It was 1987. Rick Bayless and his wife, Deann Groen Bayless, had just returned from an extended stay in Mexico, where they had been researching their first book. They wanted a restaurant that tasted and felt like their travels. So they hung colorful Mexican folk art on the walls, turned up the Mariachi music and packed the menu with the foods that reminded them of their travels: tangy tomatillos, rich black beans, fiery chiles. And that’s how it’s been ever since.
Not that they haven’t changed — they change all the time, adding new authentic flavors to our menus, developing new relationships with the Midwestern farmers who provide us with everything from summer squash to maple syrup to goat. But at the end of the day, no matter how inventive their techniques or local their ingredients, their food still transports you to the same place: the colorful, vibrant kitchens of Mexico.