The Reader's Choice: Mixteco Grill
I struggled to get a consensus from my fellow food contributors before crowning one of the many worthy contenders in this category. But all the possibilities—the Publican, Takashi, Mado, Mercat a la Planxa—had one thing or another that gave us pause, and most often it was money. Even the most obvious choice, Laurent Gras' magnificent L2O, stuck in our craws—at those prices it had damn well better be superior.
Though I couldn't get a unanimous vote, the winner in the end was Lakeview's pan-Mexican (but mostly Oaxacan) Mixteco Grill. It's unassuming from the outside, but chef-owner Raul Arreola and his staff are vets of many of the city's upper-echelon Mexican spots, and the brilliantly flavored and affordable appetizers and entrees here compete with the best of 'em, from the creamy poblano-sauced corn tamales known as uchepos gratinados and the fish tacos to lamb in mole and slow-cooked cochinita pibil dressed with the hottest habanero salsa north of the Yucatan. The food, the BYO policy that keeps the restaurant accessible to a wide range of budgets, and the back-bendingly friendly service all contributed to an early popularity that may have stretched Mixteco's capabilities to the limit. But a recent expansion should make the place even more diner friendly. 1601 W. Montrose, 773-868-1601. —Mike Sula
&Our readers' choiceThe Publican
845 W. Fulton, 312-733-9555, thepublicanrestaurant.com.