GENEVA – You may have recognized it by the lengthy single-file line often sprouting from its understated entrance, or the youthful, margarita-induced buzz emanating from its intimate patio area. Soldiering past other Mexican eateries as one of the finest – according to some critics – not only in the Kane County area but Chicago, as well, is Bien Trucha.
Bien Trucha, which aptly means to be on top of your game, is ranked No. 1 on a list of Zagat’s top 50 Mexican restaurants in the Chicago area; recently made Thrillist.com’s list of 12 Best Illinois Restaurants Not in Chicago; received rave reviews from TV’s “Check Please!” roundtable; and its Pescadillas – shredded swordfish hard-shell tacos with avocado-habanero pico de gallo and epazote – landed on Chicago food critics Phil Vettel and Kevin Pang’s list of favorite dishes of 2013.
And, perhaps most importantly, it was voted the No. 1 Mexican Restaurant in the 2014 Kane County Chronicle “Best of the Fox” Readers Choice Awards.
If those aren’t enough well-respected opinions to get you through the door, then I don’t think anything I have to say will make you go either.
The line may be a deterrent (the restaurant does not take reservations) but A Toda Madre, which is conveniently situated right next door, serves food off of the same menu, and takes limited reservations, providing ample opportunity for more people to sample the various creations coming out of Bien Trucha’s kitchen.
My dining companion and I visited on a weekday night around 5 p.m. (no line, but busy) and took seats at a communal table on the outdoor patio right away.
My dining companion commented afterward that “the al fresco dining on such a beautiful day was only enhanced by the friendly staff ... and the festive music wafting over us.”
The menu is tapas-style, and diners are encouraged to share plates to be able to sample more fare. Chips and bean dip were set upon the table, so we could nibble while making mutual menu selections.
To start, we opted for the Ceviche Del Mes ($10), the restaurant’s monthly ceviche special. The colorful dish came with shrimp, strawberries and cucumbers in a zesty lime sauce. The lime was slightly overpowering, but all of the ingredients tasted fresh and blended nicely.
The vast array of tacos lining the menu will make the decision-making process very difficult. Literally, every taco dish sounded delectable: The a la Diabla comes with sautéed shrimp, butter-mojo de ajo, chipotle lime and an avocado slice; the Barriga de Puerco with slow-roasted pork belly, adobo, salsa verde cruda, cucumber and queso fresco; and the Pescado with crispy-beer-battered tilapia, red cabbage, onion, tomato, lime and chipotle-morita aioli. (None of which we had the pleasure of ordering.)
Instead, we ordered Bien Trucha’s namesake tacos ($11), the Pastor tacos ($10) and Pollo tacos ($10). To accompany the tacos, the Mexican enclave also serve Cazuelitas and Tortas (lunch only), soup and salad, Brochetas (dinner only) and side dishes, such as Esquites ($5).
The Bien Trucha tacos (a table favorite) were served on a wood plank with a healthy layer of grilled skirt steak, chorizo, an oozing topping of melted chihuahua cheese and a smattering of roasted tomatillo salsa to set everything off.
The Pastor tacos were served with a healthy amount of ancho-guajillo marinated pork, cilantro, onion, a sliver of pineapple and morita salsa. The sweet acidity from the pineapple balanced the savory, marinated pork.
The Pollo provided a slightly different take on the taco. The tortillas were crispy, and rolled with shredded chicken breast and potato hash with layers of crema, queso and a generous smattering of morita-serrano salsa poured over the top.
I’ve tried Esquites in many Mexican restaurants and I think Bien Trucha does it best. The grilled corn with melted epazote-butter, lemon-aioli, queso cotija and chile piquin create a semblance of flavors and textures that sing on the palate.
All of the drinks being shaken, poured and stirred behind the bar are equally as inventive and fresh as the food. A plethora of margarita options line the menu and all are created using fresh fruit and juices. For a special treat, try the Ahuacatl ($11) – an avocado margarita made with agave nectar, lime, exotico blanco, orange liquor and mezcal mist.
Bien Trucha has created a well-respected name for itself; its reputation stretching across Kane County borders and standing strong among the best in Chicago’s fickle foodie scene.
IF YOU GO • What: Bien Trucha • Where: 410 W. State St., Geneva • Hours: Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Dinner hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. • Info: 630-232-2665 and www.bientrucha.com
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.