XOCO, Rick Bayless' experiment in offering localvore Mexican-inspired sandwiches in River North is overwhelmingly looked at as a huge success. Lines run practically out the door on even the wettest, most miserable days. Foodies, both casual and serious, cherish the wood-burning stove baked tortas, the delicate yet sweet churros and the rich freshly-ground hot chocolate.
However, none of those things are the best item on the menu. That title is not reserved by the famous Torta Ahogata, a deceptively simple carnitas torta served in a spicy tomato broth. Rather, the best item served at XOCO is the griddled Milanesa.
Defying expectations, the Milanesa is made from chicken not pork. The chicken from nearby Gunthorp farms is pounded flat and breaded, keeping with the tradition of the Latin American dish. The breaded filet is accented with black beans, artisan Jack cheese and pickled jalapenos, smothered between two delicate pieces of fresh-baked flat bread.
The pièce de résistance of this sandwich comes in it's final preparation: griddle cooked like a panini. The heat from the griddle melts the Jack into the other toppings and occasionally spills out the sides of the sandwich. The combination of the griddle-burnt cheese, the salty spice of the pickled jalapeno and the texture of the oversized Chicken filet(s) offers a delightful bite which could possibly convince a wayward vegetarian to dwell with the omnivores once again.
This is not to say that the other tortas and caldos available at XOCO are not fantastic. I have sampled the majority of the menu and have yet to be disappointed. However, in terms of flavor, gram for gram, the Milanesa is the best choice at XOCO, and in this reviewer's eyes, the best chicken sandwich in Chicago.