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A New Chip Off The Old Block
It’s easy to feel like you know everything there is to know about Mexican street food. Tacos, burritos, and enchiladas are all pretty standard fare. But throw Chef Dudley Nieto in the mix and you learn that a chip is not just a chip.
The acclaimed chef recently opened Totopo Mexican Grill in Oak Brook, a counter service restaurant that offers authentic cuisine. Instead of plain old tortilla chips this casual spot offers totopos. Similar to a tortilla, this traditional item from the Zapotec peoples is salted and then baked versus the other way around. Totopo offers four types of chips that you can sample, along with their four types of salsas, before approaching the counter. I stopped in this weekend and my personal favorite combination was the tomato basil with the tres chiles salsa, but they also offer blue corn, yellow corn, and chipotle chips and guaca, roasted tomatillo, and habanero (HOT!) salsas.
I’ve had Chef Nieto’s guacamole so I had to get some of that delicious, creamy dip. In addition to traditional the restaurant also offers guava. For dinner I had shrimp tacos, one of the dialy specials. Those were good, but honestly they were so overshadowed by my guest’s Cubana torta I don’t know if I got the true flavor of them.
The Cubana is a complex sandwich of flavors that go perfectly together. Roasted pork, ham, chorizo, panela cheese and chipotle butter combine so well my taste buds did a happy dance and my poor tacos seemed bland in comparison.
We tried two of their desserts. One was capirotada, Mexican bread pudding with rompope, cajeta, and coconut ice cream. Rompope is Mexican eggnog and cajeta is Mexican syrup made with caramelized milk. Delicious. The other dessert was the tamale de chocolate. This was a corn husk filled with rich, thick, gooey dark chocolate and served with real vanilla bean ice cream.
While Totopo is a casual counter service place, they also offer alcohol. The margaritas are made with top shelf liquors and they make the sangria in house. They also offer wine and beer. Another way it stands out is that Chef Nieto, who has more than 25 years of experience and counts consultant for PBS, cookbook author, and James Beard winner as just some of his accomplishments, will be teaching cooking classes in the spring.
Totopo is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm and Sunday from Noon to 9pm.