OK, it's been over a year since my last post on this topic, so worth a revisit, no? I must admit that I haven't checked out Restaurante Oaxaca on S. Ashland yet (if it's still open), but was wondering if any of you have stumbled upon any other Oaxacan places? I know about the stalls with mole tacos and Oaxacan tamales in the Maxwell St. market; I'm looking for a sit-down place. Surely some of those Maxwell St. stall owners must have gotten ambitious enough by now to open up their own restaurants, you think?
I've spoken with some Mexican restaurant owners over the year, and discussed possible reasons for the lack of authentic Oaxacan food in Chicago. Most of the reasons they gave were based on simple geography. Chicago is simply farther away from southern Mexico than say other big cities with large Mexican immigrant populations, such as LA or Houston. Most of the Mexicans here in Chicago are fom Norteno stock, from Chihuahua, Durango, Baja, etc. The food from those areas tends to be what we gringos typically think of when we think of Mexican food: enchiladas, burritos, refried beans, all smothered in a chile-based red sauce. The restaurant owners all suggested that, since Oaxacan food is unfamiliar to most Americans, and even to many Mexicans, that a 100% Oaxacan restaurant would not be popular.
I have faith in my fellow Chicagoans, however. I believe that we are more open-minded and adventurous as a whole that your average American restaurant-goer; witness the sheer breadth of exotic dining options this great city already offers. I know that if a decent, truly authentic Oaxacan restaurant were to open here, the magic that is Oaxacan food would bewitch us all, and we could make it a poular restaurant indeed.
Once I actually get to Restaurant Oaxaca, I'll let you all know if it meets my standards (e.g. Guelaguetza in L.A.). Any other suggestions?