This review has been a long time coming. I’ve been conflicted about whether I should review Crio at all, because it’s not technically somewhere you can dine “off the Red Line.” It’s more of somewhere you can dine “off the Red Line plus a one-mile walk or 10-minute bus ride” — but it’s worth the trip.
Get off at the Fullerton Red Line stop, head one mile west and you’ll find yourself in the middle of nowhere. Too far from Depaul’s campus to be flooded with college students and not really near anything else, Crio’s location at 2506 N. Clybourn Ave. is the only bad thing about the place.
The restaurant’s firetruck-red exterior sets it apart from the surrounding area’s dullness, and the inside is just as modern and edgy. There’s a giant mural of a woman in glasses with red lipstick on one brick wall, a huge chalkboard on another and a colorful floral arrangement next to a fireplace that serves as the background of many Instagram photos.
The service also sets Crio apart from other Chicago restaurants. The staff is ready to accommodate guests, whether that means making special orders or just checking in on tables often, adding to the family owned feel of the place.
I’ve been to Crio on three unique occasions, originally prompted by the restaurant’s amazing and witty Instagram feed. The first was just a typical dinner with one of my friends on a weeknight; the second was to celebrate my 21st birthday with my family; and the third was the restaurant’s one-year anniversary party. I tried something new every time and was never disappointed.
The first time I visited, I tried the loaded fries appetizer ($8) and the American burger ($12). The loaded fries are seasoned with parsley and garlic and topped with barbeque pulled pork, melted cheddar cheese and scallions. The pork was juicy and tender with a tangy sauce, but that sauce is shoved out of the spotlight by the cheese, which reminded me of a perfectly melted version of beer cheese or pub cheese. The American burger is topped with the same cheese (which automatically makes it delicious), plus a fried egg and grilled onions.
Half of my family ordered the American burger during my birthday dinner — some with the egg and some without (my family is full of picky eaters) — but everyone raved about it. My aunt even ordered an extra cup of the cheese to go on the side. That night, I tried the beer-battered fish tacos, which are topped with cabbage coleslaw, orange chipotle mayo and avocado cream. The fish portions were generous and the spiciness of the chipotle mayo was perfectly balanced by the cool avocado cream. The slaw added a nice acidity to the dish.
Crio was even able to please my young cousins, who ordered mac and cheese (without the andouille sausage it normally includes) and mini-burger sliders, and my especially picky uncle who maintains a 10-foot distance from onions at all times.
Everything I tried at Crio’s anniversary party in June — corn and poblano empanadas, cheeseburger sliders and potato and chorizo tacos — was amazing, but a standout was the mac and cheese. With enough cheese to scare off a weaker person and just the right amount of andouille sausage, it’s the perfect comfort food.
I eagerly await my fourth trip to Crio. (Did I mention the brunch there also looks phenomenal?)
Verdict: This restaurant should be overbooked every night, but it seems like people haven’t quite discovered this tucked-away paradise. If you want great service, great food and great atmosphere, Crio is one of my top picks in the city. Check out the restaurant’s website for daily specials ($8 burger Thursday forever has my heart) or Instagram/Facebook for some awesome food porn.