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Chicago Mexican


bethala
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where do people in chicago like to go for good mexican food, excluding the usual rick bayless lineup? i'm particularly interested in hearing your tex mex preferences, from street carts and taco shacks to upscale, and everything in between. i searched and couldn't find anything, but if this is a redundant post, just please connect me to the proper thread. thanks!

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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For high end mexican, I actually prefer Salpicon to either of Bayless' places.

Salpicon

1252 N Wells St

(312) 988-7811

For all things Mexican, particulary taquerias and the like, check out LTH Forum. They've got pretty much anything you've ever wanted to know about Mexican food options in Chicago.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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For high end mexican, I actually prefer Salpicon to either of Bayless' places.

Salpicon

1252 N Wells St

(312) 988-7811

For all things Mexican, particulary taquerias and the like, check out LTH Forum.  They've got pretty much anything you've ever wanted to know about Mexican food options in Chicago.

thanks for the rec and the resource! i'm already enjoying reading the LTH threads by austin tex mex fans living in chicago (i'm originally from austin). i've bascially given up on trying to find good tex mex in new york, but would like to try in chicago, as chicagoans often brag about their mexican food and i visit chicago pretty regularly. i've been to uncle julio's on a few previous visits (dirtly little secret: i like it, for what it is), but - and i don't mean to blaspheme - i did not really enjoy the one meal i had at topolobampo a few years back (could've just been a fluke). i'll be visiting chicago in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to discovering some good mexican food while there.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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I'll add an emphatic vote for Nuevo Leon, which is probably my overall favorite Mexican in Chicago.

=R=

thanks! sounds delightful and reasonably priced. but does byo mean no margaritas?

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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I'll add an emphatic vote for Nuevo Leon, which is probably my overall favorite Mexican in Chicago.

=R=

thanks! sounds delightful and reasonably priced. but does byo mean no margaritas?

Unfortunately, yes. :sad:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Haven't been there in years because I left Chicago, but El Nuevo Mexicano on Clark St. in Lincoln Park was my standby for basic Mexican food done really, really well. Little neighborhood place, good margaritas, and a nice little patio too.

I miss a lot of things from my time in Chicago (... like being in my early 20's), but good Mexican food might top the list!

dlight

Seattle, WA

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Haven't been there in years because I left Chicago, but El Nuevo Mexicano on Clark St. in Lincoln Park was my standby for basic Mexican food done really, really well.  Little neighborhood place, good margaritas, and a nice little patio too.

I miss a lot of things from my time in Chicago (... like being in my early 20's), but good Mexican food might top the list!

One possibility you might want to consider is Lupita's, which is in Evanston -- on the south side of Main Street *just* west of the METRA tracks, or: take the CTA Purple Line north to Main Street, walk a half block north to Main, and walk west a block. Large, delicious (and treacherously strong) Margaritas, better-than-just-reasonable renderings of the usual tacos/fajitas/burritos, plus: pay attention to the 'specials' list, at the front of the menu! The scallops in red pepper sauce are wayyyy better than the everyday run, and the beefsteak offerings, when present, have been astonishingly good when I ordered them. Nothing overly inventive about the desserts, but they do their job plenty honorably at the end of the meal.

There is nothing that remotely can be called a decent wine list, but there are soft drinks and a reasonable range of beers.

:cool:

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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One possibility you might want to consider is Lupita's, which is in Evanston
Seconded!
There is nothing that remotely can be called a decent wine list, but there are soft drinks and a reasonable range of beers.
And they do have margaritas.
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The best Mexican meal I've had in a while was at Taquería la Oaxaquena on Milwaukee, a pretty little storefront with carved wood and leather chairs at nine plastic-topped red-cloth-covered tables. We really liked the chunky guacamole, chockful of onion, tomato, chopped lettuce and cilantro; the nopales asados con chile y cebollitas, grilled cactus with green onions and jalapenos; and the enchiladas Oaxaqueno in sweet mole.

I also enjoy El Tipico. We usually visit the Skokie location. It's a bit more Tex-Mex than many Chicago Mexican spots, which tend more toward the style of the interior. Try the queso tejano appetizer, a huge and deliciously gooey concoction of melted cheese with sausage, peppers, onions and cilantro, served with tortillas for scooping.

My favorite margaritas come from Don Juan's. I've also enjoyed the venison fajitas and the lamb shanks.

Taqueria la Oaxaquena

773/545-8585

3382 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Also: 773/637-8709

6113 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago

El Tipico

847/676-4070

3341 W. Dempster St., Skokie

Also: 773/878-0839

1836 W. Foster Ave, Chicago

Don Juan's for Mexican Food Lovers

773/775-6438

www.urbaneateries.com/donjuans

6730 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago

LAZ

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If you want to try some great tacos go to Paco's Tacos on Archer and Sacramento or Tio Luis on Archer and Western. Tio Luis got voted the best tacos in Chicago by the Tribune and in my opinion are pretty darn good. Paco's Tacos definitely is far superior though. All they sell are tacos with either carnitas, asada, lengua, pollo, or sesos. They put onions and cilantro on em' and that's it. They are pretty close to perfection with a bit of salsa verde and a hunk of avacado added (50 cents extra for a whole avacado!). As far as Nuevo Leon, DON"T WASTE YOUR MONEY! Taco Bell is better than the slop that kitchen turns out.

"I'm drawn to places that fear their customers" -Kenji

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....As far as Nuevo Leon, DON"T WASTE YOUR MONEY!  Taco Bell is better than the slop that kitchen turns out.

Hey, one man's slop...

Seriously, though, it would be fairer to Nuevo Leon, and more eGullet-ish, if you could be more specific, rather than just calling its food "slop."

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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If you want to try some great tacos go to Paco's Tacos on Archer and Sacramento or Tio Luis on Archer and Western.  Tio Luis got voted the best tacos in Chicago by the Tribune and in my opinion are pretty darn good.  Paco's Tacos definitely is far superior though.  All they sell are tacos with either carnitas, asada, lengua, pollo, or sesos.  They put onions and cilantro on em' and that's it.  They are pretty  close to perfection with a bit of salsa verde and a hunk of avacado added (50 cents extra for a whole avacado!).  As far as Nuevo Leon, DON"T WASTE YOUR MONEY!  Taco Bell is better than the slop that kitchen turns out.

I've been to Paco's Tacos (43rd and Archer) many times over the years and while I definitely like it, it doesn't hold a candle to Nuevo Leon. It's not bad, but not really in the same league. And they're pretty different types of places. Paco's is a taqueria. NL is a restaurant.

For the onions-and-cilantro-only taqueria treatment, I definitely prefer La Pasadita, which has 2 locations, across the street from each other, on Ashland Avenue.

Paco's Tacos

4311 S. Archer Ave.

Chicago, IL 60608

(773) 247-1613

La Pasadita

1142 N Ashland Ave

Chicago, IL 60622

(773) 227-2203

La Pasadita

1141 N Ashland Ave

Chicago, IL 60622

(773) 278-0384

Tio Luis

3856 S Archer Ave

Chicago, IL 60632

(773) 843-0098

Taco Bell

various locations throughout Chicagoland :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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For the onions-and-cilantro-only taqueria treatment, I definitely prefer La Pasadita, which has 2 locations, across the street from each other, on Ashland Avenue.

Isn't the third one at 1132 N. Ashland still there?

LAZ

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For the onions-and-cilantro-only taqueria treatment, I definitely prefer La Pasadita, which has 2 locations, across the street from each other, on Ashland Avenue.

Isn't the third one at 1132 N. Ashland still there?

I am not 100% ceratin. I'd heard rumors that there were now only 2 -- and I haven't been there in person in at least 6 months to check it out myself (although I did have some delicious carry-out from 1142 a couple of weeks ago).

But yes, several sources list 1132 N. Ashland as well.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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thanks for all the suggestions! sounds like chicago is a mecca for tex mex, compared to ny. i'll let you know if i get to try any of these after my visit at the end of the month.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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I like Fiesta Mexicana at Broadway and Argyle--go for the whole grilled red snapper in green garlic sauce :wub: and they have rockin' margaritas. After dinner, you can catch some jazz at the Green Mill.

S. Cue

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thanks for all the suggestions!  sounds like chicago is a mecca for tex mex, compared to ny.  i'll let you know if i get to try any of these after my visit at the end of the month.

just be aware that when you go further south, Tex-Mex and Mexican are two completely different things. I reference Robb Walsh's book on Tex-Mex here. It is similar but not the same. When you get to Austin and ask for Tex-mex, they will send you to one place, and when you ask for Mexican, they will send you someplace completely different. But thanks to your requests, when I get to Chicago, I now have a list of places to check out, so thanks.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! unfortunately, i didn't get to try any of the suggested places this past weekend. plans changed, and so the eating plans changed, too. i'll be visiting again some time before the end of the year and will be sure to let you know what mex i check out.

cheers,

beth

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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When you come, let me put in an enthusiastic recommendation for Adobo Grill. There are two locations, one in Old Town at North and Wells and then another in Wicker Park. I have not been to the Wicker Park location, but I have had a number of delicious meals at the Old Town spot.

I highly recommend the guacamole (made tableside, perfectly), the huitlacoche quesadillas (you might want two orders), the ceviche (order the "tasting" -- small dishes of all three or four different kinds), pork with mole, and the chocolate dessert. You're pretty solid with anything else on the menu, though. They have good margaritas.

Rogers Park, at the northern end of Chicago, has some great taquerias. My favorite is El Famous Burrito, which is actually a chain, but Rogers Park is the only location I've been to. It's really consistent and inexpensive, and the service is friendly. The burritos and tacos are recommended, as are the quesadillas if you like the really cheesy kind. No alcohol but you can get yourself some jarritos or really good horchata.

A little north of Wicker Park on Milwaukee Ave. is El Cid, which has pretty solid, traditional Mexican food, good prices, and good service. I seem to remember them having some mid-week drink specials, too.

If you get a hankering for a burrito late-nite, there's El Presidente at Ashland & Wrightwood (24/7).

Edited by Jojomek (log)
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As long as we're talking about Adobo Grill, let me pass on this information, which I just received via Zagat:

August 7–12: Adobo Grill's "Mole Festival" celebrates the savory sauce in its many guises with guest chefs, a mezcal dinner (August 10; 7 PM; Old Town location; $43 per person, includes a three-course dinner paired with a mezcal tasting and cocktails), a cooking class with chef-partner Freddy Sanchez (August 12; noon; Wicker Park location; $20 per person, includes a light lunch and a margarita or beverage of choice) and a different daily Oaxacan mole of chocolate, chiles, nuts and spices (for reservations or information, call 312-266-7999 [Old Town] or 773-252-9990 [Wicker Park] or visit www.adobogrill.com).

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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just be aware that when you go further south, Tex-Mex and Mexican are two completely different things.  I reference Robb Walsh's book on Tex-Mex here.  It is similar but not the same.

They are two different things here, as well. Where Chicago excels is in the cuisine of interior Mexico. We are starting to have very good Mexican seafood, as well. Which is not to say you can't find beef enchiladas with red sauce or fajitas; it's just that, compared to the specialties of Puebla and Oaxaca readily available here, the Tex-Mex will often be pedestrian.

Edited by LAZ (log)

LAZ

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  • 1 year later...

Mexican food in Chicago continues to evolve. Quite a few new places have opened up since this topic was updated, particularly for creative and provincial Mexican cuisine. Many of the places noted above continue to turn out excellent food. This post is intended to be comprehensive (rather than simply mentioning a few places), so forgive me if I repeat some of the recommendations above. Website links, public transit directions, and information on reservations are also included where available.

For purposes of brevity ( :rolleyes: ), I'm excluding places specializing in tacos and/or tortas (sandwiches). But I'm including some of the restaurants serving more conventional Mexican cuisine in a separate section later in this post.

A note on Creative/Provincial Mexican Cuisine

When we Chicagoans mention Mexican food to a lot of out-of-town visitors, often their immediate reaction is "but I can get that at home". This is not necessarily true. Chicago has a lot of very creative Mexican cuisine, including regional/provincial Mexican foods, and many of these foods are not all that common in most American cities. We are not talking about conventional, common Mexican foods like enchiladas and carne asada (although we have plenty of those as well, the best of which are listed at the end of this post - and this is admittedly an arbitrary distinction). We are talking about places that have several different kinds of mole, that serve a lot of different kinds of seafood and sauces, and other items that you just don't find anywhere. For examples of some of the more unusual preparations, take a look at menus of the restaurants in the links to their websites below.

Creative Mexican restaurants in and near "downtown Chicago"

Several restaurants offer some of our most creative Mexican food, within an easy walk or a short cab/bus ride of the downtown areas where most of the large hotels are located.

Frontera Grill and Topolobampo

445 North Clark Street

Chicago IL 60610

312-661-1434

The oldest and best-known of these are Frontera Grill and Topolobampo (sometimes simply called Frontera and Topo). These are sister restaurants, next door to each other, in River North. They are owned and run by Chef Rick Bayless, who won a James Beard Award this year for his contributions there. Topolobampo tends to be more expensive, although prices are somewhat similar at lunch. You can order from either menu at the bar at Frontera Grill. Topolobampo accepts reservations in advance, on opentable.com. Frontera Grill does not take reservations well in advance, and seats most of its business on a first-come, first-served basis; waiting times can be long, particularly on weekends. Frontera Grill also accepts a small number of same-day reservations first thing in the morning. (I believe they start taking calls at 8:30 a.m.) Frontera Grill serves brunch on Saturdays. Both tend to be rather crowded and noisy. I like both of them; a majority of reports on this and other forums have been positive, but a significant minority have been disappointed. It remains the standard by which other creative Mexican restaurants are judged.

Salpicon

1252 N. Wells St.

Chicago IL 60610

312-988-7811

Salpicon is a very creative Mexican restaurant in Old Town, just north of the Michigan Avenue and Gold Coast areas. Reservations can be made at opentable.com. I like it.

Adobo Grill

3 locations:

1610 N. Wells Street (Old Town)

Chicago IL 60614

312.266.7999

2005 W. Division Street (Wicker Park)

Chicago IL 60622

773.252.9990

Shops on Butterfield

356 Yorktown Shopping Center

Lombard, IL 60148

630.627.9990

Adobo Grill has several locations, including Old Town and Wicker Park, both of which are close to the downtown areas, and one in the western suburbs. Reservations can be made at opentable.com. I like it okay, although not as much as Frontera/Topo or Salpicon.

Creative/provincial Mexican restaurants in outlying Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs

Some of our best, most creative Mexican restaurants are located away from downtown Chicago, and can be inconvenient to get to without a car.

Flamingo's Seafood

1590 S. Busse Road

Mt. Prospect IL

847-364-9988

My very favorite Mexican restaurant in the entire Chicago area (heck, the best Mexican food I've had outside of Mexico) is Flamingo's Seafood, in suburban Mount Prospect, near O'Hare Airport. They specialize in Mexican seafood dishes, and always have a large number of daily specials in addition to their extensive regular menu. Last time I was there I had a grilled Chilean sea bass with guava habanero sauce and crushed pumpkin seeds that was to die for. (Unlike the appetizers and mains, which are fantastic, their desserts are okay but not great.) Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Located at Busse Road and Dempster, just north of Algonquin Road. From I-90 westbound, exit at York Road, go north to Algonquin, and turn left. From I-90 eastbound, exit at Arlington Heights Road, go north to Algonquin, and turn right. By public transit, take the Metra UP Northwest line to the Cumberland stop and catch the Pace #208 Golf Road bus, take it to S Busse Road, and walk south half a mile.

Sol de Mexico

3018 N Cicero Ave

Chicago IL 60641

(773) 282-4119

Menupages listing

Sol de Mexico is a small storefront restaurant on the northwest side. Many people extol its virtues, particularly for their wide selection of different moles. (Personally, I think their menu sounds great and very creative, but I just wasn't overwhelmed by the food. But hey, we don't have to all agree!) Sol de Mexico is closed on Tuesdays. By public transportation, you can take the west branch of the CTA's Green Line or Blue Line west to the Cicero stop and catch the #54 Cicero bus northbound, or the O'Hare branch of the Blue Line to the Cicero stop and catch the #54 Cicero bus southbound. Using a CTA fare card will enable you to get a low-priced transfer, rather than the separate fares that are charged when paying by cash. Those on the north side can also take the #77 Belmont bus or #76 Diversey bus to Cicero Avenue and walk to the restaurant. More transit info on the CTA website.

Fonda del Mar

3749 W Fullerton Ave

Chicago, IL 60647

773.489-3748

Started by a co-worker of Rick Bayless. Reservations accepted on its website. By public transportation, you can take the CTA's Red, Brown, or Purple Line to Fullerton and transfer to the #74 bus west to the restaurant. Using a CTA fare card will enable you to get a low-priced transfer, rather than the separate fares that are charged when paying by cash. It's also about a mile walk from the Logan Square stop on the Blue Line.

Tepatulco

2558 N. Halsted St.

Chicago

773-472-7419

This is the latest restaurant from Geno Bahena, who formerly created Chilpancingo and Ixcapuzalco. It's in Lincoln Park, a short walk from the Fullerton stop on the CTA's Brown, Red, and Purple Lines.

Mundial Cocina Mestiza

1640 W 18th St

Chicago IL

312-491-9908

Menupages listing

In Pilsen, near the 18th Street stop on the CTA's Pink Line.

La Casa de Samuel

2 locations:

2834 W. Cermak Rd.

Chicago

773-376-7474

Menupages listing

In Little Village, near the California stop on the CTA's Pink Line.

2753 West 55th Street, Chicago

773-776-1637

Menupages listing

In Gage Park. Take the CTA's Orange Line to Western and transfer to the #94 bus south to 55th Street.

Lupita's

700 Main St.

Evanston IL 60202

847 328 2255

I like Lupita's in Evanston a lot. I particularly like the creative dishes they serve as weekly specials for lunch and dinner, rather than their more conventional regular menu. Portion sizes can occasionally be somewhat small. Around the corner from the Main Street stop on the CTA Purple Line, and right next to the Main Street stop on Metra's UP-North line.

San Gabriel Mexican Café

2535 Waukegan Rd (just south of IL-22 Half Day Road)

Bannockburn IL 60015

847-940-0200

Started by Dudley Nieto, formerly of Adobo Grill. 3/4 mile south of the Lake Forest stop on Metra's MD-North Line, also served during commuting hours by Pace #622 bus from the Deerfield stop on that same Metra line.

Fuego

17 West Campbell Street

Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Phone: 847.590.1122

One block from the Arlington Heights stop on Metra's UP-Northwest line.

Xni-Pec

5135 W 25th St.

Cicero IL 60804

Mayan cuisine from Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. About one mile walk from the Cicero stop on the CTA's Pink Line, or transfer there to the #302 Pace bus to Laramie and 25th St.

Salbute

20 East First Street

Hinsdale, IL 60521

630.920.8077

One block from the Hinsdale stop on Metra's Burlington Northern Line.

Bien Trucha

410 W. State St.

Geneva IL

630-232-2665

Chicago Magazine blurb

Opened by Ricardo Garcia-Rubio, former owner of Tia Maria's. About a half mile from the Geneva stop on Metra's UP-West line.

Authentic, more conventional Mexican restaurants in Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs

In addition to the restaurants noted above, there are many authentic, but more conventional, Mexican restaurants in Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs. These include the following places:

Nuevo Leon

1515 W. 18th St.

Chicago

312-421-1517

In Pilsen, near the 18th Street stop on the CTA's Pink Line.

Pancho's Pistolas

700 W 31st St

Chicago IL

312-225-8808

In Bridgeport; take the CTA's Orange Line to Halsted, then walk a mile or transfer to the #8 Halsted St bus to W. 31st St.

Restaurante Cuetzala Gro

7360 N Clark St

Chicago

773-262-9417

In Rogers Park. Take the #22 Clark St bus from the Howard stop on the CTA's Red, Yellow, and Purple Lines.

Mi Fiesta

120 North Genesee Street

Waukegan, IL 60085

847-782-8700

One block from the Waukegan stop on Metra's UP-North Line.

La Casa de Isaac

431 Temple Avenue

Highland Park IL 60035

847-433-5550

Across the street from the Highwood station on Metra's UP-North Line.

New Rebozo

1116 Madison St

Oak Park, IL 60302

708-445-0370

Menu on Foodler

1/2 mile north of the Harlem stop on the CTA's Blue Line, or 1/2 mile south of the Harlem/Lake stop on the CTA's Green Line, or take the Pace #307 bus at either station.

Amanacer Tapatio

700 Ruby St

Joliet IL

815-727-4001

About two miles northwest of the Joliet station on Metra's Heritage Corridor and Rock Island lines, and you can only get about halfway there from the station by Pace bus (#831 to Ruby and Broadway).

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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