Mesa Urbana Review – Wonderful Food, A City-Like Atmosphere in Northbrook

Chicago Splash Magazine reviewers Leon, Barbara and Joel visited Mesa Urbana, unobtrusively located in a small shopping center on Milwaukee north of Lake in Northbrook.  It would be very easy to pass right by it, and what a shame that would be.  Stepping inside early on a Wednesday evening, we discovered a Chicago feel in this suburban restaurant.  The décor was charming, the food and service were fantastic, and as the evening grew later, the restaurant was completely filled.


Mesa Urbana, Photo: Courtesy of Kerri Sherman

Obviously, many people have found their way here.


Many people have found their way to Mesa Urbana

Stepping inside, the bar greeted us and very soon, margaritas did, too – beautiful and delicious.  Joel liked the cucumber flavor the best.  He thought the flavors tasted clean and healthy.  Later we learned  “to look at the color of a margarita because it will tell you a lot about the taste. Only fresh limes, kiwi, cucumber, raspberries and pomegranate are used.”  


Entering Mesa Urbana

It was our delight to talk with owner, Moe Taleb, who previously owned Kith & Kin, (a gastro Pub in Lincoln Park), and Chef Eusivo Garcia, The menu created by Taleb and Garcia is elegant and creative. The dishes we enjoyed begin with locally sourced produce, poultry and meat and fresh seafood.


Mixologist Berto Esparza, owner Moe Taleb and Chef Chef Eusivo Garcia

Taleb shared that shortly after completing a business degree in CA, he returned to Chicago and opened Zig Zag, an active catering business that serves businesses and homes, and continues to be his “bread and butter”.



In 2008, Taleb was ready to open a restaurant. Since the age of 17 he has loved cooking and working with food.  “Kith and Kin”, his gastro pub in Lincoln Park, was highly regarded.  David Carrier who had once been the Sous Chef at Evanston’s Trio was his chef.  Although the restaurant did very well, Taleb felt it was time to close it after four years.


With Mesa Urbana, Taleb is fulfilling a dream. Taleb designed the interior.  Each area is a little different.  Here, in Northbrook, in the center of five hotels, Mesa Urbana offers the fantastic food and the feel of a downtown Chicago restaurant, without the parking hassle and with prices that are much more agreeable. The food is chef driven upscale modern Mexican Cuisine. And the chef is very creative!


Once seated, our group enjoyed one dish after the next, ooing and ahing in response to the beautiful presentation of the food.  We were impressed with each dish.


Fresh, cold water, hot salsa and crispy chips

Typically, all guests are offered lovely cold water in beautiful glasses, hot salsa and crispy chips.  A lovely way to begin!


Guacamole - cucumbers, celery sticks, watermelon radishes, yellow striped beets

We began with guacamole, which was among the best any of us had previously tasted.  I was impressed that presentation that allowed me to choose to place it on the wonderful house made chips or on the gorgeous and delicious vegetables.  I generally don’t like radishes but the ones on the plate were beautiful and new to me – and were they good!


Mejillones Al Chipotle - Atlantic black mussels, leeks, garlic, chipotle cream sauce.

Leon and Joel really enjoyed the mussels.  They found the portion very generous and loved the smokiness of the chipotle.  They loved the accompanying spicy garlic tomato sauce.


Empanada - roasted butternut squash, shallots, spinach, romanesco spread


The empanada was primarily for me because it met my need for a vegetarian dish.  What a treat to be able to eat it.  It was large and beautiful and so delicious that I could not stop eating it and grudgingly shared it with my companions. The flavors were mellow and the crust was firm and slightly crispy contrasting to the softer filling.


Pechuga de Pollo - Harrison's Farm chicken breast, cipollini onions, chayote, smoked chicken sauce


Both Leon and Joel loved this dish. The skin was crispy and chicken was moist and tender.  There was a subtle, smoky flavor.  The chicken reduction au jus made a wonderful dipping sauce for the bread.  The flavoring of the cous cous was unusual and delicious.



Callos De Hacha - pan seared scallops, acorn squash, green beans, baby spinach, guajillo brown butter


Leon was especially delighted with the scallops, and Joel also thought they were great.  The scallops were huge and their soft texture was a perfect complement to the acorn squash with each flavor sustained.


Carne Asada - angus skirt steak, nopales empapelados, cranberry beans, watercress salad


The Carne Asada was amazing. The meat was tender, the beans had a great texture and flavor and there was a cactus dish with cheese that was very unusual and absolutely delicious.  Joel was interested in how the meat was prepared and learned that: “they grill the skirt steak on high temperature grill that is one of a kind.  All they do is salt and black pepper to the steak and grill it.”



Capirotada de Ciruela - prune bread pudding, avocado ice cream, crema glasi, and mixed berry coulis



Dessert sounded too good to miss, not that anyone was still hungry.  The prune bread pudding had a balanced texture.  A semi caramelized top maintained the texture and flavor, and was enhanced by the prunes that provided the sweetness of figs and the citrus of plums.


The avocado ice cream was an unusual treat.  I also had vanilla gelato that was superb.


Concluding this amazing culinary experience, Taleb mentioned that the halibut steak is outstanding.  Looks like we will have to come back soon.


Risotto Crusted Halibut, Photo: Courtesy of Kerri Sherman

Amazing, extensive drink menu that includes a wide range of locally produced beer along with cocktails, spirits, wine and coffee. Something like 2,500  margaritas are served during a week.


There is indoor seating for over 120 people, and though the location is suburban, the feel is very urban, as the name suggests. Adding to this feeling, there is one of the largest selections of high end tequila for margaritas, all of which are prepared fresh in front of you. Taleb says to look at the color of a margarita because it will tell you a lot about the taste. Only fresh limes, kiwi, cucumber, raspberries and pomegranate are used   White and red wine and champagne can be ordered by the glass or bottle.  There is also an extensive list of draft and bottled beer.


Mesa Urbana is open every day except for Monday, starting at 11am. and is located at 3566 N. Milwaukee, Northbrook. Mesa Urbana website.Taleb also offers catering for parties and events.



Photos: B. Keer unless otherwise noted.

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