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A brightly lit bar with five padded, tufted stools in front of a white countertop and lush green plants hanging from the skylit ceiling.
Lifestyle, Taste & Sip

Ole! New Blanco Cocina+Cantina Opens in Oak Brook

Try the new Blanco Cocina + Cantina, where Mexican classics are served up with a contemporary twist.

Every day is a fiesta at the sit-down eatery with a casual, happy vibe in Oakbrook Center in west suburban Oak Brook, Illinois.

“Our goal is to provide a fun atmosphere with upscale Mexican food and really great hospitality where people can relax and unwind with their friends or family,” says Dan Klein, a regional manager of operations for parent company Fox Restaurant Concepts.

The restaurant’s decor is enlivened with splashes of lime green and salmon, and decked with verdant plant life. The spacious U-shaped bar is surrounded by comfy upholstered seats and flanked by large-screen televisions. If you prefer to dine al fresco, ask for one of the umbrella-topped tables on the patio. Private dining rooms are available too.

The menu offers fresh takes on familiar South of the Border fare as well as inspired culinary creations and have-it-your-way options, all prepared in an open, scratch kitchen.

Two cocktails, one dark purple garnished with a blackberry and orange slice, and the other is light pink garnished with a watermelon chunk and rimmed with a rusty-colored chili lime salt.
Our Blackberry Sangria and Smashed Watermelon Margarita at Blanco Cocina+Cantina in Oakbrook Center IL

For starters, we checked out the beverage menu, which features handcrafted cocktails with freshly squeezed juices. The Blackberry Sangria is a lovely concoction of brandy, red wine, blackberries and orange and lime juices. The Smashed Watermelon Margarita, generously rimmed with chili lime salt, is a must-try. Other choices include tequila flights and local and Mexican beers.

Looking down on two bowls, one has cheese-dusted pieces of corn-on-the-cob, and the other is shrimp, crab, avocado chunks and radish slices.
A selection of corn and seafood appetizers.

Our thirsts quenched, we moved on to the appetizers. We ordered chicken tortilla soup and the zesty shrimp and crab cocktail, which I would be content to order every single day of my life. The warm, creamy queso came with dollops of guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo–add ground beef if you wish. Another fab choice was the Mexican street corn smothered in mayo, cotija cheese, lime and cilantro.

A white bowl of chicken tortilla soup garnished with cilantro leaves
Chicken tortilla soup

For our entrees, we ordered the grilled shrimp tacos and chicken fajitas. Both came loaded with extras like tangy sauces, pico de gallo and choice of black or charro beans. (The charro beans are cooked with pork and various spices.) Our sweet ending was a creamy brown sugar caramel flan with whipped cream and fresh fruity goodness.

I’m not a person who enjoys super-hot-and-spicy foods, but our selections were just right for my milder tastes.

Two shrimp tacos garnished with cabbage and white cheese crumbles, black beans and white rice
Grilled shrimp tacos with rice and black beans

Other notable menu choices are the short rib machaca with caramelized onions and peppers, yellow cheese and ancho chili sauce that can be ordered as a burrito, bowl or enchilada. The cheese crisps, fashioned like pizza, consists of a crispy tortilla lavished with the likes of barbecue pork with roasted corn or roasted poblano chili with tomato.

If you can’t decide, order the combo platter of beef taco, cheese enchilada and bean tostada.

A bowl of brown sugar-covered flan topped with a dollop of whipped cream and garnished with blackberries and slices of strawberries.
Brown sugar caramel flan with whipped cream and berries

Reservations are highly recommended. Even though Blanco Cocina + Cantina has been open for only a short time, the place is really bustling!

“We are excited to be here,” Klein says. “We’ve been super busy, busier than we could hope to be. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to our opening.”

Blanco Cocina + Cantina is owned by Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts, a portfolio of more than 50 casual eateries and cuisines mostly in the South and Southwest. The Oak Brook location is the company’s first entry in the Midwest, but it surely won’t be the last.

DETAILS: Blanco Cocina + Cantina is located at 2022 Spring Road, Oakbrook, next door to The Cheesecake Factory. Telephone: 630-320-2034.

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