Few breakfasts excite me more than chilaquiles. While some people head straight for the maple syrup or all of the bacon and eggs in the morning, I crave spice and acid to help wake me up, and this dish gets that done like few others can. But first things first: chilaquiles are not nachos. Instead of an excuse to dump every conceivable ingredient on top, chilaquiles are mostly about the interplay of crunchy tortillas and a bright and slightly spicy, but never overwhelming, sauce. Moments before the plate hits your table, the two are combined so that each and every tortilla piece is enveloped in sauce—no sad and lonely chips here.
As I found out, you can't discount what a fried egg or two adds to the mix. When punctured, the yolk slowly oozes over the contents, adding heft and a richness that the dish otherwise lacks. Of course, I will never complain if the restaurant wants to add some grilled cecina, especially if it's the salty, funky version found at La Casa de Samuel.
But chilaquiles have a dark side—a mushy, greasy, watery side where fully loaded nachos start looking sane. Which is kind of odd, because when done right, chilaquiles are balanced and satisfying, something you wouldn't be embarrassed to order for a reasonable breakfast. With one notable exception, that's what I found while searching around town for the best versions. Honestly, I had such luck, I feel like I could have uncovered more great spots. But if you're looking for an introduction to chilaquiles in Chicago, this is a great place to start.
Take a look at eight chilaquiles we love in Chicago by clicking on the slideshow.