One of our Twitter followers told me to hunt up some green chile during my recent trip out west because there isn’t any in Chicago. But when Abiquiu Cafe opened it’s doors earlier this month that changed — it’s a BYOB that specializes in “the smothered cuisine of New Mexico and Colorado,” and the pork green chile sauce is a standout on the menu that certainly adds a little spice to the neighborhood. Located just steps from the Belmont train station, a group of girlfriends and I made our way there last week to see if that spice would please our palates and help us ward off the January chill. Our overall take is a mixed bag — there are some kinks to work out, but the place has potential.
The dust has barely settled at Abiquiu Cafe. It opened roughly three weeks ago, and there isn’t coffeepot in the kitchen because it hasn’t been delivered yet. The staff is still learning about the menu too — if you read the restaurant Web site carefully, chances are you’ll know as much or more than your server does about the menu. Still, despite general newness, and a few ordering mix-ups, the service manages to be friendly, and the dining space is pleasant and welcoming. In fact, the last time I was in the same dining room it was for pierogi counter service, and the warm room that’s there now, complete with a fireplace, is such a welcome change from the narrow, florescent lit space I remember that at first I wasn’t even sure it was the same place.
The menu options are limited with five starters, five main dishes and four desserts to choose from. But they are focused and extremely affordable — you pick two main dishes and the sauce you want to top them (or you can get the sauce on the side) for $13. Starters and desserts ring in at $3 to $6 each.
We started with the corn muffins with chile orange butter and then ate our way through the chile relleno, enchilada casserole, tamale, stuffed sopaipilla and the chicken special. Sauce is king here, and the taste of each main dish varies drastically depending on which sauce you choose — green with a meat base, red, which is vegetarian, or a mix of the two. You also have the choice between mild and hot, and all chiles are roasted in-house. The sauces were flavorful and rich with texture which made them memorable.
We were so full that we never made it to dessert officially, but we were still tempted by the classic sopaipillas and honey our server brought us — a great way to top off a rather heavy meal.
If you’re hungry and don’t want to empty your wallet, this is a good choice. But I’d let them settle in a bit first.
1034 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657