The other day I read an article about living for the moment. So this morning I decided to do just that. In a rare instance of no projects, conference calls, or deadlines, I decided to take the morning off and have breakfast at XOCO.
Considering the temp was 22 degrees and the first snow of the season was dusting the streets, it wasn’t my kind of day to breeze to River North for any excursion. What yanked me out of the cozy comfort of my home was knowing how sublime everything at my destination would be. As with the cuisine at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, a visit to XOCO, the year-old addition to Rick Bayless’s Mexican food empire, does not disappoint. XOCO honors the street food flavors of Mexico while drawing on the freshness and quality of local purveyors.
While lunch and dinner continue to draw crowds, breakfast is practically a Zen experience. No crowds, no din, no wait. After placing my order, I had my choice of seats, and was able to snag a spot by the single large window in the rear. I sipped on my café con leche and watched the snow swirl outside. I could get used to this real quick, I thought. (Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me at first, Rick Bayless and a few business types were holding a meeting at a table nearby.)
Minutes later, I was enjoying my breakfast special: a poblano-scrambled egg empanada, a fresh churro, and my coffee—a trifecta offered for $6.50 (your choice of empanada and drink). The tender, flavorful pie is the perfect vessel for dipping into the accompanying verdant tomatillo salsa. Nothing fancy, but elegant simplicity. This is how Bayless has described Mexican street food. That notion came to me as I was scooping up every last crumb on my plate. And showing no restraint, I bought a ham, woodland mushroom, and cheese empanada to-go for tomorrow’s breakfast. (Tip: If you want to do an order to go, you can skip the main line and place for your order at the register near the wood-burning oven.)
Elegant simplicity characterizes the other breakfast options as well. You might choose to start your day with fresh churros rolled in cinnamon sugar, a scone-like biscocho with Mexican chocolate and toasted almonds, or the ham, poblano, and cheese bread pudding. Or try a ginger-lime muffin or organic yogurt with housemade granola. Me, I find even the humble toasted bolillo (specially made for XOCO) with butter and jam and the hot chocolate made from Mexican cacao beans ground on the premises a simple but sublime way to start the day.
449 North Clark Street
Closed Sunday and Monday
Note: Breakfast served only till 10:00am