The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Northwest Side Restaurant Review: Don Juan's Restaurante/Patricio

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 6, 2007 5:00PM

2007_03_Donjuan1.jpgYou know those restaurants where you could close your eyes, point to anything on the menu, and end up with an out-of-this-world dish? That’s Don Juan’s Restaurante in Edison Park.

Frontera Grill, Salpicon, and Adobo Grill may hold claim to some of the best Mexican food downtown, but family-owned Don Juan’s has been an Edison Park mainstay for just as long, or longer. On most nights, a lively crowd packs the main dining room with wood-paneled walls and colorful Mexican artwork creating a casual, homey feel. Owner Maria Concannon and her son/head chef Patrick developed a lengthy list of classic, authentic Mexican dishes reflecting their roots. Burritos, tacos, carne asada, and enchilades may sound simple, but the food never disappoints, at least not in our 10 years as a Don Juan’s regular. For the record: the enchiladas with a spicy-sweet, chocolate mole sauce will knock your socks off.

If you want a little higher-end experience, however, ask for special reservations at Patricio, a separate dining room in the back with an entryway that requires a walk through the kitchen, a la VIP treatment. Patricio features a more upscale, seasonal menu of contemporary American and European-style dishes with Mexican influences created exclusively by Patrick, who received his culinary training under Charlie Trotter. Patricio also offers a quieter, finer-dining atmosphere with white tablecloths, light colored walls and large front windows that allow lots of light, in contrast to the more dimly lit main dining room. For this review, Chicagoist dined at Patricio in the back, although both menus are available in either dining room.

2007_03_donjuan2.jpgWhen our server arrived, we ordered two big must-haves: a round of hand-shaken margaritas (of course) and the homemade guacamole. The latter was artfully presented as a perfectly shaped, flat, circular mound of creamy avocado goodness, set atop a jet black plate sprinkled with diced tomatoes, red onions and cilantro. Add to that some homemade chips and, for some heat, a touch of the accompanying smoked chipotle salsa, and we were off to a good start. By round two of margaritaville, we ordered the bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and jalapeño atop a small bed of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, black bean sauce and sour cream that tasted as delicious as it sounds (pictured, right). The smokiness of the bacon paired nicely with the meaty, grilled shrimp, creamy cheese and subtle bean.

2007_03_donjuans3.jpgNext up were the duck taquitos (left), which strayed far from the super-fried, skinny taquitos you might get at other restaurants around town. These were big hunks of roasted duck breast enveloped in a buttery pastry shell painted with a smoky-sweet barbeque sauce. No grease here. For our main entrée, it was a tossup between the venison fajitas — yes, venison fajitas — and the lamb shank. Ultimately, we went with the lamb, a giant shank of super rich, super tender, fall-off-the-bone braised meat perfect for a cold, winter night.

Two or three rounds of margaritas and several courses later, we were ready to head out, but we caved and ordered a sinfully delicious cookie-dough cheesecake studded with chocolate chips and encased in a layer of rich chocolate ganache. Thank goodness it was fat- and calorie-free.

For consistently fabulous food at modest prices and a lively atmosphere that will really make your night, Don Juan’s is always a must. For that special occasion, or if you’re willing to splurge a little, head to Patricio’s in the back where Maria Concannon and occasionally Patrick roam the dining room to say hi. They’re definitely people you want to know. Don Juan's Restaurante is located at 6730 N. Northwest Hwy. Their hours of operation are 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon until 9 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations can be made by calling 773-775-6438.

Thanks Amelia!