I wasn’t sure that Chicago really needed another Mexican restaurant, especially a chain from Texas, but it was hard to ignore the prominent stone building on the corner of State and Illinois. Guacamole, tacos, and a few margaritas later, I was pleasantly surprised by Cantina Laredo.
The décor at Cantina Laredo is anything but your average chain restaurant – it’s beautiful, modern, and upscale. There is a bar large enough to find a seat, even in a crowd, as well as plenty of tables to fit your whole party. In fact, my party of four didn’t have to wait at all to be seated at 7pm on a Friday. There are also a few private rooms for more intimate seating which are all surrounded by glass so you still feel like you’re a part of the restaurant and not stuffed back in a “party room.”
They don’t call this place a “cantina” for no reason. There are eight different margaritas to choose from, ranging from pomegranate to mango to blackberry. I stuck with the traditional Casa Rita and it did the trick. There are also hand-muddled mojitos and a tequila flight to wet your whistle.
The food was as good as I’ve had at any other upscale Mexican restaurant in the city. We were able to customize our table-side guacamole with a variety of ingredients and the woman who made the guac was quite friendly and added to the experience. The Tacos de Pollo, which are served as three mini tacos with avocado, pico de gallo, queso, and a bit of poblano sauce drizzled over the top had just enough kick for someone who loves spicy food. Not surprisingly, the tacos are served with rice and beans, which was more than enough food to leave feeling stuffed. The pescetarian in our group ordered the Ensalada de Camaron, which was bigger than your average entrée salad and filled with grilled shrimp, mangos, roasted walnuts, and goat cheese. It was so tasty that this meat lover may order it next time I go back – and I will be back.
For a more laid-back evening, make your way up to the more casual second floor and graze on mini tuna tacos, crab cakes, or shrimp flatbread on the small plates menu. When it’s warm enough the windows on the second floor open so you feel like you’re dining al fresco.
Whitney Hewitt is the founder of Gatz Optimize, a social media consulting and marketing agency. With over eight years in marketing and communications, Hewitt puts her skills to work for both small businesses and Fortune 500 corporations. She is also the President of the Chicago chapter of Femfessionals, a professional organization dedicated to connecting and promoting savvy women in the Windy City. Follow Whitney @GatzSocialMedia.