in the house. The rice was seasoned well and not bland. The half chicken while not exactly simmered in mole as the menu suggests, was to my pleasant surprise, moist with moderatley crisp skin under the thick mole. Based on the timing, the chicken was partially cooked and then finished in a broiler/salamander and then topped with the sauce. I'm not RST when it comes to mole, but this was good with complex flavors and had no burnt or overly toasted taste that folks who fear this style of sauce complain about. As far as the type of mole, well I'm stupmed, but it's not like I can rattle off the 7 traditional ones if I was caught on a game of Mexican Jeopardy.

All in all it was a good meal for the price. Two drinks, an appetizer, and two entrees for $25. Should city folk come out of their way for this place? Probably not. It's not Ixcapulzalco, but it's a good alternative to a taqueria and it beats the short pants off of Johnny Chimichangas or wherever...

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