DeColores Galeria y Sabores, 1626 S. Halsted Chicago, 312-226-9886, www.decolor.us
Lunch hours: 11:30AM-2:30PM, Weekend brunch: 10:30AM-2PM, Dinner hours:Sun-Thurs 5:00PM-11:00PM, Weekend dinner hours: Fri-Sat 5PM-12AM

Officially opening its doors on the Day of the Dead 2009, DeColores Galeria y Sabores has imbued the Pilsen Art District’s dining options with new life ever since its inception. Offering fresh flavors via traditional Mexican fare and a warmly vibrant decor, a dining experience at DeColores is a must-have for Chicagoans and visitors alike.

I made the trip to DeColores on a typical cold and icy Monday evening in February. I was courteously welcomed into the dining area just past the bar–which featured a richly colored mural and hanging paper art emblazoned with precolumbian Mexican motifs. DeColores is a BYOB establishment and offers BYOB mixers made in-house including mixers for margaritas and micheladas. There is a minimal $4 corkage fee.  Quite uncharacteristically I found myself without a bottle in my purse so I chose instead to sample their frothy, fresh brewed agua de flor de jamaica, or hibiscus tea, that proved to be quite refreshing. While the weekdays afford a dining area that is quieter and conducive to conversation (and therefore ideal for people like me who like to steadily blab throughout their meals), things pick up on the weekends and full houses are the norm. From what I hear, it really pops off on the weekend. Reservations for parties of 5 or more are encouraged.

Soliciting the help of a friend, I worked my way through some of DeColores’ signature dishes. Fortunately, we both arrived with healthy appetites as portions are pleasantly large. To open, we started off with a crowd-favorite, the taquitos de papa. These tasty mini tacos were stuffed with wild rose red potato and topped with a mix of julienned carrots, sugar beets, chayote, queso fresco and a tomato citrus sauce. They made a nice addition to our dinner along with the guacamole we ordered. Now, I tend to take my guacamole very seriously. Let the record show that DeColores’ guacamole went above and beyond my most uncompromising expectations for foods made with my beloved butter pear. Methinks the cucumber and red onion are behind the inordinately high degree of guac deliciousness.

Entrées are moderately priced (think $14-$18 range) and large. Neither of the two entrees at our table met their end by our forks that night. Instead, the leftovers made for good second meals the next day. The mahi mahi en salsa de naranja was a delectable choice and found to be justifiably popular by our enthusiastic admittance. Served with rice and a crisp salad, sitting atop a luscious bed of spinach, the weighty grilled mahi mahi fillet was smothered in an orange citrus salsa which was not too sweet or distracting; it was just right. I was similarly delighted by the chicken in mole poblano. Never having been a big fan of mole (and I blame this on the many mediocre versions I have come across), I had to be persuaded to try the mole poblano at DeColores. Pulled in by its status as the 2010 Mole de Mayo People’s Choice Award winner, all doubts were cast aside at first bite. The chocolate-based sauce is derived from a family recipe held by the owners of the restaurant and includes over 20 ingredients–the identities of which I am assuming are heavily guarded.  The mole is at once buttery and light, richly complex and accentuated with a delicate essence of peanut.

Dear DeColores Mole Poblano,

I am now a believer.

Sincerely,
Reyna

Saying “To Hell!” with those silly FDA approved caloric and carb intake allotments designed for so-called “healthy living,” we decided to order dessert. The flan cheesecake was exceedingly decadent and rich–in a bad way; a sinfully “good” bad way that only the most enjoyable things of this earth are known to be. A less indulgent but equally mouthwatering choice was the vanilla ice cream, lightly drizzled with chocolate sauce and served atop a crisp, cinnamon flavored wafer.

Freshness is not only limited to what comes out of the kitchen. Spend ten seconds in DeColores, and your eyes are sure to fall on any of the myriad paintings displayed in the dining area. The collection currently displayed belongs to the 2ND FLR Gallery. DeColores plans to feature a new artist every month, coinciding with the Pilsen 2nd Fridays Art Walk. Arno Mayorga of the 2ND FLR Gallery is in charge of bringing new works into the establishment and curating the exhibits. DeColores also accepts music submissions from local artists for play during hours of operation.

There is additional seating for up to 70 in an upstairs dining area whose walls are also nicely adorned with numerous original works held by the Reyes family (owners of DeColores) and Arno Mayorga of the 2ND FLR Gallery. This dining space is available to rent for special occasions and private events including business luncheons, anniversary and birthday parties. Contact DeColores for additional information.

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