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The best Ixtapan restaurant in a Norridge strip mall

The best Ixtapan restaurant in a Norridge strip mall
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  • The best Ixtapan restaurant in a Norridge strip mall

    Post #1 - September 30th, 2004, 7:00 pm
    Post #1 - September 30th, 2004, 7:00 pm Post #1 - September 30th, 2004, 7:00 pm
    One of the things I have come to realize with advancing years is that many of us dwell in alternate universes to other people; that is to say, other peoples' memories or interpretation of the same events (or the entire principles of the cosmos) are greatly at odds with what is blatantly true, at least to me. For instance, many people dwell in a universe in which creatures named "Madonna" and "Britney Spears" are recognized as people of interest, talent and attractiveness; alas, this means such people had no idea that they needed to set the Tivo to record the month-long tribute TCM recently devoted to Myrna Loy, featuring many of her ridiculous, but indelible, pre-Thin Man roles where she tended to play evil temptresses in skimpy costumes. Rrrrowwrrr, Myrnas I'd Loyke To...

    One could name many other things which seem downright delusional in my universe but make perfect sense in others-- that the performance of sports teams is a matter of urgency (while the one competition which actually could alter our lives profoundly is largely ignored); that residents of the utterly non-swing state of Illinois actually have a vital say in national policy by virtue of which wealthy Skull and Bones alumnus they vote for for president; that the archeological discoveries on which The DaVinci Code is based did not occur entirely in Dan Brown's butt; and so on.

    But enough of such trivialities-- let's talk Glow in the Dark Miniature Golf.

    My son was invited to a birthday party at what was for me, as it seemed to be for the teenagers who work there, close enough to Hell as to make no difference: an indoor, blacklit, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf range, located in a strip mall tucked sort of across from and behind Harlem-Irving Plaza. While the entire place glowed like the poster department of Spencer's Gifts, circa 1974, 80s songs boomed constantly to induce nostalgia in the parents-- and right there is an example of the alternative universii of which I speak; Oh-Mickey-You're-So-Fine-You're-so-Fine-You-Blow-My-Mind is a dispatch from an 80s I wanted absolutely nothing to do with, while you never see the kiddies in a place like this bopping to Violent Femmes or X or "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which was the soundtrack of the 80s universe in which I resided. Only the B-52's "Rock Lobster" managed to bridge those two alternative visions of that decade... Okay, maybe calling it Hell is a little cruel. Chuck E. Cheese would be the ninth circle of Hell, this is merely maybe the Mezzanine of Heck.

    Whoops, now they're playing "Ghostbusters." This IS Hell.

    But Ixtapan food, you were saying. Right, right. My apologies for digressing. After the party, Dad needed something to eat. Something that wasn't cake, prefab pizza, or accompanied by "Come On Eileen." Gazing across the vast tracts of the strip mall, where Bed Bath and Beyond looked across a windswept prairie to KMart, there seemed little hope for anything better than Quizno's. Here was the alternative universe issue in a nutshell. Half a mile away lay Riviera, Caponie's, Caputo's, a Little Italy with many good things. Yet I was trapped in Mallbania, Mallgaria, the Malluda Triangle, doomed to eat Little Caesar's or World China Buffet with people who never imagined that something as fragrant and piquant as a Riviera sub could even exist, let alone that it was practically next door--

    Wait a minute. Captain, I'm picking up something on the scanners. A sign that reads Sabor Ixtapa.

    Seconds later we were crossing the parking lot like Eliza and her baby crossing the ice floes ahead of Simon Legree's hounds. I feared, from the logo of a mustachioed chile pepper holding margaritas, that I was in for a Pepe's-like chain experience. But once inside it became clear that this was a family-run Mexican restaurant like so many in Chicago, the only difference the flatness of the sheetrock in its mall space.

    The menu was not terribly unusual-- I have no idea what would constitute Ixtapan specialties, so I can't tell you how authentic it was from that angle-- but it did have some things that suggested a certain seriousness and ambition, like Huachinango Veracruz (red snapper). If they just wanted to shovel fajitas 'n' margaritas at the gringos, it wouldn't even have that. I ordered chicken with salsa verde, a modest repast that seemed like at worst it couldn't be screwed up too bad.

    In fact it was quite a bit better than that. A good hand with the chicken, not overdone; a salsa verde which tasted brightly of fresh pepper; good beans, usual dull rice, decent tortillas. In the mall universe, it was clear that an outpost from the cosmos of real food had opened here. Judging by the thin crowd, it may not last forever, I'm sure there's a Taco Bell close by profiting while it ekes along. But if you, or your Bearded-Spock-Universe twinhappens to find him or herself in the alternative universe of the strip malls of Norridge, you could undoubtedly do worse, indeed, it is virtually guaranteed.

    Sabor Ixtapa
    7052 Forest Preserve Drive
    Norridge, IL
    708-457-2067
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  • Post #2 - September 30th, 2004, 7:25 pm
    Post #2 - September 30th, 2004, 7:25 pm Post #2 - September 30th, 2004, 7:25 pm
    Boy, you never know what's out there. Five minutes ago, I did not even know what Ixtapa was period, let alone there was an Ixtapan place in Norridge. Takes a tiny bit of the sting out of today's Cub's game. Did they have fried iguana?

    http://www.geographia.com/mexico/ixtapa/cuisine.htm
  • Post #3 - September 30th, 2004, 10:38 pm
    Post #3 - September 30th, 2004, 10:38 pm Post #3 - September 30th, 2004, 10:38 pm
    I live and sometimes work minutes from this location. I've gotten the occasional "hold-me-over-til-dinner" taco here and they were effective. I've taken out caldo de pollo when ill, and was eventually healed. Last week I had a steak burrito, no cheese or sour cream, with avocado to keep me company on errands and it was pretty good -- but not that big and almost $8. I had a margarita once while waiting for take out and got a pleasant glow. I have yet to order anything more adventerous from the menu. I have never seen more than one other person in the restaurant, but I've never been there at traditional lunch or dinner hour.

    To sum up, I've been there more than a half dozen times, and have yet to leave swearing never to return.

    Attention, Mike G: As a patriotic citizen and official, I must defend my neighborhood from your verbal onslaught! While we might have a mall, we're close enough to your fine city that I could slip away to meet my wife for lunch today at La Oaxaquena where I chomped on rabbit. My wife's mole sauce spoke profundity. All this, I never went off the clock, and my wife only works three blocks away.

    Regarding the glow in the dark golf -- any tips? My first grader has already decided her birthday is going to be held there even though nobody we know has gone. At least at Chuck E Cheeses's's you can usually get a pitcher of beer.
  • Post #4 - April 16th, 2005, 8:51 pm
    Post #4 - April 16th, 2005, 8:51 pm Post #4 - April 16th, 2005, 8:51 pm
    Wow, I can't believe it took me seven months to make the obvious pop culture reference in response to this, given all my ranting about what 80s music really was:

    Did they have fried iguana?


    "I wish I was in/Tijuana/Eating barbecued iguana..."

    --"Mexican Radio," Wall of Voodoo
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #5 - April 16th, 2005, 10:29 pm
    Post #5 - April 16th, 2005, 10:29 pm Post #5 - April 16th, 2005, 10:29 pm
    Like Ramon, I've tried this place on several occasions. While ramon has never left declaring that he'll never return, I've never left declaring that I'll ever come back. It's probably the best Mexican that you'll find at Harlem and Forest Preserve Drive, I'm not sure that makes it good Mexican Food.

    I'll join the ranks of so so acceptance, too.

    Could someone pass the tanning butter?
    Last edited by YourPalWill on April 17th, 2005, 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #6 - April 17th, 2005, 2:33 am
    Post #6 - April 17th, 2005, 2:33 am Post #6 - April 17th, 2005, 2:33 am
    I always assume that a Mexican restaurant with "Ixtapa" in its title is to be considered equal to a restaurant with "Acapulco" or "Mazatlan" in the title. I trust that such restaurants are as Ixtapan or Acapulcan or Mazatlanananananananan as much as I trust that a Mexican restaurant advertising "authentic Mexican" actually serves such.

    I've never been to Ixtapa, but since it's in Guerrero state, like Acapulco, I imagine the food specialties are similar.
  • Post #7 - April 17th, 2005, 11:04 am
    Post #7 - April 17th, 2005, 11:04 am Post #7 - April 17th, 2005, 11:04 am
    I think the presence of a region in the name of a place is a very mild indicator-- maybe a 10% better chance of authenticity and quality, since they choose to be identified with something specific. However, you may be right, the ones that are also popular vacation spots are less likely to pan out that way. For instance, I would say that the term "Baja" is pretty much a negative indicator....
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #8 - July 24th, 2006, 11:40 pm
    Post #8 - July 24th, 2006, 11:40 pm Post #8 - July 24th, 2006, 11:40 pm
    I went to this place tonight. Far and away the worst dinner I've had in a restaurant in 2006. For god's sake, do not go here.

    Maybe those who were not repelled by this joint got them in a rare moment of harmonic convergence when this place happened to serve something edible. Barely believable, but possible. I had several dishes, each terrible.

    The glow-in-the-dark golf place, however, showed some promise; we walked through and I thought that, with the right preparation, this place could be kind of a funny, screwy way to spend an evening with friends.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #9 - July 25th, 2006, 11:59 am
    Post #9 - July 25th, 2006, 11:59 am Post #9 - July 25th, 2006, 11:59 am
    The golf is a surrealistic psychadelic trip. I swear I had a flash back and had to be talked down by a group of eight year old birthday partyers.

    -ramon
  • Post #10 - November 6th, 2009, 7:44 am
    Post #10 - November 6th, 2009, 7:44 am Post #10 - November 6th, 2009, 7:44 am
    Time to resurrect this thread.

    While waiting for some cargo to clear customs (talk about a way to lose an entire day :cry: ), I wandered over to Norridge and found myself discovering and popping into Sabor Ixtapa for some quick take-out. (It's hardly a strip mall, by the way. This is Norridge Commons which is a pretty decent-sized plaza by most definitions.) The place is quite attractive for a mall shop, brightly painted, very nicely decorated, and spotless. By the time I arrived, about 1:30, there was no one in the place. I ordered a steak burrito to go and really enjoyed it. Lots of little burnt (or not quite burnt) pieces, fresh ingredients, and great tasting. Best steak burrito I've had; no, of course not. But it really hit the spot and I enjoyed it. I was also intrigued by the tomatoe-y salsa; had more kick than I anticipated (always a plus) and very nice and unusual flavor. Clearly made fresh. I understand that Mr. Hammond had a contrary experience but I'd happily return and check out more of the menu.

    (I note that ramon paid almost $8. I can't imagine why, unless the avocado he had did it: the price for the straight burrito is only $5.95, which is what I paid.)


    Recommended.


    Sabor Ixtapa
    7052 Forest Preserve Drive
    (708) 457-2067
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)

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