Right On, Q—Quiubo

May 2017 View more

Like any major downtown initiative in Naperville, the long-gestating Water Street development—now coming to incremental life along the Riverwalk—inspired plenty of debate among proponents and detractors during its planning phase. Without getting into the minutiae of those discussions, however, it seems clear that supporters may have buried the lede when it came to rallying support for their cause.

After all, if you want to get almost any west suburban crowd on your side, just drop a hint that the Bien Trucha folks are bringing a new restaurant to town as part of the deal and the only thing drowning out the thunderous “ayes” in the room will be the Pavlovian grumbling of tummies. Indeed, even passing knowledge of the human crush at the group’s original taco haven in Geneva or the rapturous reviews of sister outlet A Toda Madre in Glen Ellyn should be enough to convince even the most dug-in skeptic that the arrival of Quiubo (pronounced “cue-bo,” and loosely translated as “what’s up?”) promises to be a delicious win for the diners of Naperville.           

What’s Up, South Bank?

Nestled into a corner of the new Hotel Indigo complex, Quiubo is a compact but airy space, with stark industrial gray walls accentuated by the occasional vibrant splash of color and one impressive mural from Mexican artist Spaik. Though far more spacious than the glorified coat closet that got this empire rolling out in the Tri-Cities, one can imagine large crowds at the bar and spilling out into the street on busy weekends when word begins to get around (as the weather warms, a handful of al fresco tables will likely help keep the wait times in check).

Of course, a seat at the bar is hardly purgatory for anyone who enjoys a good Mexican or local craft beer or, better yet, one of the small-but-potent margarita concoctions on the Quiubo beverage slate. It can even provide a welcome opportunity to get a head start on dinner with a basket of crispy house-made chips and a helping of the from-scratch guacamole.     

Small Table, Big Flavors

We managed to snag a comfortable high-top on our early-evening midweek visit just days after the grand opening, and indeed opted to review the menu over a heaping mound of the day’s special guacamole, which boasted a sweet kick of pineapple. Those who have had the distinct pleasure of a visit to Bien Trucha or A Toda Madre will recognize several familiar highlights from those menus at Quiubo, which neither attempts to replicate its sister outlets nor diverges dramatically from its culinary DNA.

For example, the centerpiece here is (as it should be) a selection of seven delectable taco choices, served in freshly made tortillas and doled out by the (maddeningly non-interchangeable) foursome. Sharing being one of the hallmarks of the Quiubo aesthetic, we opted to mix and match across the table from quartets of the skirt steak-chorizo-Chihuahua combo and the simple pork-onion-cilantro carnitas with serrano-lime salsa. We also split an order of the flautitas, crispy little Mexican egg rolls packed with shredded chicken and potato hash and topped with queso fresco and tomatillo salsa.

What really moved our table from merely crowded to a ridiculous game of dishware Tetris, however, was a trio of fantastic side items—a bowl of the can’t-miss esquites (grilled corn, chile queso and butter lemon aioli), an order of arroz (white rice with poblano peppers, sour cream and Chihuahua cheese) and a healthy helping of frijoles (pinto beans with pork belly, pico de gallo and Mexican beer).

Had we overbuilt? Bitten off more than we could chew? Added too much congestion to the table? Yes, yes and yes, but guess what? Quiubo came through time and again, putting these concerns, and our appetites, to blissful rest.

120 Water Street, #122