Life is full of surprises, but rarely does a restaurant surprise me. Mesa Urbana is a welcoming exception to that rule. This new Mexican restaurant is tucked away in an unassuming strip mall on Milwaukee Avenue in Northbrook. If you were to drive by, you might easily miss it. Here’s my advice: don’t drive by – pull into the parking lot, stop, and enjoy some of the best Mexican food in the Chicago area.
Since opening its doors just 6 short months ago, Mesa Urbana has received tremendous praise and rave reviews, and with good reason. The food is superb, the décor modern and inviting, and the service is friendly and professional. Reviews have described Mesa Urbana’s décor as having a downtown, city feel with an urban vibe. The suburban strip mall location may surprise you, but you will definitely feel that vibe when you enter . . . and the food will keep you coming back.
Described as a Mexican Fusion restaurant, the menu was created by Moe Taleb who previously owned Kith & Kin, a gastro pub in Chicago and Chef Eusebio Garcia who worked at several successful restaurants such as Park Grill in Millennium Park and Red Light Restaurant on Randolph Street where he was the sous chef.
On a recent visit, my guest and I were stunned at the crowds. Every single table in the 120-seat restaurant was full and the bar was three deep with people waiting for tables. Clearly, Mesa Urbana has hit the right notes for Northbrook but it is also a restaurant I would recommend to anyone in the Chicago area. I drove there from Oak Park and the commute was just over 30 minutes. Frankly, it takes me longer to get to most Chicago restaurants. It is well worth a drive to the northwestern ‘burbs to explore Mesa Urbana’s fantastic Mexican fusion cuisine.
On our visit, we sampled a number of items from Mesa Urbana’s extensive menu. The chips and salsa that arrive when you first sit down are something special. The chips themselves are freshly fried, crunchy and warm. The tomatillo-based salsa also arrives warm! It is the first time I have ever been served warm salsa, and the combination with the freshly-cooked chips was extraordinarily good.
Sample the Ceviche Trio – an inventive selection of three ceviche preparations served alongside several different dipping options including cucumber, celery, and the warm chips. The Guacamole, too, is freshly-prepared and certainly worth a try. On our visit, one of the specials was a superb salmon dish that was the best salmon preparation I have tasted in quite a long time. My entrée was the Carne Asada, a traditional item on most Mexican menus. Mesa Urbana’s version was delicious – cooked perfectly medium rare and served with a variety of excellent sides.
Mesa Urbana is opened for lunch and dinner every day but Monday and is at 3566 N. Milwaukee, Northbrook. You can get more information on the website. Follow their social media conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.