I notice it's been a while since we rolled out one of these specials. As time goes on you can expect a few more to follow as Chicago is seeing a boom in Mexican places specializing in something. This is as good of a trend as any as I've long maintained I wish there were more specialty shops opening up. What's a specialty shop? To me it's a place that's specializing in one (maybe more) certain item that they used to make while back home. A spot that has more to it's menu than the regulars of tacos, burritos, tortas, etc all offered with the same standard meats. The places that are so passionate about their family recipes that they feel the need to push them to the consumer such as myself.
Locals Favorite in Belmont-Cragin
I start with this Hildalgo style empanada shop because it's owner is doing something that I wish more Mexican restaurants would do. Realizing there's countless taco shops scattered all over the city he wanted to try something different. So he opened his shop with no taco menu in sight. Want a burrito? Go across the street. Here they have Mexican style empanadas which you just dont see everywhere.
Part of the Menu
These pastry treats are a specialty of the city of Pachuca located in the state of Hidalgo. Called Pastes they're basically Mexico's version of a Pasty minus the blandness. Meats and or veggies get piled into a super delicate pastry that's just strong enough to hold everything together. It feels like it could break apart the entire time you're eating one but they always stick together. My favorite filling is the red mole with shredded chicken. The deeply flavorful mole goes great with the pastry shell which is sprinkled with sesame seeds either for more flavor or to easily identity what type of paste it is.
Red Mole Empanada
Equally delicious are the meat and potato options. I prefer the beef to the chorizo but both are quite good. The potatoes are always cooked perfectly to the point where they're not too tender nor too tough. The meat is more like a seasoning and with the beef they also have some medium in heat peppers chopped in with the other stuff. One of my favorite snacks in the city. Love this spot.
Beef / Potato Empanada
I stop into Golden Tuzo whenever I can but it's usually on the weekdays. So when I stopped in this past weekend I was surprised to find that they have a few weekend only specials. Well actually just one item right now but you can expect to see some Pachuca style Tlacoyos in the coming weeks. In the meantime he's making Chalupas just like those back home. No, Taco Bell didn't invent this dish. It's a common antojito (snack) in Mexico. Usually found along the streets in the middle of town.
The closest thing to some real deal chalupas is the San Antonio style puffy taco. That's what eating these chalupas reminded me of. It's a slightly puffed (fried) tortilla that's dressed with a variety of toppings which in this case was a spicy potato mixture. Served like a tostada but ate like a taco.
Folder over and ate like a taco________________________________________________________________________________
Locals Favorite on 63rd st
One day this past Spring while riding in West Lawn a sign with a crab caught my eye. I've rolled around this city so much I immediately know when a new place is open. Just by the looks and colors of the sign etc. So this place was new to me but so the sign said it was just pizza and such. Until I spied a handwritten sign advertising "Antojitos de Veracruz" which is the street food of Veracruz.
The Specialty Menu
This is what it's all about. I love finding spots like this. If just driving by without a keen eye you wouldn't think twice about this place. But as soon as you see the hand written sign you know you need to stop. La Jaiba offers six different items you can commonly find on the streets of Veracruz, Mexico. I've only tried a couple of them but both were rock solid snacks. I prefer the Garnachas which are another relative of the tostada. Crisped up tortillas are topped with a spicy tomato based sauce which is then topped with shredded meat and some lightly pickled onions. The combination of fried tortilla with the sauce mixed with meat is one I found myself enjoying. Check them out.
Gorditas La Tia Susy
Newly Opened on Western in Clearing
Another antojitos spot. See what I'm saying? Specialty spots are in. This place used to be a cute little Puerto Rican joint and now it's a charming little Mexican spot specializing in some Norteno style food. Mexican cowboy food consists of alot of stewed meats, gorditas, and burritos with handmade flour tortillas being the focal point. All of which can be found here. It's a Durango style eatery.
Gordita and Burrito
As good as the gorditas are from here, and they're as good as any in the city I've tried. The item that got me back not too long after my first visit is the burrito. Hopefully all of my regular readers understand that they do in fact eat burritos in Mexico they just dont stuff them with half of what's in the fridge. In Northern Mexico burritos are every bit as popular as tacos, in fact they are tacos. They're just rolled up as opposed to folded over. At Gorditas La Tia Susy they dont make the tortilla until you've ordered. Thus a warm handmade flour tortilla is the catalyst of this most excellent bite to eat. Not to be outdone the shredded beef inside is well spiced and cooked just right to where there's no stringy pieces to be found. It's paired with potatoes that still have texture and some sliced avocado. Add some salsa and that's all you need. Maybe the best burrito in Chicago.
Torteria San Lenchito
Locals Favorite in Albany Park
Tucked away on a side street off of Montrose is this shop specializing in tortas. There's other things on the menu but as the name suggests it's all about the sandwiches. You can choose from about 20 options most of which sound delicious. I knew I was in for the goods when I was handed a complimentary bag of fresh fried chips topped with chopped wieners. Not something I've seen before. But what I have seen before is a fantastic salsa bar and when you have one of these it usually means the food is going to be good as well. It just makes sense that if they spend time perfecting the side stuff then they probably do the same with the main menu items. This is usually the case.
Menu / Salsa Bar
Having a hard time deciding which torta to get I decided to go with the first one listed. This is something I've pointed out, more times than not a place will list what it feels is it's best item first as it's usually the first thing the consumer will see. So I got a chicken mole torta. As the menu described this was a pounded out chicken breast dressed with refried beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, and crispy onions aka an onion ring. The bread was soft, the mole was rich and the onion ring was lost in all of it. Still a damn good sandwich and for something like five dollars and change it was a winner. I should also mention that you get a side of fresh fried in-house potato chips with each sandwich order.
Chicken Mole Torta________________________________________________________________________________
Basket Tacos in Brighton Park
Located on 47th street just west of Western this place caught my eye with it's mention of Tacos de Canasta and a large basket sitting out in front of the store. It's owned by a young couple and the male went to culinary school. No way I wasn't going to stop in so I did so and got a few to go which I should've known better. Tacos de Canasta or "Basket Tacos" are steamed and can be a little messy when eaten in the car with bare hands. Anyways I enjoyed the trio and stopped back in the following weekend with the intent of dining in.
All tacos are $1 and anywhere from 5-8 if not more are in-store for someone who's hungry. So you might as well start with one of each. I've tried them all and enjoy each one of them though I'm always more partial to things with meat rather than without. They're made to order, with the tortillas and fillings already steaming. A tad bit of red chile sauce goes on the mini tortillas before they're filled and then topped with some potent grilled onions. These are some tasty little treats. However when I asked where the tortillas were from and he told me Sysco I was kind of shocked. I guess the steaming of them somewhat hides that fact. Either way, the fillings are fantastic and the tamales some of the best I've had. It has the feels of a place seeking expansion and they're looking around Fullerton and Western for their next spot. Wouldn't be surprised if this is the city's next mini taco empire.
Tacos de Canasta________________________________________________________________________________
Previous Posts from this Series
5648 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60639
3956 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629
Gorditas La Tia Susy
3452 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
Torteria San Lenchito
4810 N Drake Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
2430 W 47th St
Chicago, IL 60632