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Yolo a small wonder for tasty Mexican food


5111 Brown St., Skokie; (847) 674-0987;

Prices: Appetizers, $9-$13; entrees, $13-$18; desserts, $4.50-$4.95.

Hours: Open for dinner at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Try: Mango salad, Mole de Tamarindo, Lomo de Puerco Poblano and flan.

Tips: Reservations strongly recommended. Bring your own wine or beer. Conversation-friendly.

In a bite: Yolo Mexican Eatery serves heavenly Mexican food at down-to-earth prices. It’s a sophisticated restaurant but completely unpretentious.

Mexican cuisine is well represented on the suburban dining scene, where it’s a rare town that doesn’t have at least one such restaurant.

A superior example is Yolo Mexican Eatery, which debuted some 18 months ago in a quiet storefront space in Skokie.

Its name, short for “yolotl,” is derived from the Nahuatl language spoken long ago by the original inhabitants of the central plateau in Mexico. It translates as “heart.”

A recent visit to this attractively decorated, pocket-size restaurant (it can comfortably seat no more than 30 people) confirms there’s plenty of heart in Yolo’s wholesome, creative and moderately priced menu.

Yolo has no liquor license, but guests are invited to bring their own wine or beer (corkage fees are waived).

Tortilla chips and a lively tomato-based salsa were brought to our booth immediately after we arrived.

Dinner started with a shareable Ensalada de Mango. This tasty salad featured cucumber, orange, mango and jicama over a bed of mixed greens dressed with a tamarind vinaigrette and garnished with toasted crushed almonds.

The substantial salad provided an accurate gauge for estimating the sizes (generous) of the entrees. As a result, it was possible to forego for another occasion the appealing appetizers such as shrimp ceviche, steak tacos and stuffed corn cakes.

Mole sauce, a long-time favorite in its many iterations, received star treatment in a new dish on the menu that paired roasted boneless pork ribs with a delectable tamarind mole sauce. Rice and refried beans accompanied, as did warm corn tortillas.

Lomo de Puerco Poblano found favor with a dining companion. Perfectly cooked pork tenderloin came swathed in a creamy poblano sauce that was plated with a medley of green beans, red and yellow bell pepper, broccoli and carrots, and a sweet potato puree.

Various chicken and steak dishes also were on offer along with three seafood entrees: whole battered pampano in a cilantro sauce, salmon filet in a creamy sesame seed sauce and shrimp marinated in guajillo (chili pepper) sauce.

For dessert, the choices included crepes filled with caramelized apple in a brandy sauce topped with vanilla ice cream, a vanilla flan and a mango cheesecake. The first two are house-made, and we found the flan — sweet, creamy and dense — irresistible.

Yolo plays entertaining Mexican background music. One wall has a beautiful Tree of Life wall-hanging, while two pre-Columbian-style sculptures hold court in the middle of the dining room.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.

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