Arts & Entertainment

Off the El Eats: Diamante Azul

Off-the-el-EatsSometimes I’m weary of restaurants that have long menus because the quality of food may be sacrificed for the larger variety of options. But Diamante Azul (5661 N. Clark St.) proved me wrong.

Located just a few blocks from the Bryn Mawr stop, the restaurant looks like a typical hole-in-the-wall Mexican takeout joint, with a few tables and dark red walls with stock art and a few Christmas light strands hung sporadically.

But what Diamante Azul lacks in aesthetic, it makes up for with a large menu with flavorful dishes.

When my three friends and I sat down, we were immediately given a basket of chips (with free refills) and two cups of salsa. One was a red salsa, which was fairly mild, and the other was verde, a green salsa with chili peppers that gave it a nice kick.

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Photos Courtesy of Regina Merrill

My friend ordered a tamarind jarritos soda ($2.25), but there were other Mexican drinks such as horchata ($1.95).The restaurant offers many special combo platters that are incredibly filling and budget friendly, but you can also order many items à la carte to try a variety of things without emptying your wallet.

Two of my friends and I ordered the taco combo ($7.25), which came with the choice of any mix of 15 different fillings — including veggie, shrimp and al pastor — with rice and beans. Each individual taco is between $2-$2.75 based on what type of meat is in it.

My vegetarian friend opted for two veggie tostadas ($2.35 each). She liked how each entrée — from tortas and gorditas to burritos and tacos —  had vegetarian options, so she wasn’t limited to just a few items on the menu.

I chose the carnitas, carne asada and chorizo tacos for my plate. They each came in two corn tortillas with cilantro and chopped onion on top. Extra ingredients such as lettuce, tomato and sour cream were 30 cents each. The tacos were plenty flavorful without them, though.

Each meat had a distinct flavor. The carnitas were tender and had a slightly sweet and smoky taste. The carne asada had more of a rich steak flavor, and the chorizo was my favorite because the ground sausage seemed to soak up the flavor of chilies and red peppers in every bite.

The rice and refried beans that came with the plate were fairly standard for what you find at most Mexican restaurants, but they were a nice way to round out the meal.

My friend also really enjoyed her tostadas, which were piled high with mixed veggies, lettuce, a bean spread,DSCF0451 tomatoes and cheese.

While dining, we noticed a steady stream of customers picking up carry-out and a delivery man constantly running in and out. The restaurant seemed like it marked a good spot where people regularly order from, whether you’re eating in or dining out.

At the end of the meal, we were all pleased with the quality and quantity of the food, and agreed that the prices were a good deal.

If you’re looking for something around the same price point as Chipotle but with more options, Diamante Azul is worth a visit. It might not look appealing from the outside (or the inside for that matter), but it provides great comfort food for not a lot of money on a cold Chicago night.

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Layne Hillesland is a senior communication student at Loyola University Chicago and the current Arts & Entertainment Editor for The PHOENIX.

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