Northwest Herald

Mystery Diner in Crystal Lake: Antigua Mexican Grill devoted to tasty tradition

Restaurant aims to preserve authentic ‘ancient’ recipes

Antigua Mexican Grill, as with its name, offers classic, "ancient" recipes that anyone looking for an authentic experience can enjoy.

Antigua Mexican Grill in Crystal Lake promises an authentic experience when it comes to its food. From classic, “ancient” dishes, to Spanish music playing, the restaurant caters to anyone looking to experience a slice of Latin America without leaving home.

I took a trip there for lunch this past week, and throughout the entire meal was treated well by the servers. Given generous portions, I was completely stuffed by the time I left, leftovers in hand.

The restaurant specializes in dishes from Latin America, and each category of recipe provides a number of options. In keeping with its name Antigua, the eatery harkens back to various “ancient” recipes, with the goal, as its website states, being to “preserve the original [traditions] of our mothers and grandmothers.” It lives up to the task.

To start my meal, I was provided complimentary chips with a side of both red and green salsa. The chips were fresh, and both salsas had robust flavors, without being very spicy.

While complimentary and not too spicy, the chips and salsas offered were flavorful.

The tortilla soup ($8.99 for the small) was a terrific precursor to my tacos. With toppings of tortilla strips, cilantro, cheese, sour cream and slices of avocado, the dish had a range of flavors before you even took a sip of the soup.

The soup itself was hot and fresh, with a rich savoriness balanced by flavorful chicken. As a connoisseur of tortilla soups, this one was a standout.

The small tortilla soup contained slices of avocado, tortilla strips, cheese, cilantro and all the normal fixings that come with the soup.

For my entree, I selected the Taco El Jefe ($20.99), which came with three tacos featuring charbroiled skirt steak, topped with another round of avocado, cilantro, onions and cheese. On the side were rice and beans. The tacos, served on corn tortillas, were generously filled. The steak had a nice slight crunch to it, but remained juicy, and was complemented by a multitude of other ingredients accompanying it.

The rice and beans, although not the stars of the show, were also great.

The Taco El Jefe was served with skirt steak and a host of toppings, which were paired with rice and beans.

Other options the restaurant offers include enchiladas, flautas, tamales, carne asada, several types of fajitas, including a veggie variation, tortas, burritos, chimichangas and different taco dinners, including one with shrimp. Some of the appetizers are guacamole, nachos, ceviche and panuchos.

Also spotlighting a full bar that offers a separate menu, the restaurant can work for many different occasions.

With sizable portions and good food, a range of options and a friendly staff, Antigua Mexican Grill is a great spot for lunch or dinner for anyone looking to have an authentic experience.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

• Seeking reader suggestions: We welcome readers to share their recommendations of places they would like the Mystery Diner to visit. Email ideas to tips@nwherald.com.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Antigua Mexican Grill

WHERE: 1500 Carlemont Drive, Crystal Lake

PHONE: 815-526-3078

INFORMATION: antiguamexicangrill.com