During our trip last November into Chicago to see the Iowa/Northwestern football game with our friends Scott and Marcia Schroeder, and Dave and Pat Heusmann, we decided to find a good Mexican restaurant for our meal the second night we were there. On a whim, I found El Jardin Norte, a little Mexican restaurant in The Glen Town Center - a residential and commercial subdivision that was developed on the former site of the old Glenview Naval Air Station. (see map)
El Jardin Norte is the outgrowth of the original El Jardin that's located on North Clark in Chicago near Wrigley Field (see map). El Jardin has been in business since 1966 when three sisters from Mexico opened the restaurant. They immediately found a large following of their family's signature Mexican dishes and great margaritas. Over the years, they had to expand a number of times as their business grew. Today, the grandson of one of the sisters, Augustine Quinondes, runs the restaurants.
The El Jardin (which is "The Garden in English) restaurants are not only famous for their authentic Mexican food, but for their large selection of premium tequila's and world class margaritas. Dave Heusmann is a connoisseur of fine tequila, so he was in heaven.
I was a little worried about El Jardin Norte as from the outside it looked sort of large. I'm of the mindset the smaller the Mexican restaurant, the better the food. But going inside the restaurant, my fears dwindled as I saw a cozy little place with a nice bar and a not so large attached dining area. The host, who was a very nice man, told us that it would be about 45 minutes to get seated. Well, that just gave Dave time to walk over to the bar and check out the top-shelf tequila collection.
El Jardin Norte's margarita menu is pretty extensive with a number of interesting drinks. The women got margaritas that had top shelf tequila, Grand Marnier or Blue Curacao in them. I tried a Cadillac Margarita - Jose Cuervo Especial with Grand Marnier and lemon juice. It was very good.
During all of this, Dave was trying a couple of different tequila's. I don't think there was one El Jardin Norte had that he hadn't tried. I took a couple of sips of the ones that he got. They were really smooth.
We were able to look over the menu while we waited. The food listed was definitely authentic and it all looked yummy. They're famous for their Carne Asada - a marinated skirt steak cooked over charcoal. In fact, a lot of their main entrees came from the grill including pork and chicken. They also had grilled red snapper tacos, as well. I was leaning toward getting those.
About 25 minutes after we got in to the very busy bar area, the host came over and said that he had a table for us. A large party had left and they were setting tables up for us and a couple other groups. The host was certainly accommodating and was very nice.
We were seated toward the back of the restaurant along the wall. We immediately got chips and salsa and ended up ordering their homemade guacamole. The waiter came back out and said, "Oh, we just ran out of guacamole." We were sort of bummed and resigned ourselves to the fact that we could just have chips and salsa.
Suddenly, the host - who must have also been the manager - came back to our table and said, "Did you folks order guacamole?" We said we did. He said, "We had a batch hiding in the cooler in the kitchen. We'll bring some out if you still want it." And, once again, we said we did. And I'm glad we got the guacamole. It was very fresh and flavorful.
I was in a quandary as to what to get for dinner. Everything looked great. The pork tips in the green sauce was tempting, as were the red snapper tacos. They had spicy enchiladas with a special spicy sauce from San Luis Potosi, the hometown of the three sisters who opened the original El Jardin. Just the regular enchiladas sounded good.
At the last moment, I saw they had a combination plate where you had your pick of three of either a taco, tostada, chimichanga and a burrito. And you could pick your ingredients from beef, pork, chorizo sausage, chicken, etc. So, I ordered a pork taco and burrito, and got the beef chimichanga. Beans and rice came with the meal on the side.
When our meals came a little later on, it was like Mexican heaven. My pork taco and burrito was wonderful, the beef chimichanga was just as good. Everyone's meal at the table was exceptional. I don't remember what everyone got, but they all raved about the food. It was simply excellent.
Other than the high prices of the margaritas, I thought the food prices at El Jardin Norte were very reasonable. It was a great find and it's a place that I'll definitely be going back to sometime in the future.