Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tacos de Canasta in Chicago

- On the road with the 'Chicago Taco Tour'

Did anyone catch the special issue Bon Appetit recently did dedicated to tacos in the United States? It was called 'Taco Nation' and it was very well done. Except one thing was missing - Chicago. Unless I missed it I didn't see anything on Chicago in the 20+ stories they commissioned. That's too bad bc Chicago really is one of the top 2 or 3 spots to eat Mexican food outside of Mexico. Update: They did have one feature written by author Sandra Cisernos. It was a very good read. Even after coming back from a trip to Mexico I find myself wanting certain tacos in Chicago. Mexican food is our city's number one food strength yet it's often overlooked unless it's one of the higher end chefs being mentioned. One of whom is so filthy rich he really doesn't need anymore free press. But I digress. Instead of complaining I'll just continue to spread the gospel to those who follow along both here and at the #ChiTacoTour hashtag on instagram. Speaking of social media tacos de canasta are having a moment across the country. Most likely attributed to the fact Netflix's 'Taco Chronicles' featured the humble Mexican snack in one of it's episodes. While they've been available in Chicago for a while (Serious Eats Post from 2013) they're really starting to take off of late. Today I have a non-definitive guide on where to get them in Chicago. Some of them already covered. I still think Tacos de Canasta Rossy are the best. Maybe the most "authentic" tacos in town if judging them by the closest you'll find to those in Mexico. FYI they recently moved a few doors down and are now open Fridays.

Tacos de Canasta from TdC Rossy 

For those who aren't familiar with tacos de canasta they translate to basket tacos. In Mexico vendors will pile up a basket of tortillas filled a few tbsp of filling and cover the basket leaving them to steam while they walk around and sell them. These days there's actual restaurants dedicated to them in places like Mexico City (go to Los Especiales). While typically eaten for breakfast many spots will serve them all day. Other Chicago restaurants previously covered include what is probably the best taqueria in Chicago top to bottom. While it's the suadero, longaniza and crispy tripas I always get at La Chaparrita they also do a very good batch of tacos de canasta. Sometimes you can find another family member selling them along Kedzie. The city's first brick and mortar TdC specialist (El Conde S.A) is still open on South Kedzie too. Another Southside spot called Guapo Taco opened a few years back and tacos de canasta and tamales are just about all they sell. If you go west down Fullerton you'll come across La Chilangueada where they make cute mini TdC. In Belmont Cragin the under the radar Taqueria Belen makes great fresh ones. Sometimes spots will make tacos de canasta to order which is kind of cheating. Then again rarely any of these places make them in actual baskets. Some however do prepare ahead of time which makes them that much better. Aside from all these spots you're likely to find a street vendor or two selling real versions made earlier that morning.

Tacos de Canasta from Guapo Taco 
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 Kafecito 

As you can see from the homemade sign on the window they sell tacos de canasta at this juice specialist in Little Village. I stopped by on a weekend after seeing the sign so it may be a weekends only thing. Not a bad $6 spent considering I got six tacos with the usual fillings (bean, potato, chicharron prensado) along with a big scoop of a colorful vinegar based cole slaw alongside some spicy pumpkin seeds. Also included was a cup of well made avocado salsa. The tacos were perhaps a bit dry but the condiments helped take care of that. I'd try to go get them close to opening time.

Tacos de Canasta at Kafecito 
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 Don Pepe Carne en su Jugo 

Another spot on 26th street in Little Village where you can find TdC is Don Pepe's Carne en su Jugo. Unfortunately I've always found the carne en su jugo here to be average at best. A big buzz kill the first time I tried it a decade or so ago. That said they've been serving tacos de canasta since then too. I noticed them bc a few different tables of families had them on my visit way back when. They offer six different fillings and include a big cup of vinegar doused cabbage with each plate. Pretty damn good.

Tacos al Vapor / Canasta at Don Pepe Carne en su Jugo 
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 Del Pueblo Restaurant 

I featured this Norteno spot in Cicero just last year. It's ran by a family from Durango and they're pushing some delicious home cooked recipes. Aside from the unique in Chicagoland Tacos Banados which I featured them for they also make tacos al vapor. As well as Northern Mexico style burritos which are really just flour tortilla tacos. In Northern Mexico they like to fill their burritos, gorditas, and tacos al vapor with guisados many of which are meat forward. Del Pueblo makes their tacos al vapor to order but they dont suffer too much as it's the Norteno fillings that make them. Make sure to get one if not a couple of the deshebrada in chile rojo. They also do steamed beef by the pound.

Tacos al Vapor at Del Pueblo Restaurant 
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 La Huarachita

I noticed the sign in the window above while driving down Milwaukee a few months ago. Eventually I stopped at La Huarachita which is just north of Belmont. They sell a package of six tacos de canasta with two each of Chorizo & Potato, Chicken Mole, Chicharron Prensado. Not bad but I'm not a big fan of the made to order versions. Unlike say pre-sliced al pastor meat, steamed tacos benefit greatly from a complete steam and not a short one. So spots that like to pre-slice al pastor and leave it to steam in a tray should be good at tacos al vapor. That said it’s the specialists you should seek out.

Tacos de Canasta at La Huarachita 
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 La Canastita de Laura 

Speaking of specialists have I got a fun one for you. It was recently suggested by instagram that I follow an account @la_canastita_de_laura. Of course the name caught my eye and for once the apps on my phone that spy on me made good of their espionage. It turns out this a small local start-up ran by a few people that will deliver tacos de canasta estilo DF to your door. All you have to do is send them a message a day or two ahead so they can prepare your order and depending on your location in the city they will deliver you some tacos de canasta. Not just the tacos but both a fiery red and a cool green salsa as well. I tried them this past weekend and got 21 tacos de canasta delivered to my door for $25 (I tipped them $4). This is something I will def do again. It couldn't be any easier and judging from the texture of the tortillas these felt like they were steamed for a good while. They make a bean, potato (favorite), and a chicharron prensado in a red chile sauce. Try them out this weekend!

Tacos de Canasta from La Canastita de Laura
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See ya next time @chibbqking #ChiTacoTour

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