So I did the pizza at Giordano's and the hot dog at Downtown Dog. I took some of your advice, and I took advice from Chicagoans on the street.
I was in Chicago for two and a half days, and I ate my fair share. I was also at a conference, so a few of my meals were moot points: Irish bars. Finally, I was alone, so spending a ton of money on a singing salad tower and foie gras lollipops did not sound appealing--not unless I could share it. Still, I wanted to make my last meal special.
It was amazing. I had breakfast at Xoco by Rick Bayless.
I was told that people stand in line at lunch for the tortas and caldos. And why wouldn't they, when Rick Bayless (winner of Top Chef Masters) has studied and practiced Mexican food and culture for what seem to be hundreds of years and has perfected the art and the tradition. Yes folks, he is American, but I would argue that his soul is truly Mexican. I'd give him the key to my city!
Bayless offers the best of Mexican street food: tortas de jamon, de cochinita pibil, de queso de puerco. Mmmmm. And he has a variety of caldos each day: short rib chile soup with potatoes and chayote, fideos and pork belly, among others.
Are his offerings as cheap as Mexican street food on a Mexican street? No, but they are just as cheap as a Chicago pizza or a hot dog, and the quality of ingredients is superb--Bayless is a patron of local farmers. Let me give you an example.
I had the Azteca hot chocolate, with a crispy, light churro. The cacao beans are ground on the premises. Need I say more?
My open faced breakfast torta took me back to my grandmother's house in central Mexico with its spread of black beans (just like Teresa used to make), a poached egg, and a salsa ranchera with fresh diced serranos and queso fresco--to die! And for all of this I paid $8. Satisfied with my meal and my bill I decided to buy a miniature pan de muerto to have later for lunch. Authentic? More Mexican than Mexican. Period. End of Sentence.