Our constant gratitude attitude must be working this holiday season. We got a karmic invite recently from Rockit PR goddess, Kara Callera, to chow-wow down at Billy Dec’s most recent restaurant installment, ¡AY CHIWOWA! (throwing out a couple more thanks, universe!).
Highlight Reel: AY CHIWOWA is at the tip of River North on Orleans and Chicago (worth noting as there is secret free parking in the area if you are willing to stretch those Chicago winter legs for a block or two). Perfect spot for: After work drinks and apps with coworkers (lots of specials for those of us on a “paying back college loans” budget), partying on the weekend with your lady friends (VIP service and private room space in the back of the spot) or an upbeat date with someone who likes it loud. AY CHIWOWA is also known for their immense selection of tequilas and creative cocktails, such as the spicy Acai Jalapeno Margarita, so call an Uber or a pink mustached Lyft in honor of Movember if you wanna get down.
As cold as it was outside the night of our visit, we received a warm welcome from staff and like a T.I. rap song, we were invited to have whatever we liiiiiked. The music was bumping with throw back jams like “Snoop Doggy Dog” and an ugly sweater train of patrons danced past us as we settled ourselves at our cozy table. As Jill, our bubbly and attentive server, brought out a bevy of items, the dudes next to us probably thought we were trying to add some extra padding for the long winter.
Here’s the good, the amazing and the meh OK of AY CHIWOWA battling it out for best thing in our bellies.
Fresh chunky mango guacamole and roasted salsa paired with hot salted tortilla chips
Queso fundido (aka big old bowl of melty mexicheese) with sauteed peppers, onions and garlic
Winner? Tie. If we were on a deserted island and only had one food to live on, we would be praying some avocados would be drop from the sky. The queso fundido, however, was a surprise plus with its flavorful veggie additions.
Veggie Entrees Throwdown:
Winner: Somehow queso fundido jumped in the cage match and beat up both veggie quesadilla and veggie tacos. All three featured the similar sauteed peppers and onions leaving the veggie variety a little lacking. Maybe throw some black bean tacos on the menu to entice the veg/vegan crowd?
Meaty Martial Arts Taco Match:
Slow cooked brisket-like Barbacoa
Adobe Veracruz style Chicken
Pork Belly with pickled radish
Winner: Barbacoa!!! The short rib meat was so juicy and tasty that no toppings were actually needed. The bright watercress salad on top of the taco zeroed in on the melt in your mouth texture of the taco. The chicken came in second with a solid Adobo spice and pleasing texture.
Our coup d’etat and game changers, though, were two sugar dusted churros, with a perfect balance of soft fluffy insides and crunchy outsides, accompanied by an addictive hot cajeta sauce. When we think of churros, usually its those stale carnival ones, not very thrilling to cupcake connoisseurs, but “someone” enjoyed them so much a bite of churro “mysteriously” ended up in her mouth…and then the stare down began.