Chicago Eats: Rojo Gusano | chicago foodie girl


Chicago Eats: Rojo Gusano

Happy spring! Yes, I realize spring technically started almost a month ago; however, it was still very much winter in these parts up until recently. Finally, the trees have sprouted tiny buds, the dreaded s-word (yes, that would be snow) hasn't been uttered in almost two weeks, and there's a telltale whiff of the new season (wet pavement, grass, and dirt) in the air. While fall is my favorite season, I have to say that I really cannot get enough of these gorgeous early spring days! Along with basking in the lovely weather and celebrating the birthday boy (yay, Mario!), I also spent the weekend exploring some new-to-us restaurants with Diana, including much lauded Rojo Gusano.

Tucked away in the heart of Albany Park amongst blocks of tiny family-owned stores and hookah lounges, Rojo Gusano is a simple 70-seat joint serving up a modern, unique, and utterly delicious take on Mexican food. Helmed by restaurant vet Chef Dudley Nieto, the space that formerly housed Mayan Sol Latin Grill has been completely reconceptualized - everything from the name (which refers to the red worm found at the bottom of mezcal bottles) to the decor (beach meets urban taco joint) to the food (with a focus on non-traditional, global ingredients) screams fresh, fun, and welcoming. It's no wonder that the restaurant has been getting tons of positive buzz from Albany Park dwellers and foodie visitors alike.

While some might be tempted to categorize Rojo Gusano as just another taqueria in a neighborhood filled with a plethora of Mexican joints, what makes the restaurant stand out is Neito's heavily diverse menu. Drawing from the numerous cultures found in the neighborhood, along with his own rich background, Neito marries an assortment of techniques and ingredients; the result is a menu teeming with international dishes including a shrimp-and-octopus ceviche with leche de tigre, a charred butternut squash taco, and a charred chile morita salsa with tangy tomato.

Diana and I stopped by early on a Saturday morning to check out their new brunch menu. The moment we settled at our sunny table, we were greeted with a complimentary selection of Pan Dulce; the slightly sweet, fresh buns were a perfect way to kick off our meal (and keep our ravenous hunger at bay while we debated what to order).

While I was tempted by the wide selection of mezcal-based drinks, I eventually chose the Bloody Maria, a south-of-the-border spin on the perennial brunch-favorite Bloody Mary. This tequila-heavy drink comes with an extra kick from a hefty dose of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce.

While brunch may not be the most popular time for tacos, of course, we couldn't resist sampling just a few, especially seeing as the restaurant is known for their wide selection of specialty tacos. The tortillas are made in-house, which makes a world of difference - the fresh tortillas are thick enough to hold the nice amount of ingredients you get in each taco. As Diana mentioned, she hates when tacos are so overstuffed that you need two tortillas to hold everything (which throws the off the ratio of fillings to the tortilla) or they're too flimsy and immediately fall apart. 

Arrachera Taco with mojo de ajo, relish, onions and mora salsa, and the Charred Butternut Squash Taco with kale, farmer's cheese, and cascabel tomatillo salsa. While we both enjoyed the skirt steak taco, it was the perfectly constructed butternut squash taco that really blew us away.


For her entrée, Diana ordered a bowl of Pozole with chicken, hierba santa, serrano, pumpkin seeds, hominy corn, chicharron, and radishes. This hearty soup was super flavorful and satisfying; Diana even mentioned she felt like she was eating something her (everything-from-scratch/super-awesome-cook) mother would have made, which is obviously a massive compliment!

I chose the Huevos Sandwich with cochinita pibil, Nueske’s bacon, arugula, red onions, and a sunny-side-up egg. Woooo-eee, this was one seriously porktastic sandwich... and I devoured every single bite of it!  The slow-roasted pork was tender, juicy, and incredibly delicious. If you stop by Rojo Gusano for brunch, this sandwich is definitely a must-order.

 Look at all of that meaty deliciousness!

I added a side of Patatas Bravas to my sandwich. Be forewarned, these little spicy potatoes are not the normal spicy that you may be used to from some other restaurants in the area - they are melt-your-face-off spicy potatoes!

We ended our meal with the Torrejas, the most dessert-y of their brunch offerings: brioche smothered in crème anglaise and filled with local honey & mascarpone cheese. This dish was just sweet enough without being overwhelming and the perfect way to end our meal.

We both greatly enjoyed our meal at Rojo Gusano and can't wait to head back to check out their dinner menu; we're definitely planning to swing by on a Tuesday for their $2.50 taco special. Last week, they also announced plans for a second location at Central and Belmont that will be about half the size of the original restaurant.  

You can try all this deliciousness and more at Rojo Gusano: 3830 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL.

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