Today’s lunch

It’s supposed to be my day off, and now that my talk in Florida has been canceled because of the Virus, I feel the need to have some fun. So I left work this morning and took the bus to Gage Park, heading west on 55th Street toward Midway Airport. After you leave the University, you first head through an African-American area, which then transitions to a Hispanic area that used to be a Polish area. In the Hispanic part are several good places to eat, but I wanted to try the carnitas (chopped-up braised pork that’s juicy and tender) at Carnitas Uruapan, a highly rated place in Pilsen that just opened a larger branch right on the bus line from Hyde Park to Midway.

The new branch is supposed to be even better than the old because, as Chicago Eater says,

The Carbajals [the owning family] still believe word of mouth is the most important way to attract customers. But they want to expand their base. Marcos Carbajal wants to open more locations after they get their feet under them in Gage Park. Chicago chefs have taken notice. Rick Bayless has worked with the Carbajals on getting heirloom white corn masa imported from Mexico to El Popo, a popular tortilla maker. The Pilsen location already uses El Popo shells. For years, Carnitas Uruapan has been the first stop for El Popo trucks on their delivery routes. At the new restaurant, they use heirloom corn masa to make tortillas. The Pilsen restaurant is limited by space, but they may start making tortillas there, too.

Bayless, a Chicago chef who became famous for making authentic and delicious Mexican food at his Frontera Grill (he now owns several other restaurants), talked about the heirloom masa in a t.v. show he did recently (I sometimes watch cooking shows), and since he mentioned that this is what he serves in the tortillas made in his own restaurants, and that the masa is now at the new branch of Carnitas Uruapan, I couldn’t rest until I tried it at that branch.

And so, my lunch:

Here’s the outside and the inside:

The menu at the takeout line. You buy carnitas by the pound as well as salsas, cactus-and-cheese casserole, drinks, and chicharrones (fried pork rinds). They have Mexican Coca Cola made with cane sugar, guacamole, and those delicious tortillas: only $1.50 per dozen:

Chopping carnitas (you choose what bits you want). I had it all but said “no organs” as they often include tripe and brains (it’s all pig):

I ate in the dining room so I didn’t have to fight the line of hungry locals, and this is what I got: a half pound of carnitas, a dozen tortillas, various salsas with lime and chopped onions, a few chicharrones (best I’ve ever had), and ice water:

Lord, were the carnitas good! No wonder this place is locally famous! The white corn tortillas were soft and flavorful.

The chicharrones went very well with the make-your-own tacos. You take a small bite of the crispy pork rind while chewing your taco, and they’re a good combination. Note the hunks of fried pork adhering to the rind:

The bill (after tax but before tip). I had to take away food, even though this was my only meal of the day, and I have enough for two more meals!

Chicharrones on the way out:

Across the street was a sad, empty chicken restaurant, and no wonder since there’s porky largesse across the street. They’d hired some poor schlemiel to dress up in a chicken suit and wave at passersby (see video below):

Waving Chicken Man!

 

I returned home by way of Botany Pond, since if I ate well, so must my ducks. There are two queens and two Weinsteins today, and I fed them all, feeling generous. Honey’s female friend is still here, and perhaps you might think of a name.

But here’s the real Queen: Honey.

Remember, do not food-shame me as I don’t eat like this very often. Violators will be disciplined.

30 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Provecho! I was born in Uruapan Michoacan 🙂

  2. Posted March 14, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Nice! Right on 55th – we go by there every time we fly in and out of Midway.

    • Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Well, if you don’t stop at this place for lunch or dinner, you are a reprobate. It’s fantastic!

      • Posted March 14, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Well that’s some pressure! 🙂 I will definitely stop on my next trip across 55th. I am still thinking of leading an eating tour of the Goshen, IN area, including and all-day schmeckfest at the 2020 version of http://www.mennonitesale.org/food-and-shopping

        • Rita Prangle
          Posted March 14, 2020 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          Will the 2020 Relief Sale be in September?
          I live in Mishawaka, so not too far.

          • Posted March 14, 2020 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

            Yes. Usually the 4th weekend, and I think the dates are in the link. Worth the trip. Arrive early!

  3. merilee
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    One dozen tortillas!! Lots of left-overs. The carnitas look delicious. I have eaten at Bayless’s restauranr near Second City. Great made-at-your-tsble guacamole, iirc.

  4. danfromm
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    You wrote:

    “They have Mexican Coca Cola made with cane sugar, guacamole, and those delicious tortillas”.

    Aha! So Mexican Coke contains guacamole and delicious tortillas. No wonder it differs from the domestic version.

    Jerry, you took me back to that wonderful book “Eats, shoots and leaves.”

  5. Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    My son (now in his late ’20’s) still talks about the time we went to Mexico and he had ‘real’ ice cream and Mexican soda. To this day he still buys the soda from a local grocery as a special treat.

  6. yazikus
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Good lord that looks amazing. And the price is fantastic.

  7. phar84
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Like the fact that you use public transport and supporting local business in these times.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Onliest thing I’d shame you for is not sharing.

    I generally limit myself to the meat of the swine to once or twice a month — usually some Carolina-style barbecue or Cuban lechon asado. But damned if I wouldn’t make another exception right this second for carnitas Uruapan.

    • Posted March 14, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I was by myself: it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. But I am sort of sharing by posting the pictures, though of course it’s not nearly as good as the real thing.

  9. revelator60
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Poor Chicken Man! Such people always get my sympathy: employees gamely trying to make the best of a hopeless, pathetic job.

    • Mark R.
      Posted March 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree, but still, schlemiel had me cracking up. 🤣🤣🤣

  10. Mark R.
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad I already ate because this post would make me over-eat. I like to eat at local “taco trucks” because the food is delicious, authentic and CHEAP. I find myself eating at one at least twice a week.

    Bayless is a great Mexican chef. I have 5 or 6 of his cookbooks and have loved every recipe so far…probably at least 50. His moles are superb as well as his many soups and salsas. He also won “Top Chef Masters” no mean feat.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted March 14, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      It certainly looks good. And at a great price.

      The Bayless places are nice but not cheap ($10 guac for example, and I bet a dozen tortillas aren’t $1.50). I always feel like I’ve had more money extracted than warranted. Really his prices are no worse than similar places in those locations. It might just be that my expectations are that good Mexican food should be fairly cheap.

  11. Jim batterson
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I just read that france has closed all of its restaurants and cafes as of midnight as the virus has ramped up considerably there. Do you have any thoughts about under what covid 19 conditions you would eschew public transport and eating in restaurants?

    • Posted March 14, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      I would shoot myself if those conditions ever existed. Life wouldn’t be worth living.

    • mvanbellinghen
      Posted March 14, 2020 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      In Belgium also restaurants are closed for at least three weeks. All public events are canceled. This in order to slow down the expansion of the viral infection. In my humble opinion, judicious decisions that even should have been taken earlier.

      • Posted March 14, 2020 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Many, many restaurants in Seattle closed for at least a month.

  12. Posted March 14, 2020 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I would definitely try that place if I am in Chicago. Carnitas is my meat of choice in Mexican restaurants. I can’t believe those prices. So cheap! And good tortillas make a huge difference in Mexican cuisine. I’m not a fan of chicharrones though. I prefer my carnitas a little crisp on the edges but tender and moist on the inside. Perhaps I’ll have to get some Mexican food for dinner.

  13. Liz
    Posted March 14, 2020 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Looks yummy.

    No chicken or meat anywhere is the word on the street. After my normal grocery shopping, I can confirm. I got the last tissues in the store. No toilet paper. No eggs. No tuna. I grabbed the last few jars of peanut butter. I took a dented can of generic sauerkraut. Things might get nutty. There were saltines so I bought three boxes since they’re out a county away from where I am. I can use them for trade. I’m not sure if now is a good time to make another push for everyone to meet. : )

    • Mark R.
      Posted March 14, 2020 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know why, but I laughed when I read “a dented can of generic sauerkraut”. Jeebus, we’re really in the shits, aren’t we? Like postwar Germany. I hope I can still laugh in a couple weeks. We’ll see.

  14. Posted March 14, 2020 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    For some reason I can’t stand Instagram but I enjoy your food pics, particularly the French ones on your trip.
    You eat a lot Jerry.
    Stay “socially distant” and online! best,DA, JD, NYC

  15. Posted March 14, 2020 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    oh oh. I didn’t see the food shaming warning. I didn’t mean to shame you – its mere envy at such a spread that I’m not eating! hahaha
    D.A.

  16. chrism
    Posted March 15, 2020 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    The important thing about corn masa is that it has been nixtamalized (soaked in limewater or wood ash solution, which kills off fungi, makes it easier to cook, and makes available more niacin and amino acids – in other words you can live off nixtamalized corn, but not on unmodified corn. How that was discovered by ancient peoples I can’t imagine). Since corn masa is an internet order for me, I’ve reverted to making my tortillas from wheat flour. I know, I know, but it’s what I’ve got and they taste wonderful anyway!

  17. Stephen Wilson
    Posted March 15, 2020 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!!! You CAD! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  18. Posted March 15, 2020 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to try everything there. It looks so good!

    (Surely you’ll name Honey’s companion Katie Peck?)


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