Fish Tacos With a Side of House Music


As you may know from one of my recent posts, I am working on a restaurant profile of Chilam Balam, a Mexican restaurant that is making waves on the Chicago foodie scene, with a spotlight on owner Soraya Rendon and executive chef Natalie Oswald. Hungry after a couple days worth of interviews (video to come), Alex, my partner for the project, and I sat down to enjoy a dinner at the restaurant on the house. Since I had never actually gotten a chance to eat there before (Alex has many times), I can now officially vouch for all of the hype in Chicago around it. Chilam Balam has small plates that pack such rich flavors, and each small plate will truly blow your mind.


Chilam Balam’s cozy interior provides an escape from the Chicago hustle and bustle outside. 



When looking at the menu, Alex and I decided to go for the small plates in red font, because those plates are the new ones. We also ordered one of the plates off the menu per the friendly waiter’s recommendation.


Brand new or a classic favorite, it didn’t matter. The food was out of this world. I have eaten at Girl and the Goat, which is the number one most well known and renowned small plate restaurant in Chicago, and I had a spectacular experience there. The small plates at Chilam Balam brought me back to that Girl and the Goat experience, and I was surprised that the food I was eating at the moment was totally comparable to Girl and the Goat.


The dish you cannot skip is the grilled flank steak, which was the one plate that was recommended by our waiter. The steak is finished with roasted potato, crispy onion, guajillo chile, and cilantro. One of the most tender steaks I have ever had, it seemed as if the steak had been slow roasting for days. Served with warm, hand-pressed tortillas on the side that I watched one of the cooks make, it is not possible to resist this twist on tacos.


Also on freshly made tortillas were the fish tacos, served with a yogurt, cabbage, and a grapefruit pomegranate salsa. How chef Natalie even thinks up these wonderfully unexpected and innovative combinations, I don’t know.


Executive Chef Natalie Oswald hard at work


I also really, really enjoyed the brussel sprouts salad. The sprouts were finished with grilled pineapple, chives, and pepitas – all foods you would not think to put on a typical brussel sprouts salad, but it really works. The complimentary sauce on the dish was a delicious butternut pineapple puree. Especially with the salad, you can taste the farm-to-table freshness of the food in the restaurant.


Chilam Balam’s brussel sprouts salad 


All the time we were eating, the bass on the sound system was turned up for house music, controlled by Soraya’s brother and Chilam Balam manager Eddie, and was loud enough to hear clearly but not too loud. The music did not distract but rather added to the atmosphere of the restaurant. The warm soul food, house music, painted metal stars hanging down from the ceilings, pillows in the corners, and candles create out of the restaurant a cozy little basement nook that you never want to leave.


After learning all day about the hours and hours that goes into the food preparation, I had an even greater appreciation for the food in front of me. Each plate looks like a small work of art, and it tastes like a small work of art too.




You can find the full November menu for Chilam Balam here on their website. For more on Chilam Balam, see my previous blog post. Stay tuned for more posts ahead on the restaurant. Also, Alex and I’s video profile on the restaurant will be coming out in the beginning of December. Get excited guys – it is going to be awesome!

Published by Ally Spiroff

I am Ally Spiroff, and what seems like seven short years ago I created a Twitter account, @runningforlife2. I tweeted how I felt and what I was doing. I tweeted about my greatest passion in life, running. I also tweeted about my other passions, food, music, movies, books, pop culture, writing, traveling, and life. Before I knew it, people (mostly those people in the running community but others too) began to latch onto my life. Then, I realized, “hey, this Twitter thing is pretty cool.” I get to write about what I love. I get to tell my story. The world around me, all of my people, get to ride along with me as I take on the world, one day at a time. People can watch me grow. I can watch other people grow. The Twitter handle has evolved into @allyspiroff over time. With it, the content has also evolved, but the same crazy woman is behind the content. :) So what exactly is my story? Who exactly is Ally Spiroff? I graduated with a Master's in Communication from Loyola University Chicago in May 2017. I was a Division I collegiate athlete there for five years, all four of my undergraduate and one of my graduate years. I graduated with honors in May 2015 with a Bachelor’s in English. In the winter/spring 2015-2016 due to a redshirt season of indoor and outdoor track, I returned to run a fifth year. Since I have always thought that it is more fun to jump over water and other obstacles than just run normal laps around the track and I like a good challenge, I am a steeplechaser by nature. I got to chase fast steeple times for one more season at Loyola, as well as run the 3k, 5k, and even the mile/1500 with my teammates that double as my best friends, sisters, inspirations, and the greatest people you will ever meet. Now, you might ask, how did I still run at Loyola if I graduated in the spring of 2015? I started the cutting-edge graduate program Digital Media & Storytelling in the fall of 2016 at Loyola. It was a two-year program, so I was blessed with another year at the wonderful Jesuit institution to finish up my Master's degree. After obtaining both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I have become an experienced writer and researcher. Through graduate work, I have become well versed in Adobe Creative Commons software programs, specifically Photoshop and shooting and editing video in Premiere Pro, and in Google Analytics, along with other search engine optimization tools. Through an abundance of internship experience, I became extremely proficient in news editing software programs. I have lots of experience in the newsroom and writing for news producers as well as out in the field on assignment and in working with a variety of people. My experience as an undergraduate and a graduate student while simultaneously being a Division I collegiate athlete on Loyola’s cross country and track teams as well as in a variety of jobs/internships and volunteer work has helped develop my confidence, drive, responsibility, time management, sense of teamwork, people skills, communication, troubleshooting skills, attention to detail, critical thinking skills, leadership, planning skills, and even a sense of humor. I also have extensive experience with all outlets of social media. As I mentioned before, I am an avid tweeter and Instagram user, with 1,450+ followers on Twitter. I have lots of experience with creating and building content for websites. I also run the website I created for my graduate school capstone project, titled "Wise Old Women." I am on Pinterest, Foursquare/Swarm, and Facebook as well. I wrote in the arts and entertainment section of my university’s award-winning newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. You can find my running profile on the Loyola Ramblers website. You can find all about my collegiate running career on TFRRS. Of course, you can also catch me on LinkedIn. I am lucky because I get to tell people’s stories for a living online, through digital media and other means. Currently, I live in New York City and I'm the Digital Editorial Assistant at Runner's World magazine, and I'm a freelance writer for VICE's health vertical, Tonic. I really love life. I have big dreams. I do not know where my dreams will take me, but I am confident that they will take me far. I am an open book. I like sharing myself with anybody who wants to listen. I am enjoying the opportunity to further my education every day and perfect my craft. I love learning something new every single day about myself, others, and the world around me. Besides being a multimedia journalist and a city dweller, I am a literature (Hemingway and Plath are my favorites) and grammar nerd, a hippie, a music fanatic, a foodie, a concert-goer, a traveler, a huge sports fan, a fashionista, an art lover, and an urban explorer who likes natural adventures (like hiking up mountains in Alaska) as well. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I conquer it. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, though, and no matter where I go, I never forget my roots. Milwaukee will always be my city and where my heart truly lies. I have quite the eye for unique knick-knacks. My spirit animals are the grasshopper and the gazelle. When I take the Essential Enneagram Test, I am #3. I am a hard worker with relentless energy. I am everyone’s sister. I am nutty but in a way that I like it. I think that God is so good and we are blessed to get to walk this earth every day. I believe that every person has the right to be exactly who they are. I am dreaming big, with my head in the clouds, but there is still some common sense in there somewhere. ;) Turning over a new leaf in my life, at the start of grad school, I wanted to create a comprehensive website where I could connect you to all of my social media outlets. I will continue to share my running experiences and life journey through this awesome outlet we now have called the World Wide Web, and I hope that everyone continues to enjoy all things Ally Spiroff. Peace, love, and running (fast), Ally Spiroff

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