There’s a new, made from scratch restaurant in town, Uncle Julio’s Mexican from Scratch, and it provides some new and unique dining to Northern Lake County. Located in a former office building on the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Route 60, the building has transformed into a bustling Mexican Cantina that prepares handcrafted dishes using fresh ingredients.
My family and I were invited to come and try out the new restaurant and see for ourselves the difference cooking from scratch makes. Full disclosure, I was not expecting much. We enjoy dining at several local Mexican restaurants, and my husband still makes the best fajita I have ever had. We went in with empty stomachs, four kids, and open minds.
Off the bat, you need to know that while you can enter through Hawthorn Center’s parking lot, you really should enter coming south on Milwaukee Ave. If you enter from the mall parking lot where the sign is, it’s a bit confusing as you cannot drive towards Uncle Julio’s (it says do not enter), and you must go towards the urgent care and circle around. About half the parking lot (which is not very big) is reserved for the free valet parking. We were there on a Sunday afternoon, and the valet was standing around. While it’s a nice feature that I am sure helps with traffic flow, on the weekends, it really was unhelpful and confusing for a nearly empty Sunday brunch hour.
We chose to sit outside on the large patio so the toddler could watch cars. Our server was responsive, friendly, and very helpful, even before he knew we were there to write about the restaurant. While we had heard grumblings that the service at this location was less than stellar, I think those complaints were simply the growing pains of opening and training new staff and restaurant. There was a gaggle of hostesses when we arrived, and while some of them seemed new and unsure, they were all helpful and friendly.
We started with appetizers and drinks because our preschooler loves guacamole, like eat it with a spoon loves. We did not do tableside (since she is the only one that eats it) but ordered a small bowl, and according to her, it was awesome. My son is a lemonade connoisseur and thoroughly enjoyed his passion fruit lemonade. I tried the Margarita special, a cucumber margarita, which was refreshing and different (also pictured their classic sangria).
We ordered our usual favorite. Two of the kids got quesadillas that come with a fruit cup, and the other got the taco, which comes with rice and beans. We substituted a softshell and their Mexican beans, and he devoured the whole thing. There were enough rice and beans to share with his sister. The kid’s meal was a little small for my 9-year-old, but being a picky eater, she wouldn’t have eaten an adult meal. My 11-year-old ordered enchiladas, as did my husband. You can choose between 2 and three and can choose a red or green sauce and fillings. They both got the green sauce, which my son thought was spicy; my husband did not. I had the fajita, which came with a very generous order of steak, but was a little skimpy on the peppers. Probably great for most people, but I love veggies and could have used more.
The star of the show was dessert. We tried the Chocolate Piñata, and it was the most fun I have ever had with my kids at a restaurant. It will be why we come back again and again as it’s the perfect way for us to celebrate accomplishments or go out after performances without doing the same old same old.
The Chocolate Piñata easily fed our family of 5 (dad has an allergy and doesn’t do desserts) with plenty to take home. It could easily feed ten or more for a celebration. The piñata is a house-made chocolate egg that is filled with fresh fruit and mini churros and served with chocolate, raspberry, and caramel sauce as well as freshly made whip cream. Note in the picture above the kids had already picked out almost all the fresh berries. The mini churros were terrific, and I ate too many. The kids devoured all the fruit and ate the chocolate at home for days.
Watch the fun!
Seriously so much fun! We will definitely be back for the pinata!
Uncle Julio’s provides the freshest and highest quality fine Mexican food in large, reasonably priced portions. The company’s mission, creating hospitality, fun, and value, shows in everything from the food to the atmosphere. See a 2-minute tour of Uncle Julio’s Vernon Hills on our Facebook Page and YouTube Channel
Disclosure my family was invited and provided lunch and the Chocolate Piñata in order to facilitate this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no further compensation was received.