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Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicken mole: a reason to visit Mi Barrio

Playing peek-a-boo with a chelada
I've written not-very-positively about the food at Mi Barrio in Grant Park several times. It certainly beat the utterly wretched cooking at the nearby, short-lived El Toro, and it's always been festive, especially for consuming mammoth cheladas, like the one behind which Wayne hides in the photo at right.

But the food has been disappointing, even if compellingly served in a dining room whose walls are populated by saints and Aztec chieftans amid stringed lights and flag-colored swags. And that's just a hint of the setting.

My opinion of the food changes somewhat following dinner there Thursday night. I ordered a special of chicken mole that shocked my jaded piehole. The kitchen makes the chocolate-tinged mole from scratch, which is impressive in itself. The first, intense taste of the sauce almost caused me to balk, but it became tortilla-dipping savory right away. The chicken itself was also a surprise. Besides a drumstick and thigh, there was a juicy breast on the plate. If you've eaten much of this dish, you know that the breast is often overcooked and dry.

The dish's rice was fluffy and the beans, virtually pureed, were a creamy departure from the usual after-thought of congealed effluvia.

Wayne ordered the carne-asada plate. It didn't measure up to the chicken mole, but any deficiency was compensated by the Clamato-diluted beer, which caused him to belt-out "Happy Birthday" along with the group at a nearby table. Fully sober, I cringed. Somebody had to.

I suggest you call the restaurant to learn when the chicken mole is available and give it a try. The restaurant is inconsistent, however, so be forewarned.

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