When my girlfriends and I go out to dinner, we try to mix it up and not just go to the same old places. With a few new Mexican restaurants in Carpentersville (our northern Kane County stomping grounds), we have options.
El Diablo Cantina is billed as an upscale Mexican restaurant. The location was a last-minute substitution for our plans (a phone call as we were driving to a nearby spot), and I am glad we changed course.
What this restaurant – which was The Spotted Fox until it rebranded in March and a Famous Dave’s long before that – offers is some classic south-of-the-border dishes and new takes on others.
It also has a large outdoor seating area, so it is a nice location to enjoy some end-of-summer evenings with a drink, dinner and conversation.
We started off with the complimentary chips and salsa, and probably went a little overboard on the chips. They were salted perfectly, and the two salsa options satisfied both my Midwest taste buds and my friends’ more adventurous palates.
Our appetizer was the Diablos queso fundido ($7.48): queso, Monterrey and Chihuahua cheese melted and topped with poblano peppers, sautéed onions and chorizo. The presentation was perfect and, again, we were probably filling up too much on the pre-dinner appetizers.
The entrees were the stars, of course, and I was pleasantly surprised with the presentation to start. My bacon-wrapped shrimp momias ($19.95) were fanned out across a huge cutting board, and nestled in mashed potatoes with sides of summer squash, zucchini and corn on the cob. I got through just more than half of the shrimp, one of the corn cobs, and had to box up the rest for my lunch the next day. The spices were perfect and tasted just as good on day two.
One friend had the salmon topped with grilled pineapple ($20.95). Everything she tried was “full of flavor and not too spicy or overly seasoned, from the chips, fresh salsas, bean dip and queso fundido to the Sandia margarita,” according to her review. It also came presented on a cutting board.
The third person in our party knows Mexican food straight from her, her mother’s and her in-laws’ kitchens. When she raves about the mole sauce, you know it is good.
“El Diablo’s mole chicken enchiladas ($17.95) are delicious. The mole sauce is traditionally made with chocolate, spices and peanuts. El Diablo’s has just the right consistency, not too thick and not too runny. It had just the right amount of heat without drowning out all the other spices. The chicken was moist. The rice and beans were authentic,” she told me.
The menu includes the traditional Mexican fare of tacos ($3.50-$4), burritos ($9.99-$14.99), enchiladas ($14.95-$19.95) and fajitas ($17.95-$23.95).
If you are looking for options to make everyone happy, check out their black Angus burgers with chorizo ($12.95) or guacamole ($12.95). For the straight-up “I want a burger” crowd, they have that, as well.
It was the menu’s seafood selection that has me ready to go back. Crab legs, oysters on the half shell, tilapia, red snapper, mussels and prawns are featured on the menu.
There were a few blended drinks to go with our meal, too. After really enjoying the food, we look to return soon for an upcoming girls night out.
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: El Diablo Cantina
WHERE: 113 S. Western Ave. (Route 31), Carpentersville