Cafe El Tapatio – Lakeview, Chicago

While many people traveled to tropical destinations during this holiday season, I am currently staying home in Chicago.  However, this does not mean I cannot try my best to conjure up the feeling of a beach holiday 🙂  So, Friday afternoon I hopped the CTA Brown Line up to the Lakeview neighborhood to enjoy a festive, Mexican, solo lunch at Cafe El Tapatio.

Cafe El Tapatio in Chicago

Cafe El Tapatio is a fabulous, fun, family-run Mexican restaurant which is located just 2 blocks from the Paulina ‘L” stop at the bright corner of Ashland and Roscoe.

Paulina 'L' stop near Cafe El Tapatio


CTA Brown Line near Cafe El Tapatio

Cafe El Tapatio celebrated 40 years in business this year which is quite the noteworthy accomplishment.  And, yet, this was my first time dining here.  This place has always been on my radar.  Many friends have had such lovely things to say about the food and the service.  However, I get distracted by all the many fine restaurants in town. So, better late than never!  Folks, I was not disappointed.  

My strategy was to enjoy a delicious Mexican meal and focus on my beach fantasy without consuming too many calories.  I had already devoured my share of holiday treats 😉  Luckily, Cafe El Tapatio’s menu consists of a wide variety of options to please just about any appetite.  There are plenty of fish and vegetarian items from which to choose.  

Here is how my lunch went down:

First, I ordered the ceviche of tilapia, pico de gallo, citrus juices, olive oil and sea salt.  This menu item is listed as an appetizer which could easily have been shared by 2-3 people for tasting.  Since Cafe El Tapatio’s ceviche is such a generous appetizer portion, it served as my main entree.

Cafe El Tapatio's ceviche

Tilapia ceviche


All of the ingredients in this ceviche were incredibly fresh.  The olive oil-to-citrus juice-ratio was perfect!  The dish was served along with saltine crackers, a basket of tortilla chips and hot sauce.  I cleaned the plate 🙂

Since I was feeling so happy and proud of my light and healthy ceviche starter, I decided I still had room for a little something extra. So, it would have to be soup, my favorite food.  I ordered a medium bowl of Cafe El Tapatio’s Azteca soup.  This is their version of  chicken tortilla soup with chipotle peppers, avocado slices and just a bit of melted chihuahua cheese on top.  Perfect choice!

Cafe El Tapatio's tortilla soup

Azteca soup


In addition to the ceviche and soup, Cafe El Tapatio’s colorful and cozy space helped my beach fantasy along very nicely.  Also,there was some great music being played in the restaurant without being too loud as to drown out the sound of the imaginary ocean waves crashing inside my head 😉


Cafe El Tapatio in Lakeview


Cafe El Tapatio's dining room

Cafe El Tapatio's dining space


Cafe El Tapatio's tables


Cafe El Tapatio's seating


Cafe El Tapatio's decor

I would like to wish Cafe El Tapatio a very happy 40th anniversary.  I cannot wait to return either solo or with friends for more of their delicious food and lovely hospitality.

Cafe El Tapatio is located at 3400 N. Ashland.  To learn more, visit


In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Brown line to Cafe El Tapatio.  Save gas money.  Avoid traffic and parking.  Don’t drink and drive!