Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Abiquiu Cafe

Another Cubs campaign has started (with initial results not looking too promising) and this one marks our 11th year as night/weekend season ticket holders. Now that I'm a food fanatic, I've started using my forays into Wrigleyville for night games as an excuse to visit new eateries in the immediate area. Often times, I find that my dining experience before the game outshines the game itself. Case in point - this past Wednesday, showers and thunderstorms loomed on the darkening horizon as I took leave of my vehicle near Belmont and Southport about 90 minutes ahead of first pitch versus the reviled Cardinals (always a fun game to attend). Normally, I don't park in this neighborhood since parking on most of the nearby side streets during night games is restricted to local residents, but this time, I found a legal spot a few blocks out of the permit zone so I could easily access my target destination: Abiquiu Cafe (please don't ask me how to pronounce it - I had to inquire myself and I still don't think I get it), conveniently located at Belmont and Kenmore, only about 6 blocks from the park.

This restaurant caught my attention when it first opened in January of this year since they bill themselves as the only place in town serving New Mexico/American Southwest cuisine. Now, I've been to New Mexico a handful of times and my impression of the food was basically American-style Mexican (think enchiladas) with lots of green chiles. Upon scanning the menu when I first sat down in the empty dining room (most of the fans must have been eating hot dogs at the ballpark instead), I discovered that the entrees were separated into two sections: New Mexico-inspired dishes (like enchiladas and chile rellenos) and Southwest-inspired dishes (which seemed to include a combination of High Plains Texas stuff like Amarillo chicken roll and barbequed meats, along with a smattering of dishes from Arizona). Apparently, there is unity among the Southwestern states regarding appetizers since there was only a single section for these - I had to get an order of the mini sopaipillas (small fried puff pastries of sweet dough) and three dipping sauces (southwest pesto, chili aioli, and Abiquiu red). Of these, the chili aioli was the standout by far, its flavor combining with the chewy sopaipilla reminding me of the hot dog crepe that you used to be able to get at the long-defunct Magic Pan restaurant (disappeared from Woodfield Mall back in 1983 or so - I'm showing my age here), in two words, simply badass. The entree that sounded most intriguing to me was the chile rellenos, a dish that I've enjoyed at other places. At Abiquiu, they took 2 large poblano peppers, hollowed them out and filled them with a combo of Chihuahua cheese and chorizo (you can also get them stuffed with beef/potatoes or black beans/corn), then lightly breaded them and fried them before smothering them Christmas-style (that is, one in red sauce and one in green). I chose a green chile pozole (corn soup) and spicy black beans as my sides, both of which were excellent with the peppers.

By the time I finished my food, the restaurant was still mostly empty, which is a shame since there seems to be a lot to like food-wise here. As for the game, the two teams only managed to get 2 innings in before the storms hit, unleashing a biblical-scale downpour on the field, with a 53-minute rain delay ensuing. I had to leave well before the game concluded, but was kept company on my long walk back to the car by the warm feeling of red/green chiles in my tummy (mmmmm)......

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