Didn't make it to Key West this summer? Cancun and Manzanillo still a bit out of reach? No matter, you can catch the feel-good island vibe at Adobe Gila's in Rosemont.
Adobe Gila's opened up earlier this year at The Park at Rosemont, the town's new entertainment district that features a faux-grass park and stage for outdoor concerts and a variety of bars and restaurants.
Adobe Gila's5455 Park Place, Rosemont, (847) 233-0800, chicago.adobegilas.com/
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily
Motif: Beach combers' paradise pretty much sums up the setting, but instead of sand on the floor there are cut-stone tiles. A thatched roof bar is the centerpiece with high-topped tables and a few booths (also high-topped) filling in the big open room. Everything's on the second floor, and larger-then-life painted lizards smile back as you walk up the stairs (an elevator is available). Windows open up to a large deck that overlooks The Park. This makes the patio a perfect place to watch your favorite cover band play below, but it also makes for a chaotically loud restaurant, when chatting diners, the restaurant's own overhead music and live concerts from The Park are in the mix.
When there's not live music at The Park, Adobe Gila's hosts DJs, karaoke and live bands.
Crowd: Yes, expect a crowd and expect to wait if you want a table on which to set your liquor-filled fish bowl (more on that later). The earlier crowd, before 7 or so, has some kids in the mix as well as couples on layover from O'Hare. As it grows late, the scene takes on a frat-party feel with groups of twenty-something guys and gals ordering multiple monster margaritas.
Service: The Friday night we visited the place was packed. Our 30-minute wait for a table for dinner turned out to be more than an hour (the place doesn't take reservations). So after having our fill of the band playing outside, we ventured back in and hooked a couple of seats at the back of the bar.
Once we got the bartender's attention our drinks were delivered promptly and we were able to order an appetizer as well, which came up lickety split. When we did get a table, our waitress was pleasant and chatty and helped steer us toward some yummy libations.
Food: Adobe Gila's sign touts its fajitas, however I found my chicken and steak combo platter lacking the expected Mexican spices. The paella skillet was a more flavorful option with a vibrant saffron broth. It was full of shrimp, clams, chicken and andouille sausage.
Handmade guacamole is a house specialty (habaneros optional) and the Baja coconut shrimp was a fine appetizer, especially when dunked into the sweet mango sauce.
The kitchen also puts out a full range of salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, lizard legs (OK, they're really chicken wings) and Mexican specialties.
The dessert menu is less impressive: a trio of shareable treats including Key lime pie, chocolate-filled chimichanga and a well-done version of deep-fried ice cream.
Visit the restaurant's website, chicago.adobegilas.com, before your visit and you're likely to receive, via email, a coupon for a free entree.
Liquid consumption: Margaritas are king here and Sauza is the tequila of choice (another 10 brands also are available). Unless you order a supersized cocktail, margaritas come in a plastic cup. Not to sound snobbish, but there is nothing appealing about a salt-rimmed plastic cup.
Coronas flow freely along with the usual lineup of Mexican beers and domestic brews. Frozen drinks served up in bikini-shaped containers and the 84-ounce fish bowls full of vodka-based concoctions are sure to bring back spring break memories (the good and the bad).
Parking: Ample parking is available in the garage across from the Muvico theater and the hostess will validate your ticket for free parking. Resist the parking attendant's direction to follow the ramp that leads to the restaurant's back door. Walking around to the front gives a much better first impression.
Overall: Adobe Gila's is not the place for fine Mexican cuisine, but it is a great outing for those days (and nights) when you're not ready to let go of summer.