My need to NOT be that guy who writes headlines like “XoCo is LOCO” is in a constant internal struggle with the guy who on occasion loves such incredibly horrid word play. But Chef Rick Bayless has earned a little more respect on this page than horrible puns and easy rhymes the 10-year-old stuck inside my head wants to shout.
And we’re best friends now. Not only did he respond to one of my tweets, but he walked by us where I nonchalantly said, “Hey, Chef.” Even better is, he responded, “Hello.” Yep. Best friends. Expect my Bayless endorsed restaurant MoHo RoCo in 2011.
The fixed menu is nice and simple, with only one or two daily specials. Choices range from the familiar tastes of chicken, to the slightly-less-familiar headcheese. There are also caldos (soup) versions of a handful of the sandwiches. Chips, salsas, guacamoles and pastries fill out the menu; along with aqua frescas, ice creams and churros.
Let me tell you, the churros are where it’s at. Rick Bayless could open a churro stand with those things and make money. The dough was that perfect combination of crunchy and chewy, covered with a healthy amount of cinnamon sugar. At 1 for $1.00 or 3 for $3.00, it may be the best deal on the menu.
Chips and salsa were fine but unnecessary. They made be handmade, but at the price you shouldn’t be able to count the amount of chips you get just by looking at the basket. They were also a little conservative with the salsa.
Katie ordered the Gunthorp Chicken Torta described on the menu as a wood-roasted red chile chicken, caramelized onion, black beans, avocado, tomatillo salsa. The first problem arose when the onions on the sandwich were nearly raw and definitely not carmelized. She was also not a fan of the chicken itself, or the lack of spices that came with it to be more to the point. Luckily, after a healthy dose of the hot sauce provided at the table, it was finally to her liking.
I ordered the Woodland Mushroom torta which came with wood-roasted garlic mushrooms, Prairie Farm goat cheese, black beans, wild arugula, 3-chile salsa. The mushrooms were perfectly marinated and went well with the goat cheese. I couldn’t find a single issue with my sandwich, made evident that mine was gone before Katie even touched the second half of hers.
Our main problem with the tortas were the size. They’re perfectly average in size, but just on the side of a little too small that when we left I was still hungry.
The mexican chocolate flan we had for dessert was rich and dense, but not sickeningly so. A nice little finish to our meal. We also accidentally ended up getting some hot chocolate for dessert. We ordered it thinking we could drink it before the meal, but the process is so involved that we didn’t get the cup until halfway through our meal. It was a happy situation, however, because it went well with our dessert.
There is one thing that is keeping XoCo from moving beyond good to being great. It’s not XoCo’s fault, nor is it Rick Bayless’. But it is a problem that turned away at least 6 people while Katie and I took our first visit there Saturday afternoon. The line to get in is ridiculous. Reports vary, of course. Our friends from Fritz Pastry, Nate & Elaine, went there on a weekday afternoon to find an empty restaurant where they quickly ordered and ate within 30 minutes. On the other end of the spectrum, it took us nearly 30 minutes of standing in line to merely reach the doors of the restaurant. The next 20 minutes were made even worse because now we could actually smell the smells we were already hungry for.
This would be the perfect lunch spot if you could run in and grab a quick torta, which is how this place appears to be set up. And maybe once the excitement of a new Bayless restaurant wears off, that’ll be the case. But for right now you have to seriously consider if your need for a torta and some chips outweighs the chance you could be waiting for that very torta any where from 45 minutes to 2 hours.