I'll admit, Quarantine Mystery Diner was a bit difficult. While it was fun to try and make things work through delivery, it just wasn't the same. So that's why I was elated to try one of the newest additions to Yorkville's restaurant scene: Hacienda Real.

Located on Kendall Drive, conveniently close to the Record Newspaper offices, Hacienda Real bills itself as "Modern Mexican food inspired by traditional family recipes."

And they're right. I'm not usually a big fan of Mexican food, but it was probably the best Mexican food I've ever had, and definitely one of the top three Mystery Diner meals I've ever had.

I did dine in for this meal, and to be extra cautious, I was the first diner when they opened that day, and I ate in the corner seat of a quite beautiful outdoor bar.

Servers were welcoming and energetic, and happy to accommodate my desire for a margarita at 11 in the morning. And it was a great mango margarita, perfectly strong, flavorful and enhanced by Tajin on the glass rim. The chips and salsa I was served were another strong highlight. They are fantastic.

Typically, I play it safe when I'm doing a Mystery Diner, but I was feeling adventurous that day. Instead of ordering a mixed taco plate or salmon as I usually would, I was a wild child and ordered pulpo asado.

Pulpo asado, according to a quick Google translation, means roasted octopus. Yes, I ate part of an octopus.

I'm so glad that I did, because it was absolutely incredible.

Char-grilled with chimichurri and served with saffron rice and mixed roasted vegetables, it was filling, it was light, it was juicy, it was incredibly flavorful and it wasn't weird.

Sure, eating an octopus sucker for the first time was a bit unusual, but the thick and almost chewy (without being rubbery or gristly) texture was delicious. A beautiful, red-purple color, the octopus was nicely enhanced by the chimichurri, and paired perfectly with the intense saffron rice and roasted vegetables.

I'm beyond thankful that I took a chance on the pulpo asado, because it's one of the best dishes I've had in recent memory.

Now, I know that the concept of dining at a restaurant – even if it is outside – is scary to some. So, those who don't want to dine in at Hacienda Real can enjoy their offerings through takeout.

I absolutely encourage everybody to support Hacienda Real. Suited for the north side of Chicago or downtown Naperville, Yorkville is lucky to have this addition. It's so hard to open a restaurant, and even harder to do so during a pandemic. Show your support in whatever way you can.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.


Hacienda Real

WHERE: 585 E. Kendall Drive, Yorkville

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday

PHONE: 630-882 9541

WEBSITE: haciendaflavorsofmexico.com