Bayless Bring it on to Nashville, Please.
I am referring to Cruz Banca. Rick Bayless's current restaurant of genius. And no, sadly it is not in Nashville. Like the majority of his culinary masterpieces it resides in Chicago. I just happened to be fortunate enough to travel there recently, where I savoured one of the best meals of my life. Truly.
This industrial-elegant cerveseria and taqueria houses craft beers and dishes from Oaxaca's Mercado 20 de Noviembre, bringing the flavors and textures of "Smoke Alley" to life in simply grilled meats and hand-crafted tortillas. The garnishes are all straightforward, grilled onions and peppers, perfectly complimenting the decadence of meats such as flank steak (Beef Tasajo) and red chile pork loin (Pork Cecina.) It is simply brilliant. No muss, no fuss. Every flavor meets the palate as it should, leaving the tastebuds craving more, long after the diner is full and satiated. This is food to dream about.
The guacamole is creamy and flavorful, with hand-made chips, rustic and roasted flavors with a hint of salt. A perfect pairing with their beautiful margarita - a concoction of all fresh ingredients - with the beautiful addition of their house tequila, Casa Noble Crystal. (Which if you have not tried, I highly recommend in all forms.) The Blue Weber Agave tequila adds the touch of honey and buttery notes for a smooth finish to this delicate drink.
But wait. There's more...
The cucumer salad is a must-order side. With a simple, not too sweet light lime dressing, the salad hosts radishes and cilantro, a palate enhancing and cleansing partner to every dish on the menu. And for those with a sweet tooth, there are beautiful bags of cookies to share table-side or take on the run. A sweet end to a sweeter experience.
The staff is not only professional, but incredibly helpful and knowledgable. We were greeted by a young hostess, Kristen, who walked us through the unique order system with ease and expertise. Our bartender, Jennifer, sadly has parted ways with the restaurant - (it was her last day, much to their dismay and hers) - I hope in the future she will return when life allows.
If and when...
Bring her back! She had ours.
She delivered our silky end-of-meal-tequila-order to the table, though table service is not part of this communal eating experience. (Again, the Casa Noble this time Reposado, an orange slice garnishing the glass, enhancing the experience of lively, immature adolescent end notes.) Way to make a customer feel special Jennifer! When we moved to the bar, she discussed tequila, Bayless and his restaurants with loyalty, prowess and humor.
It is no wonder this newest addition to the Chicago food scene is so exceptional, Rick Bayless is the forerunner of authentic Mexican Cuisine in the U.S. - His iconic Frontera Grill is still going strong 25 plus years and counting - it is a testament to his craft and cuisine. Cruz Blanca is sure to stand this same test of time.
Bayless has done it again. And again. And again.
And so, I send out this plea, for the people of Nashville and our booming tourism...
Please Chef, Please...Bring it on home to me.