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Baby-on-Board Review: Uncle Julio's Hacienda

By Elizabeth Shapiro in Food on May 9, 2007 6:00PM

2007_05_UncleJulios.jpgWe know our readers probably have their favorite Mexican place, possibly an undiscovered hole-in-the-wall with the best mole in the city. We’d love to hear about it. When it comes to dining out with our baby, however, one of the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago has got to be Uncle Julio’s Hacienda on North Avenue.

We often think the most telling sign of a good Mexican restaurant is its chips and salsa — so simple, and yet so often poorly done. Uncle Julio’s spread is addictive: light, crunchy tortillas and a salsa heavy on the cilantro and smoky chipotle. They offer a kids’ menu with everything from quesadillas to tacos. We get Juanita's platter from the adult menu because we can’t decide between our favorites. It comes with two enchiladas, a taco, and a tamale, all for under $13 and served in under 10 minutes. It takes us less time to eat it, as each portion is even better then the last. What sets the Hacienda’s food apart is how fresh it all tastes. We can cook Mexican food from a dozen boxes and cans at home; when we go out, we appreciate crisp salads, ripe tomato salsas, juicy meats and soft tortillas. A handful of toddlers watch Julio’s tortilla machine at work, mesmerized by the man feeding it rolls of dough. Homemade Mexican food and you’ll entertain my kids? Priceless.

A meal at Uncle Julio’s is always quick; valet parking (often free!), hardly any wait for a table, and attentive service means we can swing a meal even when we’re starving but our baby is at his fussiest. Julio’s offers high chairs and a sling to rest your car seat on, making this the perfect place for a venture out, even with an infant. Bathrooms actually have a changing table, although it’s placement in the doorway means you’ll become friendly with those who come in to use the baño.

With a baby, Cinco de Mayo has become less about great places to grab a cerveza and indigenous chow and more about a place that has both high chairs and decent tamales. Yes, it isn’t unique or undiscovered, but at Uncle Julio’s Hacienda, the food’s great and all of us always leave happy.

Uncle Julio’s Hacienda is located at 855 W. North Ave. Call them at 312-266-4222. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m., and Friday/Saturday they’re open until 11:30 for those with late bedtimes.

Sign photo courtesy of Syrtis.