Thursday, June 24, 2010

Guanajuato brings authentic Contemporary Mexican Cuisine to Chicago’s North Shore

Guanajuato (pronounced “juan-a-wotto”), is a new contemporary Mexican restaurant, (73 Green Bay Rd., Glencoe; 847-242-0909) that opened Wednesday, June 23. Owned by Mark and Margarita Challenger, Guanajuato is named for the beautiful state in the central highlands of Mexico where Margarita was born and raised.

Margarita is a professionally trained chef, having earned her culinary degree at Washburne Culinary Institute. She also operated a successful catering business, Culinary Treasures, with chef Miguel Coronel, and Mixteco Grill owner and former Topolobampo chef, Rauel Arreola. Margarita and Mark purchased Wholey Guacamole Mexican Grill in Glencoe to years ago from its previous owners; Margarita completely changed the menu, featuring her own contemporary American creations.

“Wholey Guacamole has given me the opportunity to bring our passion for Mexican cuisine to the North Shore, and our customers have been delighted,” says Margarita. “Mark and I knew that Wholey Guacamole would be just a stepping stone.”

When a larger space became available, the couple jumped at the chance to build the type of restaurant they’ve always wanted.

“Guanajuato is a happy place to eat and drink,” says Margarita. “The menu not only features many of our customers’ favorites from Wholey Guacamole, but also presents a quite expanded menu, with our contemporary take on authentic family recipes.”

Margarita serves as Guanajuato’s executive chef, and is assisted by Jovanny Diaz, the chef de cuisine, who has earned his culinary stripes through on-the-job training at several restaurants, including Wholey Guacamole.

The restaurant seats 56 in the main dining room with an additional 25 seats at the bar, which boasts an expansive wine list and 27 tequilas. The adobe yellow walls give the effect of a true, Mexican home and are highlighted by colorful Talavera pottery wall planters that were imported directly from Dolores Hidalgo, Margarita’s home town. Talavera pottery tile accents can also be found as inserts on the dining tables and in the bar counter top. A brick wall with traditional archways has been constructed to separate the dining room from the bar area. The oak wood on the custom-built bar and tables adds a comfortable sophistication to the space.

Guanajuato’s Contemporary Mexican Cuisine
Guanajuato’s Aperitivos y Sopas (appetizers and soups) include selections like Tostadas de Ceviche, two crispy open-faced tortillas topped with a savory ceviche marinated in lime juice and mixed with diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro and a pinch of jalapeno served with avocado; Salsalito Tamales, chicken, pork or sweet corn tamales served with two house-made sauces, a creamy roasted poblano salsa and a tangy red guajillo salsa; and Tortilla Soup, traditional Mexican soup garnished with avocado, cheese and tortilla strips.

For Ensaladas (salads), Guanajuato offers a large selection including the Vallarta Salad, mixed greens, fresh strawberries, diced green apples and walnuts, sprinkled with a light balsamic vinaigrette dressing, served in half a pineapple; San Miguel Chop Salad, crispy Romaine lettuce, tomato, cilantro, radishes, cucumber, Kalamata olives and crumbed bleu cheese, and Jicama Salad, mixed greens, cucumbers, radishes and pomegranate served with a light lemon dressing.

Guanajuato’s entrée selections include a number of seafood, beef and poultry dishes. Del Mar features include Michoacan Grilled Avocado and Shrimp, a dish from Uruapan, home of Mexico’s avocado orchards: a lightly grilled avocado filled with fresh shrimp cocktail, mixing the flavors of land and sea, served with vegetables and Mexican rice; Margarita Salmon, a fresh salmon filet grilled with Guanajuato’s house marinade, served on a bed of homemade black beans, sautéed vegetables, and garnished with cucumber, radishes and lime sauce, and Blackened Tilapia Fajitas, a dish from Tequila Jalisco: sizzling hot blackened tilapia accompanied by tequila-marinated vegetables, served with black beans, guacamole and Margarita’s salsa.

The Carnes dishes include tasty selections such as El Molcajete, a dish from the Mexican countryside: grilled cactus and onions, black beans, steak and salsa slowly simmered together and garnished with cilantro, radishes and Cotija cheese; Carne Asada, a tender skirt steak grilled to perfection and served with rice and beans, garnished with avocado and fried onions; Barbacoa Taco Dinner, three tortillas filled with slowly cooked, pulled goat meat, garnished with onions and cilantro, served with rice and beans, and Grilled Pork Chops, two perfectly grilled pork chops lightly covered with a mole poblano sauce, served with Mexican rice and grilled tropical fruit.

Traditional dinner specialties include Cenas Mexicanas selections like the Grilled Salmon or Tilapia Burrito, a fresh grilled salmon or tilapia burrito richly made with black beans, chipotle mayonnaise, Romaine lettuce and Cotija cheese; Bonita Chimichanga, burrito with a choice of meat or vegetarian, grilled golden brown with red and green salsa served on a bed of black beans with rice and vegetables, and Esperanza’s Chile Relleno, a classic soufflé-battered Poblano pepper stuffed with picadillo (ground beef) or cheese and covered in Caldillo de jitomate, served on a bed of black beans and crumbed Cotija cheese.

Guanajuato also offers a number of vegetarian dishes, Platos de Vegetarianos. Selections include Spinach, Mushroom or Veggie Quesadillas, three flour tortillas filled with cheese and either fresh spinach, mushrooms or a delicious blend of sautéed vegetables; and Tostada del Campo, two crispy, open-faced corn tortillas topped with a pinto bean spread, rice, avocado, lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream with white rice and salad greens on the side.

Desserts, Postres, at Guanajuato include Flamed Bananas, warm caramelized plantains served with vanilla ice cream; Sopapillas, sugar cinnamon crisps served with fresh strawberries; and Guanajuato’s Homemade Ice Cream, sweet and savory flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pecan, cheese, avocado, mole, rum, tequila and cajeta. These unique flavors are famous on the streets of Dolores Hidalgo, Margarita’s home town in Guanajuato.

Guanajuato is open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch ranges from $3-$15 per person, and dinner ranges from $8-$20 per person.

About Guanajuato
Guanajuato is a contemporary Mexican restaurant located at 73 Green Bay Rd. in Glencoe, Ill. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week. The bar is open Monday-Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation, contact Guanajuato at (847) 242-0909 or online at

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