Monday, October 19, 2020

Especialidad de la Casa Pt. 10

-Eating like a Mayan King in the Windy City

It's time for another of 'Specialty of the House'. The ongoing series where house special dishes at Mexican restaurants are featured. Today's five will feature spots to recently open on the Northside. Aside from having that in common all five also opened at some point during the pandemic. So maybe you missed them bc you know other stuff was going on. That said you don't want to miss these spots bc there's some really good food coming from them. Look there's some great Mexican restaurants in Pilsen but when people say you have to go there to get the real stuff it's a real load of bull. There's more than one million people with Mexico origins living in Chicagoland. They don't all live in Pilsen.


Cafe Pachuca 

Humboldt Park 

Hidalgo Style Pastes are now available along North avenue in Humboldt Park here at Cafe Pachuca. It's named after Hidalgo's capitol city of Pachuca where there's a long and rich history of mining which means the Cornish were once there. During their time in Mexico they introduced locals to Cornish style Pasties which was their fuel for mining. They made great lunches as they were super portable seeing as how they worked underground. Well as time went by locals became miners too and the paste (pasty) is now one of the states signature snacks. These are the owners dads family recipe from Pachuca and I’m an instant fan. Love the golden crust which is without a doubt a recipe that’s been refined over time. The biggest difference between a Paste and say an empanada is that the ingredients in Pastes and Pasties are uncooked when wrapped. I’m not a coffee guy but they do that too. If you’re anywhere near you need to stop and grab a couple. Make sure to get a cup of the dads family recipe salsa verde for dipping. Pastes come in a handful of flavors both savory and sweet. 

Pastes at Cafe Pachuca 

Gabriela's Carnitas 

Logan Square 

Odds are you've heard of L ' Patron as it's one of the Northsides most popular taquerias. Less chance you've heard of Gabriela's Carnitas which is just down the block on Fullerton. While some are aware others will be surprised to find that Gabriela's is owned by the folks at L ' Patron. They specialize in carnitas and sell it by the pound as well as in tacos, flautas, and more. What I like about getting them by the pound from here is that they give you a bundle of homemade tortillas to go with them. They also have a specialty taco which is a bunch of chopped up carnitas and melted cheese inside one of those aforementioned tortillas. Could QuesaCarnitas be the next big thing? Haha. Who knows but this is a super indulgent taco. It makes for a nice 1-2 punch with Pan Artesanal Bakery across the street.  

El Presidente Taco at Gabriela's Carnitas 

Tlayudas Oaxaca Grill 

Albany Park 

There's a new tlayuda specialist in Albany Park. They opened right when covid came calling which is just awful but they seem to have been noticed by the neighborhood. So while it was a tough time to start, tlayudas are terrific for takeout. They're original to Oaxaca where vendors dress up large crisp tortilla discs in a variety of ways. Refried black beans tend to be standard as is shredded Queso Oaxaca. Protein on this one pictured below is chorizo and also included are mushrooms, cabbage, tomato, avocado. Go pick one up next time you want takeout but aren’t feeling pizza. Also of note are what they call empanadas but look more like huge quesadillas. The massive tortillas are made in house and stuffed with grilled chicken (also on menu), Oaxacan cheese, and special mild sauce. 

Tlayuda at Tlayudas Oaxaca Grill 

The Birria Connect 

Portage Park 

Since my first in the city report on quesabirria there's been quite a few more spots to open. One of the better ones I've tried comes from the Birria Connect which is currently running out of a Guatemalan bakery up north on Milwaukee. According to the young man in charge they're doing an old family recipe from Jalisco. Their beef birria is some of the best I've had and to make it even better they're  good at crisping the outer shell which is something alot of spots don't do. Even the consommé is a little more beefy than most of the others around town. I expect them to open a full fledged spot soon. 

Quesabirria at The Birria Connect 


Logan Square 

With Fall weather in full swing this is a spot to keep in mind next time you want to go drinking in your hoodie. Kumbala is a one man pop-up that currently runs of Split Milk Tavern at Fullerton and California. You can order both barbacoa (tacos / by the lb) and pozole to enjoy in the back on the bars patio or you can order it for pick-up or delivery. So you dont have to go drinking to get down on these little two bite tacos which are addictive with barbacoa juices seaping into the tortillas. A nice change of pace from the current quesabirria craze sweeping the nation. They make a red (meat) and a green (vegan) pozole too. Pork belly is crisped up nicely in the red and cocktails there are Chicago good. 

Pozole and Barbacoa Tacos at Kumbala

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