5 Rabanitos in Chicago’s Pilsen neighbourhood | Delicious, authentic Mexican food

by W. Andrew Powell
5 Rabanitos in Pilsen, Chicago

5 Rabanitos | Website
1725 W 18th St, Chicago

If you spent a week visiting all of Chicago’s top neighbourhoods, you might still miss some of the best restaurants in town; there are so many wonderful places to eat. One gem that stands out is Chef Alfonso Sotelo’s 5 Rabanitos in Pilsen, an authentic Mexican institution in the city, in one of the most vibrant areas.

The well-priced restaurant stands out in Pilsen, an area rich in Latino culture and heritage, not to mention beautiful murals that celebrate the people and history of the area. Opened in 1975, 5 Rabanitos is bright, vibrant, and the menu is absolutely beautiful. I wanted to try everything.

Ceviche Verde

While the inside of the restaurant is warm and welcoming, the outdoor patio is lively, with a bright mural that sets the tone for the meal ahead.

The patio is a charming glimpse into the neighbourhood, with a casual, relaxed atmosphere, with Latin music playing, and some of the nicest, most helpful staff I’ve met.

I had a very hard time picking my meal, but the staff sold me on the ceviche verde to start, a fresh medley of avocado, cucumber, cilantro with shrimp, with a hint of heat, and perfect, crisp tortilla chips. Together, it was a wonderful mix of textures and flavours, and warmth, and it’s the perfect size to share.

A few other things that sounded amazing from the starters included the coctel del mar, queso fundido, and street elotitos.

For the main course, I was strongly advised to try the pot roast, and the name may sound simple, it’s a gorgeous dish of braised short ribs, served with rice, mole manchamanteles sauce, ancho chile-roasted plantain, and calabazitas verdes.

The roast is perfectly tender, and juicy, with spectacular flavour, sweetness, and it’s a huge portion. Once again, you could easily share this dish, if you’re being kind, and it comes with tortillas, but I ate half of it with a fork and it was delicious either way.

Pot Roast
Pot Roast

There are a lot of other main dishes to pick from, and I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. Everyone at the restaurant looked so happy with their choices. Even though I want to try more from the menu, whenever I can get back to 5 Rabanitos, I would still order the pot roast again.

For dessert, there were a few great options, including classic tres leches, tartaleta de limon, and chocolate pecan pie, but I picked the Mexican cinnamon bread pudding, and it was a wonderful sweet treat to finish the meal.

They serve the bread pudding warm, with strawberry ice cream, and it’s subtle, light, with great texture, and a perfect amount of cinnamon. The dish is like a warm hug that’s kind and comforting, just like this exceptional restaurant.

I only had a few hours in Pilsen, but I could have spent most of the day checking out all the places here. The area was such a highlight in Chicago for me, and you need to take a walk and discover the art, murals, take in the culture and the community, and then stop at 5 Rabanitos for a beautiful meal.

If you’re looking for more to do in the area, Chicago Greeter offers free tours of the Pilsen neighbourhood, and I highly recommend booking one to really explore these vibrant communities. You can book tours on their website.

Thanks to 5 Rabanitos and Choose Chicago for the hospitality.

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