Move over Chipotle, there is a new Mexican joint in town – and this one won’t break the bank. It probably won’t even make a dent. Nestled between The Celtic Knot and Bistro Bordeaux, this humble eatery is easily missed. The inside is just as unpretentious as the outside, featuring a couple of low and high tables, oversized menus on the walls and specials scrawled on a chalkboard. Unbothered by fussiness, Aguas Tortas lets the food speak for itself, and once you get your hands wrapped around a warm tortilla, you’ll know why. Although many students don’t yet know of this gem, its tables are filled during lunch, dinner and even the hours in between, and there is constant hustle of servers calling out order numbers and patrons picking up take out.
As the name suggests, the specialty here is the Tortas, a self-claimed “Famous Mexican Sandwich.” Served on a thick, crusty roll, it’s piled high with your choice of meat, a semi-spicy chipotle spread, authentic Panela cheese, jalapeños and fresh veggies. There is no need for pricey add-ons here because, believe it or not, this sandwich actually includes avocado. At a mere $5.50, the Tortas may be the best tasty deal Evanston has seen in a while.
If you’re feeling a little less adventurous or maybe just craving something classic, don’t let the restaurant’s name dissuade you. This Mexican eatery has the burritos, tacos, tostadas and quesadillas we all know and love. All the dishes include the necessities: lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and sour cream. Better yet, nothing on the menu is over 9 dollars. No extra costs, no substitutions, no fuss, just simple Mexican flare. With an intriguing menu with so many options (seven different types of meat, anyone?), there is no way you will go only once.
While clearly a meat-lovers paradise, the restaurant also has the option to make any dish vegetarian. But at Aguas Tortas, this doesn’t mean take-all-the-good-stuff-out–instead, they add roasted red peppers and sautéed mushrooms, leaving vegetarians feeling satisfied with much more than a flimsy lettuce and cheese burrito. Make sure to ask for the bottles of homemade mild and spicy sauces, a free way to take your meal to the next level and your taste buds straight to an oceanside cantina.
Even with Spring Break around the corner, you don’t have to shy away from your favorite flavors. Aside from just-fried crunchy tostada or oozing cheesy quesadillas, Aguas Tortas features lighter, beach-bod friendly fares: they make a variety of salads, as well as fish and shrimp alternatives that don’t skimp out on that punchy-Mexican taste you crave.
Another must-try is one of the three Aguas, or flavored waters. The homemade horchata, a light, sweet drink made of rice and milk, is topped with just the right amount of cinnamon and served in a giant foam cup. A large is just 3 dollars and plenty for two people. This agua is a refreshing, guilt-free dessert substitute. For those who are feeling bold, there is also a tangy Jamaica and a vibrant Tamarind flavor available.
Feeling overwhelmed trying to decide what to order? Don’t hesitate to ask the men behind the counter. The staff is incredibly friendly, ready to offer suggestions and eager to hear about your experience. If reading this has made your mouth water but you’re feeling too lazy leave the house or live up North, good news: they deliver! Don’t even bother trying to resist the temptation–with prices so low and ingredients so fresh, Aguas Tortas is the kind of place you can afford to obsess over.
Address: 618 ½ Church St, Evanston IL
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat: 11:00am to 9:00pm, Sun: closed.