Friday, May 28, 2010

Greensbury Market: Steak Dinner

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

What's up to all my loyal readers?!?!?! I have been livin' it up in Puerto Rico and just getting back to city life here and decided it was time for some grilling goodies with Memorial day weekend here. I'm excited that this post has finally come around because its been a long time coming. What seems like almost a year ago I was sent a package of beef from a wonderful place called Greensbury Market that is dedicated to serving online some of the best tasting most organic meats in the country. It was started by a team of four dudes who's ways go like this "We believe in supporting sustainable agriculture, family farms, and organic practices that produce healthy, environmentally friendly food. We’ve traveled all over the country to find meats that are not only organic, but also tender, juicy, and delicious. We’ve visited dozens of farms and built relationships with farmers who do things the old fashioned way - meaning they take care of the land and humanely raise animals without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or synthetic pesticides." So they sent me a couple ribeyes, 2 skirts steaks and 2 chopped steak patties and wanted me to tell them what I thought.

Greensbury Market sent me one of each and I'll be ordering more...

Last night I finally got to try the beautifully marbled steaks which I had been waiting to do for what seems like ever. I'm actually skeptic when it comes to frozen meat but the people at Greensbury are pros who have been in this game for a while. The meats are cryovac'ed at their peak flavor point and have no freezer burn or anything wrong with them once thawed, in fact they were beautiful looking like they had just been cut by a butcher, which they were right before they were packaged for grilling enthusiasts like me and you. I was nice enough to share my gift from Greensbury with the fam so I went to work on both patties, both skirts and both ribeyes last night and this is what I came up with.

Ribeyes flaming away

Simple Skirt Steak w/ Pickled Onions
Recipe from: The New Steak

2 Greensbury Market skirt steaks
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
olive oil to rub steaks with

Pickled Onions

1 lg red onion (thinly sliced as a whole)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp whole coriander
2 tbsp olive oil

1) sprinkle red pepper onto the steaks and then salt them and set aside. Rub with olive oil before grilling.

2) Peel and then slice the red onion as thinly as possible and place the onion rings in a bowl. Prepare a small pot by combing the water, red wine vinegar and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. When boiling pour the liquid over the raw onions and top with crushed whole coriander seeds and olive oil and let come to a cool.

3) Make sure your grill is nice and hot for your steaks and put the lubed steaks on the hottest part of your grill and sear for 3-5 minutes a side, and then move to a cooler part and cook to desired doneness. Use the finger poke method to test for doneness.

4) When steaks are ready to come off let them sit and cool down for five mins. and then slice against the grain and top with pickled onions and some juice from them.

So simple and so yummy when using Greensbury's full of flavor beef

chibbqking Island Burgers: Two Ways

Cuban Pressed Chopped Beeefsteak Burger

1 Greensbury Market Chopped Beef Patty
4 slices of sauteed ham
2 slices swiss cheese
half of a deli pickle, sliced in thin coins
fresh baked Kaiser bun, spread with chopped garlic and butter

1) Start by buttering a pan and sauteing up your ham until its got some nice color and then set aside. Lube your bun with chopped garlic and butter and bring that and a seasoned Greensbury pattys outside to the grill and throw the burger on a ell lubed spot on the grill and begin cooking to desired doneness.

2) When burger is almost done, place the bun on the grill and cook until it gets some toasted color. Take the bun and patty off and bring inside to prepare for topping.

3) Place the slices of ham on the top bun followed by the pickles and proceed to put the slices of swiss on the bottom. Add the patty to the bottom part and spread the mustard and mayo on it and then put it all together as one.

Your burger should like this before the finished patty goes on

4) Lube up a hot frying pan with butter and have another heavy pan that you can use to press your burger down and cook it on both sides until the bread is nice and colored and crispy.

chibbqking Cuban Pressed Burger

5) Once ready take it off and slice in half or in four to serve as app's like I did for my Greensbury Market grilled beef feast.

These were awesome...

chibbqking Sweet & Spicy Jamaican Burgers Mon

1 Greensbury Market Chopped Beef Patty
2 slices of pineapple rings
2 slices pepper jack cheese
dried Jerk seasoning
Jamaican Jerk Sauce
fresh baked Kaiser bun, spread with chopped garlic and butter

1) Rub your patty with the dried jerk seasoning and do the same to your burger bun.Make sure grill is hot and bring both the patty, bun and pineapple rings outside and put the patty on first followed by the rings and then bun all timed so they come off when your burger is cooked to desired doneness.

2) Right before the burger comes off take some jerk sauce (not the paste) and spread it over your burger and apply the cheese on top followed by the pineapple rings and then place the top part of the bun and let the cheese melt.

Almost ready to come off

3) Scoop up your patty and build your burger accordingly by adding more sauce or whatever else floats your boat. I liked mine just the way seen below.

chibbqking Sweet & Spicy Jamaican Jerk Burger

Chipotle Rubbed Ribeye
Recipe from: The New Steak

2 Greensbury Market Ribeyes
olive oil for rubbing
salt & pepper

Chipotle Rub

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red chipotle powder
1 tbsp of olive oil

Lime and Cilantro Butter

4 tbsp butter
1 shallot minced
1/2 lime juiced
1/2 cup well chopped cilantro

The final result

1) To make the Chipotle rub combine the ingredients listed and mix well and continue to spread the steaks with the rub.

2) To make butter, melt it in a saute pan over low heat and then add the shallot. Cook about 3 mins. and then add the lime juice and cilantro and stir and set aside.

3) Make sure your grill is nice and hot for your steaks and put the lubed steaks on the hottest part of your grill and sear for 3-5 minutes a side on the hottest part and then move to a cooler part and cook to desired doneness. It all depends on their thickness and the heat of your grill. Use the finger poke method to test for doneness.

4) Take off steaks when ready and let sit for about five minutes. Spread with the lime cilantro butter and slice them if you want. Continue to eat and enjoy like I did.

Not a bad way to kick off whats always the start of summer in Chi (Memorial Day wkd) and I want to give a big ups to the people at Greensbury Market. They do a wonderful job with trying to do it the right way and they succeed greatly at doing so. I would highly encourage anyone who has big plans of lots og grilling all summer long to check out their online market and see everything they have to offer. Including some of the most lean, full of flavor and great textured beef I have had in a minute. Happy Grilling to all.

My Greensbury Market Steak Dinner Plate

Greensbury Market Organic Meats


Monday, May 24, 2010

Nordberg's Cajun Deli

-Grubbing in Michigan
Where the locals eat.

Its almost time for summer livin' and that means a trip here or there to Michigan. The tourist season starts with Memorial day and ends with Labor day. Between those two dates 100o's and 1000's head up to Michigan to slow down the pace and do some max relaxing. I like to do alot of eating and exploring around SW Michigan as you might remember from HERE. The Red Arrow Highway is a historic road that connects many of the towns of Harbor country and beyond. When your out and about in that area its very common to visit a few different towns a day and do different things in each one. I love cruising the highway and have done so many times. One of the eating gems along there is located in Stevensville. It's called Nordberg's Cajun Deli. I just my first Pure Michigan commercial of the season and I gotta say, that is the best ad campaign I can ever remember. Tim Allen makes me want to get up and go to Michigan every time I see or hear one.

Along the historic Red Arrow Highway

Its a small little building that sells some Cajun dishes for takeout and also boasts a deli with meats and other goodies for your summertime BBQ needs while relaxing in Harbor Country. I was very pleased with my visit to Nordberg's last summer and will for sure be back when I make it back to Michigan this year. It doesn't have the largest selection of goods out there but what they do carry gets the job done.

The menu board

We decided to go with a container of the gumbo, a container of shrimp etouffee and a few of the Cajun spiced ribeyes to grill up and I had to grab a few bags of the popular potato chip of choice in Louisiana-Zapp's.

I love me some Zapp's

I was very much pleased with what we got. I thought the etouffee was full of flavor and held its own with some of my favorite versions tasted over the years. I didn't get any pictures of the steaks but they were excellent when grilled over charcoal. I wouldn't mind a few right now.

Nordberg's shrimp etouffee

My favorite the trio was the sausage gumbo. This was phenomenal and had me wanting more as soon as it was done. I'll have to get double or triple on my next visit because having a few containers comes in real handy when you want something good and homey to eat and don't want to spend too much time making it. I was very much so pleased with my visit to Nordberg's and would encourage anyone who vacations in the area to stop in to stock up your fridge.

Sausage gumbo

Nordberg's Cajun Deli
5113 Red Arrow Highway
Stevensville, MI 49127-1072
(269) 429-1066

Friday, May 21, 2010

BBQ Chopped Pork

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

Real BBQ pork is the big eat down south especially in North Carolina. When it comes to making real BBQ pork, about the only thing that's common for all is the use of smoke while cooking it. In some places they like to smoke the butt for hours on end until it can be pulled with the fingers. other people don't have a problem using large forks to shred it and in some places they chop the meat down into a near ground form. I am normally a backer of the pulled (with your fingers) version but late last summer tried out a chopped pork sandwich recipe. I would smoke the pork butt for 6+ hours and then use a machete to chop it down into near mince meat.


5 lb pork butt
Rub of your choice for meat (rub a day ahead)
BBQ sauce of choice
Cole slaw (optional)
hickory wood

Pork Butt rubbed up and ready for smokin'

Step 1) Set up your smoker for proper use and smoke the butt at a temp of 225 for 6-8 hours. Remover when it falls apart upon handling of it.

Smoked pork partially pulled

Step 2) For chopped pork, pull apart large pieces of the butt and remove any gristle that may come about. Then simply place the pieces of pork on a cutting board and get to hacking until its about the consistency seen below.

Chopped pork ready for sandwiches

Step 3) Build your sandwich to your liking. I like to use a vinegar based bbq sauce and some cole slaw when I make mine. The texture is definitely different when you chop it up like this and I think I prefer it pulled by hand but these were mighty good.

BBQ chopped pork sandwich

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Original Roma

-Got Beef? Italian Beef
as seen on 'What's Your Beef?'

Our next stop on the Beef bus is to the Original Roma located out there in Norwood Park. Its not to be confused with Roma's Beef in Portage Park which I will get to one day. I hadn't been to either or since my days of working for the Sheriffs department over summer break. The Original Roma as it called was actually closed for repair or whatever for a while and one day when I cruised past it on Milwaukee ave en route home I saw it was back open and stop in so it could get its score over here at Whats Your Beef?

Located in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood

Since it closed and reopened Roma's has done some changes to the menu and they now also carry pizza. I decided to give a slice a try along with my beef with hot and prepared to take my mental notes. The pizza was ok if anything bordering around the not so good line. The sausage was really good however but this is the case on most pizzas in Chicago.

Slice of Sausage from the Original Roma's

It wasn't pizza that brought me in here though, it was the Italian beef. I remembered thinking Roma was good but not great back in the day and so it was time to see if that had changed or not. Immediately upon unwrapping my beef I noticed the giardiniera looked like the pickled carrot and jalapeno tray they put tableside at alot of Mexican restaurants. It wasn't too appealing to see these huge pieces of carrot chips in their hot pepper blend. The beef itself wasn't bad at all and described by me right then and there as good but not great but it was the best part of this sandwich. The bread and gravy were in the pretty good range. All in all the sandwich was ok but the peppers did it in for me. I didn't like theirs at all. Huge pieces of celery and large carrot chips.

Beef with hot from The Original Roma

Rating Scale 5/5

beef: 4
bread: 4
gravy: 3
hot peppers: 1

Score: 12/20

The Original Roma
6161 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60646-3804
(773) 594-2885

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hog Wild

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Where the locals eat.

I am a modern day explorer of all things food related. I've been in and around so many corners and crevices of the Chicagoland landscape to explore and see whats out there. I stumbled upon today's stop when cruising way south down on Pulaski. It looked very worthy of a stop by its appearance, there were a few BBQ pit trailers in back and lots of Pig related decor with the name of the establishment being Hog Wild and all. I made a quick mental note since I wasn't going to be able to stop then and there and made a return visit to Midlothian, where it is, to try the place out a few weeks later.

I gotta stop and try anyplace that's the home of anything

I stopped in here about 3 months ago on a weekend night and the place was popping. Lots of people taking orders to go and plenty of people that called ahead along with families, friends and couple out for dinner. The ordering procedure is painless and really gets you your food at a much faster wait then having waitress' and going through all that. You step in and place your order at the register upon your arrival. You are then seated in the dining room and someone brings your food to your table. Its a large spot so even though there were many people the night I went it was in and out and not a problem. Each table has quite a few bottles of different BBQ sauces for whatever part of the pig you order and the dining space has a nice Northwoods cabin feel to it. Yes they do have other things on the menu but I was there for a pork chop sandwich and that's what I got. My buddy who rolled with me went with a tenderloin sandwich.

Pork Tenderloin sandwich from Hog Wild

It didn't take too long for the chop and tenderloin to be grilled up because within the time it would take they had arrived. Both came with fries and were in the $5-$7 range as I recall. The fries were the average frozen crinkle cut variety but came in handy to taste the sauces with. Even though they call these sandwiches there just pieces of meat served between a couple slices of cheap white bread. In the case of the pork chop, its got a bone so you eat it with a knife and fork. My buddy really liked his tenderloin and I loved my pork chop. If you want the best chop outside downtown then this is where you'll find it. It was grilled to perfection and the medallion filet part melted on my tongue. I couldn't believe how good it was for the price and cant wait to get back. This my friends is one of the finest chops in a city that loves them some pork chops. If you do too then seek this one out.

Hog Wild's Pork Chop Sandwich

Hog Wild
14933 Pulaski Road
Midlothian, IL 60445-3436
(708) 371-9005

Hog Wild on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 14, 2010

Leo's Coney Island

Regional Fast Food
-a popular place from Michigan for Coney Dogs

We recently had a Leo's Coney Island open up in Chicago. Its a popular sit down/carry out place from the Detroit area. Since we have so many Michigan transplants here in Chicago, a few of them decided to open up this popular food stop from Michigan. I thought now was the time to start the regional fast food series. The opening of this franchise of Leo's was pretty hyped around the city since its the first location outside Michigan and so many people from Michigan now live in Chicago. It was also much talked about because some people wondered how you could open a regional hot dog place in a city that has its own style. However there arent many Coney dog places in Chicago and they have an extensive menu that includes breakfast, soup, salads and many sandwich selections along with their famous Coney dogs.

Birthplace: Southfield, MI
Type: Franchise
Founded in: 1972
How Many Today: 42
Locations in: MI (and one in Chicago)
Menu item that made them: Coney Dogs
My personal take: I actually liked it more than I thought I would.

The companies history according to its website

"In 1968, Leo Stassinopoulos, at the age of 17 immigrated to America from a little known village in Greece. Leo came over with very little and did not speak any English. Leo did have a strong determination to achieve a better life in America as many Greeks had in the past. He hoped and wished to obtain a piece of the American Dream he had heard so much about. At first, Leo took up a job in a meat factory and began to save up money to pursue his own goals. Later, he began to work in a local Coney Island establishment where he was able to learn the restaurant industry from the ground up. The next step was to team up with his older brother Peter and open a restaurant of his own."

My Take

According to the people in the know and from Detroit there were mainly two things that they missed so much from Leo's. The obvious being the Coney dogs and the not so obvious is the Greek salad. They have a combo deal on the menu that can get you both a Coney dog with fries and a salad and I believe a drink for a decent price on all of it. I went with that and got cheese on my Coney dog. I was pleasantly surprised with my Greek salad. I'm not a big salad guy as those who read this site would know, but this is one I'll have again. The dressing which is also available by the bottle for take home was awesome and might be the key part. The greens were fresh though and I was won over with the salad alone before I had the hot dog. I'll even buy a bottle of the dressing next time I stop on in.

Leo's Coney Island Greek Salad

Now for those of you not in the know of what a Coney dog is allow me to to simply explain. Despite the name, they have no association with New York or Coney Island. These hot dogs are the most well known regional eat of Detroit and many Coney Island shops are found throughout the Midwest. Although many have also come and gone. Exactly who invented them is unclear. A Coney dog starts off what is usually a natural casing hot dog. Koegel's is a well known brand around Michigan and Leo's is their number one client. The dog is then topped with a usually dry all meat chili mixture with everyone using their own different seasonings to go with the beef and chili powder. Its then topped with mustard and diced onions and can also be ordered with cheese. I am a big fan of Coney's and will usually stop when I spot an old school coney shop. Most of these Coney spots around the country have been around for sometime. Even though Leo's is a chain and this location hasn't even been open a year, I really liked my Coney. The bun held up very well and the dog toppings complimented the super snappy and flavorful hot dog very well. When I get the craving for a Coney in Chicago, I will go to Leo's.

Leo's Coney Dog with Cheese

Leo's Coney Island of Chicago
3455 North Southport Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 281-5367

Monday, May 10, 2010

Willie's Homemade Tamales

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-Mississippi Delta Tamales in Central IL

I love the off the beaten paths food stops that exist in every corner and crevice of our country. It was late May in 2007 when I made my first visit to a place that became one of my favorite finds while on the roads and byways of America. I was en route to some hippie fest near Peoria in a town called Chillicothe and was led to a place in nearby Sparland, IL from some people in the know. Back in 2007 Willie's Tamales sat in an abandoned gas station located at the corner of Routes 29 and 17 and cooked BBQ outside during summer. Willie Smith has been known around Peoria for his Mississippi Delta Tamales for some time now. I have since made my much anticipated visit back since my first visit here and came to see that Willie's had come up.

a diamond in central Illinois

Its no longer an old gas station lot with visible ripped out gas pumps, its been built from the ground up and I for one am really impressed. Willie comes to us from the Mississippi Delta region and he originally moved to Peoria only to go back home and not leave until he perfected the art of the tamale. Perfect it he did! I'm a big tamale eater, have been since I tried my first at 7 years old and I would say I have tried as many tamales as anyone my age. the tamale has so many different variations and methods but the Delta style is my favorite. So much so that I hope to make it down to the Mississippi Delta Tamale Trail sometime this Summer or Fall. If your unfamiliar with this popular regional snack check out the Southern Foodways Alliance special on them right HERE. Its a great piece of work put together by the people over there who do a stellar job with everything they do.

a bundle of Willies famous Delta style tamales

When I first found Willie's back in '07 he was manning the grill and was thrilled to chat me up about his story and the story of what are some of the greasiest, tastiest melt in your mouth tamales I have ever tasted. Willy uses 100% corn meal and the spicing is perfect, a lil on the hot side like it should be and there's no way you can eat just one so they come by the bundle and cost $6 for six of them. The tamales are what made Willie a well known name around this area but he does up alot of other real good things down there in Central Illinois. The area down there is lucky to have him around, we have no options here in Chicago for authentic Delta style tamales that I am aware of. So if anyone out there with an old family recipe is reading this, come on thru, we need you. It's a shame I cant get to Willies every weekend.

Delta Tamales are usually made with beef and heavily spiced

Inside of Willies with a bar area and some tables for dining in

Willie has been around for a while, its good to see he's got this Sparland spot

When Willie's first opened they were doing all the cooking outside in the smoker and grill which can be seen in the pic up at the very bottom of this story. But since they now have a building with electricity, some space and all that they also have an aquarium smoker inside and are smokin' year round. They also have a grill inside but no AC and not a great ventilation system and smoking is allowed so it gets really smokey in there from the grill and cigs. I saw a sign saying they will start cooking outside next week. If you should be in the area this is a great summertime lunch stop.

Taking the sideroads and byways of America leads you to places like Willie's

Willie wasn't in when we were there but the two ladies working took our order and got to work. I went with 2 bunches of Tamales, a butterflied pork chop sandwich and the rib tips. On my first visit here we had a slab of ribs that were phenomenal and I left wishing I got that again instead of the tips which were ok just not like those ribs were. Willie uses mainly fruit tree woods like apple wood when smokin' his BBQ. I couldn't eat the tamales fast enough. A bunch goes for $6 and they are small and pretty easy to eat alot of but still worth it for me since I cant get anything like these in the city.

Rib Tips

Greasy Goodness

I had heard that Willie had a few locations in and around Peoria. Willie has always had a food cart located downtown at Adams and Main. Its a very popular lunch stop and aside from the obvious tamales the locals love the butterflied pork chop sandwich. Willie gets the chop from a local butcher and its cut to his liking as you can see in the pic below. It was a great sandwich that had me wanting another as soon as I took my fist bite. It was crisped perfectly and you are able to dress it up with what you want from the condiments bar next to where you order inside.

Butterflied Pork Chop Sandwich

I was so happy to see that Willie's is really rocking these days and is now thee spot to eat around this way. Unless you get off the main interstates and do some exploring you wont come across a place like this which is why I always like to take the byways when traveling on roadtrips. I try to take them as much as time will allow me to and you should too this summer. You never know what you might cruise upon.

What will you find on the roads of America?

Willies Homemade Tamales
194 Railroad Street
Sparland, IL 61565
(309) 469-2222

Willie's Tamale Cart
Located at Adams and Main St
Peoria, IL

Friday, May 7, 2010

Burgers from Old School DQs

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi (land)

Everybody has something that lets them know or reminds them that spring and soon summer are here. In fact we all have quite a few things like baseball season starting or being able to walk the lake on a beautiful May afternoon, the smell of BBQ smoke in the air or the sound of the ice cream truck. One of mine happens to be when two old school Dairy Queens open up for the season. I know your thinking "WHAT! Dairy Queen? they're burgers suck, its shat fast food" and I totally agree but the two spots I visit now and then are old school and haven't changed things like the menu and so the burgers remain the same as they were way back in the day. The first of these two DQs is on Lake in Wilmette, IL and across the street from my old high school (for frosh and soph until I got the boot) Loyola Academy. I been hitting up this DQ since 1996.

locals favorite in Wilmette, IL

I cant say exactly how many years this particular DQ has been in operation but its been a while. Anybody who is from the area or went to Loyola has been or worked here. Since I was never able to get on the Pace bus that picked students up on campus due to being in detention most of the time, I had to walk across the bridge down to Borders to get the bus to take me to the Purple line. So I always stopped at DQ before taking the walk and to this day I get the same order as always-triple cheeseburger with mustard, onions and pickle and maybe one of them slushie floats with the ice cream and blue raspberry slushy mixed together. These burgers taste the same way today that did 14 years ago and other people tell me they've been eating them alot longer than that for the same reason. These aren't your typical franchised DQ burgers. just old school partly steamed burgers that were popular during the 50's and 60's. As far as other foods, nope, the burgers are all they do.

Triple cheese and a burger from the Wilmette DQ

If you are from Park Ridge then odss are you've been to the next DQ stop on our journey many times over spring and summer. I havent been to this one nearly as much as the other but I have been over the years. Last summer I stopped in for one of them slushies above and just like the old time one in Wilmette they have a small but effective little parking lot.

locals favorite in Park Ridge, IL

This dairy Queen is a little bigger than the Wilmette spot and so is the food menu.Its not just burgers but dogs, fishwich, nuggets, fries etc..The menu for the food had a Vienna Beef logo so I assume they use their products which is a good thing. I ordered a double cheese with mustard, onions and pickles and watched the guy in the back steam my bun and cook some thin pattys on a flattop for a couple minutes aside and dress it up perfectly. I must say it was a great example of the old style of burgers with the steamed bun, melted cheese and perfect blend of toppings and the best burger I ever had for under $3 and it was just over two dollars. They pack quite a punch for being such a cheap treat.

Double cheeseburger

Dairy Queen of Wilmette
3510 Lake Avenue
Wilmette, IL 60091-1063
(847) 251-8727

Dairy Queen of Park Ridge
2 Devon Ave
Park Ridge, IL 60068-5510
(847) 698-4790

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tierra Caliente

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

Its already time for another holiday special. So get the tequila and Tecate ready because were celebrating Cinco de Mayo at S'C'&C. I am a man who loves me some Mexican food. Its tough to pick and choose one single cuisine as your favorite but it is and always has been Mexican for me. Since I am from Chicago it isn't something that is very foreign to me. I've been enjoying the food and culture since I was a youngin. I am very confident in my belief that Chicago is as good of a city as any in the US and probably the best when it comes to good Mexican food stops. I know some of you already sayng "no way, its LA dude" and some are saying "Houston has the best" and others from NYC are claiming they "have the best" like they do everything in New York. I wouldn't put NYC in the top 20 cities for Mexican cuisine in the country. But the truth is Chicago has the highest Mexican population east of LA and Mexicans living in Chicago come from all 31 Mexican states so all different type of its cuisine can be found here. I waited to bring this spot to you over the holiday because it is one of the Chi's best taquerias in a city with 5,000+ of them.

a locals favorite at Ashland and Blackhawk

Chicago has so many Mexican restaurants and grocery stores with taquerias inside that 1000s can go unnoticed to people not living near them and they stay under the radar just like Tierra Caliente was up until this past year. But there is good reason this grocery store with a taqueria inside has grown an army of followers from the city to the suburbs, from the gringos to the vatos and anyone who's ever paid a visit to one of the cities great lunch stops. The grocery store is your typical neighborhood Mexican grocery store and has produce and a meat counter to go with the other essentials for grocery goods for its Mexican based clientele. When you enter and go to the back and look to the right you'll see some tables a counter and a little kitchen that slang's out tacos (that's what you get here) and some really good specials on the weekend such as menudo. I haven't had the pleasure of trying any of the soup but the star of the show here are the tacos al pastor.

The main attraction at Tierra Caliente

I have always loved the Mexican gyro taco and have been on the hunt for places that actually use a cone, cut the meat off of it and cook near perfect al pastor. I have found my place like so many others already have. The tacos al pastor at Tierra Caliente are seasoned full of flavor and when you get them on a good day they are the best $2 can get you that I know of around here. Since the cone needs time to go around and get crispy charred pieces of pork if you catch them on an on day, these are as good of a taco as you can get in a city with unlimited supply of them.

taco al pastor from Tierra Caliente

The counter is pretty much always packed at lunchtime and until recently it was with mostly Mexicans who know where the best bang for your buck on tacos in the city is at. The guys working the taqueria are good men and stuff the tacos with about as much meat as you can get in a tortilla. Even though there isn't much space this place puts out some great dishes like birria de chiva (goat) which is rich and full of amazing flavor. They cook the goat up in this huge pot for hours on end and take the stew meat and make amazing tacos and gorditas that just cant be matched with that I have found elsewhere. The birria here has made my love for long braised goat meat as big as it ever was. I've never been a big fan of goats. That's why I like to eat them.

birria de chiva taco

-Got Beef? tacos de carne asada

The steak tacos sometimes are an afterthought over at Tierra when the al pastor spit is sitting there in front of you rolling around tempting you with its hourglass figure and the aroma from the birria de chiva floods the air. But this is a place that does up wonderful tacos and the tacos de carne asada are very good options here too. The steak is very good when the place is packed because its being thrown on the grill and then chopped up and stuffed in tortillas within minutes of being cooked. So if its really packed and you can smell steak in the air then its a good time to get some steak tacos. If its real slow inside then you get al pastor tacos.

Steak taco from Tierra Caliente

Rating Scale 5/5

steak: 4 (when fresh off the grill)
cilantro/onions: 4
tortilla: 4
salsa: 5

Score: 17/20

It doesn't end there my friends as far as top notch taco selections. Tierra does up different types of taco campechanos which according to the good people at LTH refers to something from the "Campeche city or state, bridge to the Yucatan" These tacos are basically combos of two different meat selections available and can be on special over the weekends and other various days. They do have a taco campechano on the menu board which consists of the al pastor and carne asada both featured above. These favorites of mine are like Mexican cuisines ode to the almighty Chicago combo. I love them. What's not to like about beef and pork? Not a damn thing! The same answer goes for what's not to like about Tierra Caliente? Not a damn thing! Happy Cinco De Mayo.

Tierra Calientes tribute to the combo

Tierra Caliente
1402 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622


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