When it comes to tortas in downtown Chicago, you basically only have two choices. You can score an exceptional example at one of Rick Bayless' places (Xoco and Tortas Frontera), or you attempt to score a merely satisfying one somewhere else. (The rest of the city is a different story.) In the vast second group there are many different levels, from the merely edible to the pleasantly satisfying. Thanks to the salsas, Zenba Mexican Grill luckily falls in the latter camp.
What makes the salsas stand out is that they use roasted chiles. The simple step of charring the chiles before blending them up, adds loads of flavor and character to three salsas I sampled. (The nearly black table salsa, which is served warm, is especially good.) Sure, the steak in the carne asada torta ($7.95) was overcooked, but it had a good crust from the grill. Instead of the sublime crusty loaf you'd find at Xoco, the telera roll is basically just soft white bread, but when toasted it manages to hold do the job admirably. For that matter, admirable is how I would describe the sandwich in general.
Zenba Mexican Grill
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