New Higher-End Restaurants Come to Deerfield

Jessica Apple, Staff Reporter

As Deerfield residents become increasingly more interested in higher-end food, new restaurants in Deerfield are reflecting this trend. Two restaurants that have opened recently are Taco Vida—a Mexican restaurant featuring delicious, savory tacos—and Café Zupas, which focuses on soups, salads, and sandwiches. Both places use ingredients that are delivered fresh daily, and are used to make all of their menu items naturally in-house. The restaurants certainly have the high-quality, simple food that Deerfield residents recently seem to have been craving.

Deerfield has been suffering for the past few years in terms of its restaurant diversity. There are a multitude of sandwich places around town, and it seems like every other restaurant features Mediterranean food. Many students at DHS seem to be bored of the same types of places to dine. Although, a restaurant on Lake Cook Road, Taco Vida, just opened this summer, and seems to fulfill the fun dining variety that Deerfield residents are looking for.

Taco “Vida” certainly has a lot of life to it. Its beautiful wall artwork, intimate space, and vibrant atmosphere make it a great place to eat dinner with friends, or pick up some comfort food for study fuel. It has a hip feel to it supported by the upbeat Latin music that plays in the background, and made all the more adorable with little decoration details such as the hot pink mini flowers that brighten each table. This higher-end tacquería also features fresh ingredients and food made in-house, ensuring a higher quality restaurant experience.

The menu features a wide variety of tacos, and even lets you customize your order to get endless taco combination possibilities. It also includes various freshly-made sides and drinks to choose from, such as house-made guacamole or horchata. The prices are a little on the expensive side, but it’s worth it for the high-quality food served.
The restaurant opened in June as a part of the vision of the owners, Freddy Sanchez and Susan Munic, to create a fancier tacquería with Chicago influences. “We loved the idea of having an authentic tacqueria,” notes Munic. “There is nothing like it around here, so we wanted to bring the city to Deerfield.” The two owners have years of experience in the restaurant industry. Sanchez had worked at many Chicago-area restaurants such as Ed Debevic’s, Scuzi’s, and the Happ Inn before he met Munic, and the two helped to manage Taco Nano before opening Taco Vida. Their expertise certainly shows through Taco Vida’s balance of good atmosphere, good service, and especially good food.

According to Munic, the key driving principles of the restaurant are “Serving great food, giving great customer service, having people understand what we actually do. We’re not your typical taco place, it’s a chef-driven tacqueria, so everything is a little fancier. We just want to make everyone happy.”

It seems they have achieved this goal; after sampling various items off the menu, I certainly left the restaurant feeling happier. To begin, for an appetizer I tasted the freshly made guacamole, made all the more delicious and interesting by the fact you can customize how spicy you want it to be. There is something about fresh guacamole that is so much more refreshing and flavorful than guacamole you buy from the store, especially when it is served with warm, buttery tortilla chips on the side. I also tried the fried plantains as a side to my tacos, which were cooked perfectly. These plantains were crunchy on the outside, with a burst of sweetness when you bite into the soft interior. I highly recommend them. Then, for my tacos, I tried the veggie taco with peppers, portobello mushroom, cojita cheese, and crispy potato frites, which featured perfectly tender vegetables and thin chips that gave the taco some texture, making it a lot better than other vegetarian tacos I have tasted. Next I sampled the Sea of Cortez taco which includes flawlessly cooked tilapia, refreshing pico de gallo and cabbage slaw, and chipotle mayo with just the right amount of kick. My favorite, however, was the crispy camarones taco. This contains fried shrimp, watercress, watermelon radish, and serrano salsa that all complimented each other extremely well. The watercress and the radish did a fantastic job of combating the savor and richness of the shrimp, while the salsa gave the taco the perfect amount of kick it needed to set it apart. Finally, as a sweet ending to my meal, I explored some of the unique drink options Taco Vida has to offer. I thoroughly enjoyed the horchata, a milk drink with cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar, making it almost more of a dessert than a drink. It was very satisfying, but maybe a little more sugary than I was expecting. However, I really loved the strawberry agua fresca. Despite it only containing two ingredients, fresh strawberries and sugar, it is still interestingly flavorful, although to make it a little healthier I would have substituted some of the sugar for honey.

Taco Vida is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sundays. Friday nights and Saturdays are when it is at its busiest, with Taco Vida seeing a balanced variety of every type of customer in the area. The line can get pretty long, so if you want to avoid the wait I recommend arriving before 5pm or ordering take-out. Taco Vida can be found at 469 Lake Cook Road in Deerfield. It’s right near the DMV, so their tacos could be a good treat to celebrate getting a permit or license! Overall, I recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for higher-end Mexican food made in-house (more natural), or a fun and cozy place to eat with family and friends.

After Biaggi’s closed for what seems like a long time ago, DHS students have been eager to find out what the restaurant is like that has taken its place. Let’s be honest; there haven’t been many things to make Deerfield Square particularly exciting, or different than any other commercial center. However, the introduction of Café Zupas may be just the restaurant the Square needs to set it apart, especially after Josh’s closed.

With its open space, bright lighting, and modern design, Café Zupas is a great to place to sit down for a quick dinner with your family, or grab an after school snack with friends. It seems that the restaurant has nothing to hide, the open kitchen showcases how employees use fresh produce to make everything in-house, guaranteeing less processed foods that are healthier for the consumer. Unlike Taco Vida, Café Zupas is a chain, and other stores can be found across the Chicago area.

The extensive menu is filled with wholesome, fresh options from which anyone from kids to adults is sure to find something they enjoy. Café Zupas is perfect for Deerfield residents who love soups, salads, sandwiches, or even protein quinoa bowls, and offer a mix-and-match option where someone can pick two half-items. Not to mention, there is a variety of beautiful desserts to choose from, and every customer receives a free delectable chocolate-covered strawberry to end the meal on a sweet note.

This location of Café Zupas was opened just four months ago as a part of the chain’s vision to simplify where we get our food from. “[The owners] love good food,” notes the restaurant manager, “and you go to a lot of places and the soups aren’t usually made on location. It gets made in a commissary kitchen and it gets shipped out to different places. They wanted to do things differently.” With their motto “nourish the good life,” it also seems that Café Zupas is invested in both good food and good service. “We want to provide something that is good and wholesome and we care about the product and more importantly the people,” the manager considers.

And they certainly deliver on this promise. When I visited Café Zupas to sample some items off their menu, I equally enjoyed the friendliness of the staff and the food I tasted. First, I sampled a few soups out of the extensive selection that it offers. All of the soups I tried were savory and rich, with the tomato basil soup being my favorite due to its creaminess and defined basil flavor. Among my other favorites were the very natural-tasting mushroom bisque and Wisconsin cauliflower soups, although the latter was a little too basic for me and needed some spices to make it more interesting. I also tasted the ultimate grilled cheese, which is certainly unique with its multiple types of cheeses, tomatoes, thin layer of pesto spread, and perfectly grilled flatbread. It was definitely one of the most impressively delicious grilled cheeses I may have ever had.

Furthermore, to accompany the food I decided to sample from the various refreshing honey-based drinks Café Zupas has to offer. The orange berry infusion and the honey lemonade were the perfect blend of natural-tasting yet still sweet and delicious. In addition, I highly recommend the turmeric lime green tea for the more adventurous drink-lovers, a fun and interesting drink that was not at all how I expected. The blackberry basil infusion was also a very naturally sweet drink that has an underlying nutty note from its compelling coconut-water base. All four drinks I sampled were extremely refreshing and tasty considering they are impressively made in-house, and I would recommend any of them to someone coming to Café Zupas. Finally, I tasted the seemingly most important part of any meal, some dessert. I tasted an apple pie á la mode crème brûlée, a very interesting concept for a dessert that did not disappoint. This dish served typically in fall featured a creme brulee topped with apple, walnuts, and just the right amount of cinnamon. I do wish that the apple was more dispersed throughout instead of just flavoring the top part of the creme brulee, but enjoyed how refreshing and light the dish was.

The hours of Café Zupas are 11am-9pm Monday through Thursday, 11-10pm Friday and Saturday, and it is closed on Sundays. According to restaurant staff, families are the most typical type of customer coming in for dinner, with the lunch crowd mostly consisting of those who work in the area that come in for their lunch break. The line at Café Zupas can get really long, so I suggest avoiding its peak hours of 12-2 for lunch and 6-7:30 for dinner if you want to skip the line. The restaurant is located at 711 Deerfield Road Unit C. The fresh and delectable foods made in-house, the convenient location in the middle of Deerfield, and the modern, open space makes Café Zupas the perfect restaurant to visit with your family or with friends for an after-school snack or study break.