Head to Hacienda

Sun. January 22, 2017 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

The first Uncle Julio's opened in 1986 in Texas. It quickly expanded and the location at 855 W North Avenue was the first one in Illinois. The area was smartly chosen because North and Clybourn was an up and coming shopping destination with very little restaurant competition.

Having worked there for four years in the '90s I cut my teeth on the bartending experience and the leftover tamales at the end of the night. It was nostalgiac to return to my old stomping grounds and try food I hadn't in the past.

Many may not remember how the decour was very different in the past and there was one less room where our employee lockers used to be in the back. The names and characters have all been replaced with regions of Mexico and the large painting of Tia Maria is long gone. Uncle Julio is the last man standing (well except for his mama's nachos on the menu) and it is a surprise the name has not just been changed to Hacienda.

It was always tricky to explain to guests that it is Tex Mex style and not typical Mexican cuisine that many expect. Going in there with that knowledge is helpful when ordering.

Let's start off with the drinks. The swirl is something everyone must try with frozen margarita and sangria in layers in a frosty mug. Seasonally it seemed strange to have a watermelon margarita in the winter time but it was quite refreshing. The Lucky Horseshoe warmed up the taste buds with a combo of Herradura Reposado and Grand Marnier.

For appetizers the habanero honey bacon shrimp were a little spicy but smooth with that honey chipotle glaze.

The Guadalajara platter is always a popular choice but after having it a million times, I switched over to the Laredo where enchiladas were paired with the fajitas. It needed a fajita cheese set up to mix with the chicken and steak.

The big finale was the chocolate pinata for dessert. This showstopper had the whole room cheering. Luckily it took one whack to bust open the chocolate ball filled with churros, pineapples, and strawberries.

It was a fun way to end the experience of the evening. It is a very gay friendly place with a pink party the night I went in the backroom, just make sure to taste the swirl rainbow!

Visit for more information on this bustling restaurant. There are some good perks to sign up for with their loyalty program in the site including free tableside quacamole just for signing up.