More than four years ago, I traveled to a small Glenview strip mall to visit the Mexican fusion spot Mesa Urbanaand was bowled over by dishes such as shrimp farfalle, pechuga de pollo (chicken with onions and orange couscous) and fish tacos.
Well, things have changedas far as the location. Now, Mesa Urbana (1935 N. Lincoln Park West; mesaurbana.com )an almost retro-looking spot with lots of clean linesis in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, and it's a stone's throw from the Lincoln Park Zoo, a twice-a-week farmer's market and other attractions.
Some of the dishes are also differentbut not by much. The fish tacos and pechuga de pollo are still there, but there are now items such as kale salad and shrimp risotto.
However, I'm happy to report that one thing that hasn't been altered is the quality of the dishes. Time and time again, my dining companion and I were treated to delicious (and, in some cases, marvelously presented) items.
Small plates included a sinfully tasty queso fundido (shrimp, cheese, tomato, poblano and molcajete salsa), a kicky shrimp ceviche and probably the best elote dish I've ever tried: The charred, fresh cornwhich came in chunks, not individual kernelswas accompanied by quest fresco, lime, crema and epazote.
The quality did not flag at all with the large plates. I actually went with something basicMesa Urbana's burgerbut it was anything but fundamental. The meat was juicy and the sandwich came with some of the regular sides (lettuce, cheese, tomato) but also had an avocado mash that definitely lifted it above the standard burger. As for my friend, she went with the sizable ahi tuna, with sesame, celery root, mushrooms and baby bok choy. (Other large-plate items include beet salad with poblano dressing; salmon al carbon; halibut; and the carne asada, which features USDA prime Allen Brothers skirt steak.)
And if you get a chance, please do not skip dessert. We sampled two offerings: the cinco leches cake and the rumchata mousse cake. Both items are wonderful and, as wonderful as the cinco leches cake (consisting of condensed milk, half-and-half, heavy cream, evaporated milk and La Lechera) was, I ever-so-slightly favored the mousse cake.
Drinks were similarly impressive. I thought about trying the tempting Blackberry Smash (consisting of bourbon, blackberry, lemon and mint), but server Carlos Moreno (who made every dish and drink sound heavenly) upped the ante with a spontaneous mango mojito after hearing I liked the fruitand the result was absolutely delightful. My friend had a Smoky Pepino, which combines mezcal, cucumber and lime; needless to say, she loved it.
Chicagoans previously had the excuse of distance to miss what Mesa Urbana offered. However, there is no reason to pass by this restaurant now.