You know those restaurants where there is ALWAYS a line, no matter what time of day you try to go? In St. Louis, our famous custard stand Ted Drewes consistently has groups of people in queue, even when the temperatures dip below freezing. I kid you not. In New York, the Shake Shack (also started by a guy from St. Louis) even installed a webcam on their roof so customers can check out how long the line is before they make the trek to Madison Square Park. I’ve waited over an hour in that line for a hot dog and vanilla custard.
The thing is, if people are willing to wait that long for food, then it has to be good. It really does. I mean, those people all can’t have bad taste in food. I know herd mentality isn’t always a healthy notion to live your life by, but trust me, it was okay this time. And if you don’t trust me, trust Rick Bayless. Because I was at his restaurant.
XOCO opened a little over a year ago on the north side of Chicago, near his other established restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. I have been to none of these, a sad admission for a self-professed foodie who lives in Chicago. I mean, it’s Rick Bayless. He’s cooked for the president.
My friends and I arrived at around 1:00 p.m. on a Friday and were greeted with this lovely line outside the door.
I had two thoughts: 1) Good thing the weather is nice 2) I hope no one tried to come here on their lunch break because I’m not sure they’re going to make it back before it’s time to clock out for the weekend.
Eventually, we made it inside and were able to locate a menu. Choosing what we wanted wasn’t easy. I don’t know if it was nice to have all that time to make up my mind or not. I think we all changed what we planned to order an average of three times by the time we made it to the register.
On its website, XOCO claims to be a “quick-service” (ha) cafe that offers Mexican street food and snacks, like churros, empanadas, Mexican hot chocolate and tortas. Everything on the menu looked delicious, especially after I saw this sign.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for real food from local farms and gardens. XOCO also was awarded LEED Gold certification for its environmentally conscious build-out. Holla to my friends of sustainability.
By the time we all ordered, were given a table and got our food, an hour had passed by. Good thing this guacamole came five minutes before our entrees. I didn’t have any, but my friends assured me the chips and dip were worthy of a clear scoopage. Translation: no guac was left behind.
For my entree, I chose the Pepito Torta: braised tallgrass shortribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos. My sister has programmed me to always choose the braised shortribs. I swoon in front of caramelized onion. Ashley, this torta is our love child, in food.
I feel like the best way of explaining how good it was is to say all that waiting time was worth it. And that we’ve all agreed to make time to come again soon. More than an hour and a half after we first arrived, we walked out and past a line that was as long as it was when we first came. But instead of feeling foolish for spending half an afternoon waiting for food, I felt like I had just entered into an elite club…endurance dining anyone?
How long have you voluntarily waited for food? What was it? And do you want to join my club?