Chef Paco Lopez of New RebozoFile 2010

Oak Parkers looking for an authentic Mexican meal don’t need to venture farther than the intersection of Madison and Harlem. That is according to the Mexican consulate in Chicago, and other groups, which have recognized New Rebozo, 1116 Madison St., as one of the 20 most authentic Mexican eateries in the Chicago area.

The “Sabores Autenticos de Mexico” (translated as “authentic flavors of Mexico”) award was presented Oct. 25 by the consulate and U.S.-Mexican Chamber of Commerce. The awards program is an effort of Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food.

Francisco “Paco” Lopez — the enthusiastic Oak Park resident who owns the 19-year-old establishment — says he was surprised by the designation, as he had never even heard of the prize. Even more exciting, he said, was being one of only a few other suburban restaurants featured on the list.

“I think it’s very nice because you see the names of the other restaurants. Very huge restaurants in Chicago,” Lopez said.

The lineup of honorees is punctuated with spots from the big city, such as Amelia’s Mestizo Grill in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Salpicón in Old Town and La Fonda del Gusto in Wicker Park. Besides New Rebozo, only three other suburban Mexican restaurants made the list — San Gabriel Mexican Café in Bannockburn, Xni-Pec de Yucatán in Brookfield, and Zapatista, which has locations in both Chicago and Northbrook. Last year, the Sabores Autenticos de Mexico award was presented to the most authentic Mexican restaurants in New York.

Lopez, 54, received an honorary plaque at a dinner and ceremony held at the Chicago Cultural Center.

According to the plaque, New Rebozo is getting props “For its great accomplishment in the follow up of the Mexican gastronomy culinary techniques and the consumption of Mexican products.”

Lopez, a native of Mexico City, is well known to his customers for his frequent “Omigod” exclamations on anything from a newly created dish to the growth spurt of a visiting child. He said the contest was graded based on the authenticity of the food, judged by online polling, secret visits to the restaurants and internet reviews. He claims that 90 percent of the ingredients used at New Rebozo are from Mexico.

“Sometimes when you go to Mexican restaurants, it’s just beans, rice, that’s it,” he said. “For my food, it’s more quality, more flavors.”

New Rebozo was in the news previously, when it was featured on the popular and influential Channel 11 restaurant review program, “Check, Please!”

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