Rojo Gusano – Shareable Mexican Food in an Urban Atmosphere
The Chicago area has been diving head first into the trendy taco scene, and one of the newest hip Mexican joints, Rojo Gusano, is no exception. Opened in early December, 2015, Rojo Gusano is a beach-meets-urban-life concept featuring the most favorite Mexican foods of the owners, the Morenos, and Chef Dudley Nieto. Nestled amongst other quaint, Mexican restaurants, a couple hookah lounges and various Asian markets, Rojo Gusano is the energetic night-spot that stands out on the corner lot in glowing lighting.
My friend and I were both excited to start digging into the menu. Starting with drinks, I chose the Gusano Rojo: Mezcal mixed with Watermelon and Cranberry Juice with a Cucumber garnish. The watermelon flavor in this drink was incredibly powerful, which I was personally a big fan of. Not far behind was a punch in the throat from the Mezcal- also totally okay by me. My friend ordered the Shogun: Mezcal with Green Chartreuse and Ginger Puree. The liquor in this drink nearly consumed all the flavor, with a hint of the ginger at the end of each sip. The cocktail menu at Rojo Gusano features either Mezcal or Tequila in nearly every cocktail. This is a great place to sample quality Mexican liquors, if you never have before.
Next, it was time for some food! The food menu at Rojo Gusano was a simple fold-out paper featuring guacamoles, salsas, shareable bites and plates, ceviches, Asian rice bowls, and of course, tacos! The menu also noted that all products are organic and from local farms. Almost everything on the menu was gluten-free, and the staff was very accommodating in picking out options for my vegetarian friend.
We started with a Salsa Trio. All the salsas had a thick Tomato Base and escalated in heat. Our table’s favorite was the Thai Salsa: Green Salsa with Roasted Tomatillos, Garlic, and Cilantro.
We also had the highly recommended Guacamole with Spicy Pumpkin Seeds. The guacamole at Rojo Gusano is super creamy. The Chipotle Pumpkin Seeds added an interesting nutty flavor, but our favorite part was the Caramelized Pineapple piled on top. You really won’t see this anywhere else!
To share, my friend and I ordered the Elotes (actually titled Corn on the Cob in the menu). We received two Cobs rolled in Cotija Queso, Piquin Chile and Lime-Mayo. We were told to dig right in with our hands, so let this be a warning: it gets messy! An absolutely delicious mess, this dish was one of our favorites of the night. The Cotija queso added an almost-tangy flavor, and was just mild enough to blend well with the other flavors.
Finally, it was taco time! Since we tried ordering essentially every taco on the menu, we were offered the Small Tray, which comes with a selection of six Tacos, Guacamole with Pico de Gallo, a Chicken Tamale, and a Chef’s Choice of Sides. There is also a Large Tray, which comes with nine tacos.
The Chicken Tamales came in a Banana Leaf, and it was smothered in a Chirmole-Habanero Sauce. The Thick, Red Sauce made this tamale melt in my mouth.
Our taco selection included a Korean Taco that was on special that evening, a Chicken Verde taco, Arrachera, Mixed Mushroom and two Charred Butternut Squash. The Korean Taco was definitely my favorite. It was loaded with Pork, Spicy Chile Sauce and a Korean Slaw. This taco wasn’t on the menu, so be sure to ask if the chef has anything special going on in the kitchen! The Chicken Verde taco was incredibly juicy and stuffed to the max with Shredded Chicken. The Arrachera taco really hit my sweet spot for Steak. The Mixed Mushroom taco was my friend’s favorite because the Mushrooms were marinated and very flavorful. The two Charred Butternut Squash tacos were slightly sweet and topped with Farmer’s Cheese, Kale and Salsa.
All of our tacos were double-wrapped in corn tortillas and sprinkled in various Mexican cheeses. They’re the perfect size for munching, sharing and socializing with friends. If you’re doing a bar hop and need a quick nibble, the tacos at Rojo Gusano are cheap enough to get two or three with a drink while only spending around $15.00.
We had to end our night with dessert (my friend is a light eater with a big appetite for sweets). We chose the Churros de la Casa, which came with a Chocolate Sauce and a Raspberry Sauce for dipping our Warm, Sugary Churro pieces. We were also persuaded to share one more drink: The Mezcalita. A simple Sweet and Sour drink, the Mezcalita really showcased the Mezcal, but also kept you coming back for more with a Chili-Lined Rim.
We had an excellent time at Rojo Gusano. This is a great place to go with a small group and pig out on a bunch of shareable munchies. The menu allows you to keep your night going by ordering single small bites and a variety of drinks with a rainbow of flavors. The staff was super friendly and offered lots of suggestions when we didn’t know where to begin with our choices. The food and drinks are authentically Mexican, the atmosphere is modernized, and the experience you’ll have will be splendid.