In Andersonville, a new Mexican spot leads a locavore revolution.
To understand, appreciate and, yes, enjoy what is happening at Cantina 1910, the bustling new neo-Mexican spot in Andersonville, one would do well to begin with the ceviche clásico ($14). Served in a wide-brimmed glass bowl, its vivid colors are plenty inviting and its ingredients simple: shrimp, tomato, onion, zucchini and salsa macha, a pungent dried chile and vinegar concoction. But the simplicity resides only on the surface. The dish balances perfectly—the kitchen has it nailed every time—and even less visible is the fact that its tomatoes are from innovative grower MightyVine, a greenhouse operation 80 miles west of Chicago (profiled this month in “The Next List”). The cuisine at Cantina 1910 strives to blend local Midwestern ingredients with the rich culinary history south of the border. It’s a delicious, buzzy success.
The five menu sections: Picaduras (to share) including a mild, fresh guacamole (served, on one occasion, with both fried chicken-skin chips and tostaditos—corn chips given a “wash” of beef fat); Ceviches (along with the clásico there are three more, including the corazon curado, salted beef heart that we did not gaucho up for); Tacos, five types, including a delicious al pastor ($8) with adobo spit-roasted pork, wheatgrass and tomatillo; Antojitos (small plates); and full dinner Platillos.
These last two allow Executive Chef Diana Dávila, who grew up working in her parents’ Chicago-area taqueria, to show her stuff. Arroz negro ($14) is a savory plate of black rice (colored with squid ink) and squid picadito, topped with an addictive corn crema, a kind of savory chowder foam. Chorizo de chivo ($12), made with goat, arrives simply grilled with a verde sauce and disappears fast. In the big plates section, try the crowd-pleasing puerco en cazuela ($28), pork tenderloin served sliced atop a savory mound of carnitas, chorizo and red beans, like a Mexican cassoulet.
The drink offerings show plenty of love and thought. The Jacko’s Ponche ($13) cocktail—with Vida mezcal, Ancho Reyes (a chile liqueur) and absinthe—will get you plenty of attention as it’s served with a side of cranberry dry-ice vapor that you waft into your glass. But the real winner here is the 1910 Old Fashioned ($13)—bourbon, bitters, a twist and a cherry, as anywhere, but given smoky intrigue with the addition of Vida mezcal. A dozen of the 17 beers hail from Illinois; four come from elsewhere in the Midwest. The only familiar label is the outlier—Modelo Especial, from Mexico City. From the eclectic wine list, our entire table adored the Petalos Mencia ($66), a deep red, gorgeous Spanish fruit bomb.
All of this delight takes place in a design-forward two-story space that is the handsomest restaurant in the neighborhood. What will become the rooftop garden is now an ordinary empty Chicago roof, just off the second-floor dining area, but when the weather breaks, there’s room for plenty of herbs and vegetables to thrive. The menu will then become even more local. Could it possibly become even more tastier? We’ll be there to find out.
5025 N. Clark St.
Open daily for dinner, 5-10pm
1910 Old Fashioned......$13
Puerco en cazuela.......$28