There is a restaurant near us called Wholly Frijole. Don't let the name fool you - this tiny eatery serves up gourmet Mexican food that you would willingly stand in line for. I have, and I don't stand in any line for anything!
When they first opened they had a single tiny room with maybe four tables for four and a short row of those tables-for-two-across-from-each-other down the center of the room. Shove them all together and you had a table for 6 (or 8 if they could wrangle extra chairs). Leave a inch of space between each and there were three "couples" tables at which you could admire what the diner next to you was having without turning your head.
It was worth it.
Since then they have expanded into the store front next door. The decor of the new room does not show the care and artistry employed in the original, which features air brushed cacti, sunsets and red and green starbursts, but the extra space makes about 30 additional customers very very happy.
This place serves salmon, lamb, fillet, red snapper, as well as traditional tacos and burritos, all expertly prepared and all featuring their signature chipotle mashed potatoes and a tiny ceramic dish (think paper-cup-of-cole-slaw-with-your-hot-dog-platter) of the house beans. The chef used to be on staff at one of the swank Mexican restaurants in Wicker Park - the one with a name I can't pronounce that means "grasshopper" or something like that.
Dishes come with your choice of soup or salad. If they have tortilla or black bean soup go with that. If you're with Bill, order the house salad. He'll let you taste his soup. The best of both worlds. My favorite dish is the grilled vegetable plate - slices of onion, jicama, chayote and other vegetables grilled and leant up against a mound of the mashed potatoes and garnished with a grilled green onion tied in a knot. rrlllggghmmm (Homer drool).
The other day, I made tortilla soup at home. There was a recipe in the paper. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but the soup was good. You need proof? Bill took the leftover one inch of soup to work the next day to eat with his left over spinach pie. Bill doesn't eat ANYTHING he doesn't love.
With my soup I had a salad. I based it on the house salad at Wholly. While I could duplicate neither dish exactly, my efforts were worthy of repetition and of sharing. Here are approximate recipes.
Cut a few stale leftover corn tortillas into 1/4 inch wide strips and fry in hot oil until crisp. Drain and reserve (or just use some store bought tortilla chips).
Saute minced garlic and onion in olive oil with a bit of canned chipotle pepper and its sauce, some cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, dried parsley and dried oregano. Add about 1/3 can rinsed garbanzo beans and smash them so Bill won't know they're in there.
Add a 15 oz. can of chicken broth, an 8 oz. can tomato sauce and enough water to rinse out the tomato sauce can. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup canned or frozen corn kernels and heat to simmering. Taste for seasonings (I added a splash of lime juice - vinegar is also good - and a dash of tabasco) and serve with a dollop of sour cream and the tortilla "croutons" for garnish.
2 generous servings.
Wholly Salad for One or Two
(Bill doesn't eat salad)
Wash and dry five large romaine lettuce leaves. Slice five radishes and dice some tomato.
In a salad bowl place a dab (about 1/2 teaspoon) of spicy brown mustard, a blob (a few tablespoons) sour cream and a few bloops (a few tablespoons) olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, dill and other herbs of your choice. Mix well.
Add the lettuce, tomato, radishes, and about 1/4 can rinsed garbanzos and about 1/4 cup corn kernels and toss well. Some shredded carrots or red cabbage would not be out of place. Garnish with a few more of the tortilla "croutons".
I don't know how to make chipotle mashed potatoes but how hard could it be? I imagine you'd want to cook some garlic with the potatoes and when mashing, add some of the sauce from the canned chipotles or (if you want to bother) some of the chiles that have been mooshed in the food processor.
A little rant: It should never be 72 degrees f in March in Chicago - even if it's only meeting and not exceeding the record for the date.
Quotable Quotes: In the category Bread or Democracy
"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch".