At my office's 2011 Christmas party, I sat with our VP, a new Hyde Parker celebrating her one year anniversary in the neighborhood. While chatting, she mentioned Amelia's and I shrugged. "Never heard of it," I said.

She was flabbergasted. "Never heard of Amelia's? But everyone who's IN THE KNOW in Hyde Park goes to Amelia's!"

I was embarrassed. I'm supposed to be in the know!

"Where is it?" I was nearly yelling, wondering if I could be there by dinnertime if I left the party at that exact instant.

"It's at 45th and Halsted. It's amazing."

Okay. 45th and Halsted is not Hyde Park. So, Hyde Parkers, if you don't know about Amelia's, it's through no fault of your own. 45th and Halsted is not exactly an intersection brimming with possibility, nor is it exactly next door. That is pretty amazing, and it's pretty close, so here's the scoop. (And I'll see you there!)

They're open for brunch (my favorite meal), but we went for dinner last week. It was Wednesday, and we had an early and totally unnecessary reservation (apparently not many other hungry diners were ready to eat at 5:30). They have a bar, but it's BYOB (there's a grocery store across the street...B and I dashed there to get a bottle of wine and ultimately, after searching the shelves pretty thoroughly, found a dusty Malbec that was reasonably priced and, as it turned out, super-delicious).

Mexican is my favorite cuisine (well, I guess, second-favorite...dessert is my favorite), and we know a great many wee Mexican spots, but Amelia's surprised us. The menu is pretty heavy on the seafood (which I love but cannot eat right now), and your vegetarian options are relatively limited. (If you're vegan, I don't know how you can eat anything Mexican...)

Here's what we ate:

Quesadilla de huitlacoche. This is a cheesy, earthy, juicy, salty, spicy quesadilla of yum. This isn't a food blog, but if it were, I would get into all kinds of detail about this. It's a quesadilla! You had no idea a quesadilla could taste like this. It could have been a little lighter on the truffles (Mexican mushrooms) -- a little too, umm, earthy (read: dirty) for me. But B was enthralled.

Lomo de Cerdo. It's a pork tenderloin, cooked medium (thank goodness this is allowed now -- what's worse than overcooked anything?) and served with hominy, among other things. I'd forgotten how delicious hominy is. I'm not a huge pork person, so I left much of the eating of this dish to B.

Chile en Nogada. I'm still thinking about this stuffed pepper and, as I write this, my mouth is watering. It's a poblano pepper, stuffed with ground meat and dried cranberries, drizzled with a sweet pecan sauce, topped with queso fresco and pomegranate seeds. It sounded weird, but our (totally delightful) waitress insisted we try this seasonal item, and I'm a sucker for anything with a "limited edition" tag. Blog readers: this pepper was so good. The perfect combination of sweet and spicy -- you didn't even know you WANTED a combination of sweet and spicy, but eat this and you'll be craving it for weeks. A little chewy, some snap, creaminess. Man. Good stuff, Maynard.

Like I said, our waitress was phenomenal, too. The atmosphere is laid-back and quiet, and we both ate for less than $100 (tip and our dusty wine included). Street parking was easy and free. Bathrooms were small but clean. I probably wouldn't take S here (it didn't seem the baby-friendliest -- no obvious high chairs and certainly no kids menu), but for nights when we've got a sitter, Amelia's is definitely going on the list.

Check out Amelia's here.

Filed under: Hyde Park Places

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