Know how your parents/teachers always said never to judge a book by its cover? Well, clearly they were talking about Chilam Balam. From the outside, you’d never guess that this little spot is as amazing as it is and that it won the Bib Gourmand Award in the 2014 Michelin Guide (which recognizes extraordinary and affordable restaurants).
When we walked down the stairs into the restaurant, we felt like we had just entered the cozy basement of a friendly family’s house in Mexico. We were greeted warmly and seated quickly, which was fabulous because we’d heard that normally there is quite the wait. The soft lighting, exposed brick and colorful decor made us want to kick back, relax, and eat a ton of guacamole, which we promptly started doing. But not before opening our vino, of course!
Their BYOB policy allows for one bottle of wine per two people, and for $11 extra they can turn any bottle of wine into sangria. So awesome. We opted to stick with our dry Garnacha rosé (perfect with ANY Mexican dish), but if you’re going the sangria route, we’d recommend a fruity Merlot, Garnacha, Tempranillo (make sure it’s a Crianza!), an unoaked Carmenere, or a Zinfandel.
After the rosé was finished (no problem), we opened a big, rich bottle of Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain, which was great with some of the meats we were ordering. Other reds that would have done well: a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon or Chilean Pinot Noir and really any of the wines we recommended for sangria-use. Wanna get a little crazy? Try a Lambrusco! Our top white wine recommendations would be a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Verdejo/Macabeo blend, or a refreshing Vinho Verde.
Remember, if you’re going spicy, pick a wine that is chilled, sweet/slightly sweet and/or lower in alcohol!
It’s all tapas (small shared plates) sooooo we recommend going nuts and ordering a lot. We did!
- taco flacos, shrimp salad, tobiko, chipotle mayo, tortilla strips, avocado, lime*
- shiitake mushroom empanadas w/ grilled veggies, Wisconsin jack cheese, salsa verde
- alligator sausage huarache, tomatillo molcajete, romaine, celery root slaw, queso fresco*
- mahi mahi ceviche, habanero, tomato, cucumber and fresh lime
- grilled beef short ribs, salsa mexicana, sweet potato fries, scallions
- corn masa memelas, black beans, aged goat cheese, arbol salsa and dressed shoots*
Definitely ask your server for recommendations because they know their stuff and the menu changes fairly frequently to keep things seasonal. You’ll feel even better about your meal knowing ingredients were sourced from local farmers and ranchers. #shoplocal #eatlocal #lovelocal
In conclusion, we walked out extremely full and extremely satisfied. Buen Trabajo, Chilam Balam!
Word to the wise:
It’s a “cash only” restaurant so be sure to hit the bank/ATM before you sit down! Or bring the wine and let others pay for your dinner.
Chilam Balam | 3023 N. Broadway | (773) 296-6901