River North has its share of Mexican and Mexican-inspired restaurants, from extremely high-end to the occasional dive. Right in the middle of this continuum sits one of the best of the Mexican offerings in River North – Moe’s Cantina, located at 155 West Kinzie. Most people seem to think of Moe’s as a bar first and a restaurant second. After my recent visit, I would swap that around. The food and cocktails are both excellent, but for my money the food is the star at Moe’s.
I was recently invited to sample the menu at Moe’s so I took an intrepid foodie friend along and we went with no specific expectations. Both of us were blown away by the variety and quality of the food. Let’s start with the ubiquitous “chips and salsa.” The chips are made fresh in-house (as they should be) and the salsas are stellar. We sampled six of their premium, home-made salsas. If you are adventurous, ask your server for the “secret salsa.” It’s not on the menu, so you have to ask for it. Beware! It’s very, very hot but if you’re a fan of spicy hot salsa, then you must check this one out.
Tacos are of course a staple on Mexican menus, but at Moe’s they are elevated above your “standard” taco with such intriguing options as oyster, octopus, seared tuna, and lamb. We tried three varieties:
- Ribeye – The night we visited, this was an item “in process” and not on the menu yet. When it does make the menu, you must order it. The ribeye is sliced to order and is tender, delicious, and definitely worth a try. The flour tortillas are imported from Mexico, so you are sure to sample something authentic that you cannot get anywhere else in the city.
- Tacos al Pastor (Mesquite grilled pork tenderloin with three chile spice rub marinade, grilled vegetables, cilantro, onions, salsa taquera) – This is a standard taco on most Mexican menus, and theirs is good. It tends to be a tiny bit dry, but if you add a dab of salsa and some of the tasty roasted veggies they provide on the side, you will love this taco.
- Tacos al Langosta (Lobster tacos) – Wow! Just the presentation alone will make your mouth water. I moved here from the coast of New England, so I’m a hard sell on lobster. This was excellent!
Here’s a suggestion. Try out Moe’s on Tuesdays then they offer “All You Can Eat” tacos for $22. That may sound steep at first, but when you factor in the high quality of items like the Tacos al Langosta, you will easily see this as an amazing bargain. It’s all “mix and match” so you can have as many of each as you want.
The entrée menu is also impressive with items such as Parrillada de Carnes (Tabletop grill which serves four, with rib-eye steak, short ribs, skirt steak, bone-in chicken, mixed vegetables, pineapple, Spanish rice, black beans, corn tortillas). Another excellent option would be the wonderful mesquite-grilled skewers. Clearly, this is not your typical Mexican restaurant. It’s far better than most.
One frequent complaint I hear from friends who work in River North is the lack of great spots for lunch. Moe’s can definitely help you out on that score. They also have a wonderful weekend brunch with large portions of many menu favorites including Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, and excellent skillet preparations.
You cannot talk about a restaurant/bar without mentioning the cocktails. Moe’s has extensive drink menus for Beer/Wine/Tequila, Cocktails/Bottles, and Margaritas. We sampled several that were memorable including:
- El Sueño (Pineapple-infused 4 Rebels Premium Vodka, coconut cream, roasted coconut water, lime juice, toasted coconut flake rim) – Surprisingly not overly sweet. The roasted coconut water and the coconut flake rim gave this drink extra layers of flavor.
Passion Fruit Sangria(Lunazal Reposado, habanero-infused syrup, passion fruit puree, pinot grigio, ground chili pepper rim, jalapeno chili pepper-Lunazal Reposado “boat”) – A large half of a jalapeño rests across the top of this drink, filled with tequila. You can either shoot the tequila directly out of the pepper or mix it into the drink. Very inventive! And the sangria was fresh and not too sweet.
If you are in the mood for excellent Mexican food without spending a small fortune, then Moe’s Cantina is the perfect solution. Moe’s is located at 155 West Kinzie. You can reach them at (312) 245-2000. For more information, visit their website, “like” them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.