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Birria Tatemada at Birrieria Zaragoza & Birrieria La Barca

Birria Tatemada at Birrieria Zaragoza & Birrieria La Barca
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  • Post #31 - July 18th, 2009, 7:21 pm
    Post #31 - July 18th, 2009, 7:21 pm Post #31 - July 18th, 2009, 7:21 pm
    I cannot improve on Pigmon's review from last October, so let me just do the Cliff Notes on his piece: Birrieria Zaragoza offers a signature version of a traditional dish at a great value, served by the creative, funny, friendly, welcoming Zaragoza family. I cannot over-praise it.

    After lunch today, Juan said he had planned a festival next Saturday night (25 July) featuring birria, "the best carnitas in Chicago," a three piece band, a Spanish poet reciting from his own work, and Mojitos. It will be held a few doors to the south of BZ on Pulaski and run from 6-9 pm.
  • Post #32 - August 31st, 2009, 10:36 pm
    Post #32 - August 31st, 2009, 10:36 pm Post #32 - August 31st, 2009, 10:36 pm
    Let me add to the chorus of praise for Zaragoza. We visited last weekend and our high expectations were greatly exceeded. The friendly, welcoming service was only surpassed by the phenomenal food, especially the birria, which was nothing short of sensational. So too were the tender, house-made tortillas and piquant salsa. In fact, there was nothing about Zaragoza that I didn't love. It reminded me of a place in L.A. -- Huarache Azteca #1 -- where Erik M took my family last year. Until my visit to Zaragoza, I didn't know we were so blessed to have such excellent birria in Chicago but now that I know we do, I will be returning there as often as I can, and recommending it to everyone I know . . .

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    Birrieria Zaragoza, 4852 S. Pulaski


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    Condiments served with birria -- lime, onion, cilantro, chiles de arbol and 'hot' sauce


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    Birria - the star of the show


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    Proprietor Juan and son Jonathan

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #33 - September 9th, 2009, 9:10 am
    Post #33 - September 9th, 2009, 9:10 am Post #33 - September 9th, 2009, 9:10 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I will be returning there as often as I can, and recommending it to everyone I know . . .

    Return visit to Zaragoza early last week and was once again blown away by care, quality, friendliness, service, attention to detail, two visits and I seem to have a bit of a love affair with the place. Speaking of love affairs, Norma, the matriarch of Zaragoza, is one of the sweetest, nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. She simply radiates warmth and good cheer, not to mention being a master at composing a plate of birria.

    Norma chatting with Jazzfood

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    We spent a few minutes at the counter chatting, sipping cinnamon scented coffee and munching on the delicious cookies Deesher brought from Pastel, a few doors North. When the conversation turned to hot/spicy sweat inducing food. Jonathan got an evil look in his eye, at least as evil as a really nice fellow can muster, and produced half a dozen Bhut Jolokia peppers which they grow.

    Johnathan looking askance, or is it in fear, at a Bhut Jolokia pepper

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    'None of us had any experience with fresh Bhut Jolokia, though I have used dried, and went with Johnathan's suggestion of a 4/1 ratio of roma tomatoes to pepper in a fresh salsa. Bhut Jolokia was diced very fine.

    Fresh Salsa w/Bhut Jolokia Pepper

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    Bhut Jolokia salsa rolled in fresh from the griddle house made tortillas and cut in fourths

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    Was the Bhut Jolokia salsa spicy hot, yes, absolutely, as one can tell from this 'after' picture of Deesher.

    Deesher in full Bhut Jolokia bloom

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    Composed Birria w/rib

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    In addition to Doug's cookies from Pastel PhilW brought a terrific coffee cake from Pticek, his wife's family bakery, located mere blocks from Zaragoza. Turns out coffee cake is an excellent 'fix' for Bhut Jolokia pepper palate purgatory.

    As an aside, I was on the Nick Digilio show last week talking about Low & Slow and simply could not help gushing, yes gushing, about Zaragoza. Podcast may be found --> here.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Birrieria Zaragoza
    4852 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-523-3700

    Pastel Bakery
    4814 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago, IL 60632
    773-523-5595

    Pticek & Son Bakery
    5523 S Narragansett Ave
    Chicago, IL 60638
    773-585-5500
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #34 - September 9th, 2009, 3:18 pm
    Post #34 - September 9th, 2009, 3:18 pm Post #34 - September 9th, 2009, 3:18 pm
    They put out one hell of a plate of food and couldn't be sweeter.

    After all, it is the "hospitality" industry, a point missed by some.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #35 - September 12th, 2009, 9:58 pm
    Post #35 - September 12th, 2009, 9:58 pm Post #35 - September 12th, 2009, 9:58 pm
    I've got little to add to the superlatives already written in this thread. I very much enjoyed my trip to Birrieria Zaragoza. The total dedication of the owners and their extreme hospitality (not to mention the food) makes this one of the best dining experiences at any price point in Chicago.

    A Delicious Morsel
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    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #36 - September 17th, 2009, 7:24 am
    Post #36 - September 17th, 2009, 7:24 am Post #36 - September 17th, 2009, 7:24 am
    had the taco's to go & they were great . i'll be stopping there again
    philw bbq cbj for kcbs &M.I.M. carolina pit masters
  • Post #37 - September 25th, 2009, 6:03 am
    Post #37 - September 25th, 2009, 6:03 am Post #37 - September 25th, 2009, 6:03 am
    G Wiv wrote:When the conversation turned to hot/spicy sweat inducing food. Jonathan got an evil look in his eye, at least as evil as a really nice fellow can muster, and produced half a dozen Bhut Jolokia peppers which they grow.

    Zaragoza with Kevin Pang Tribune scribe and head cheese of the Cheeseburger Show for a round of fresh salsa made with Zaragoza's home grown Bhut Jolokia, house made tortillas and Zaragoza's amazing birria.

    Ripe Bhut Jolokia (L), green Bhut Jolokia (C), Habanero (R)

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    Salsa, made by Johnathan Zaragoza, with finely diced Bhut Jolokia in a ratio of 4 peppers to 6 large Roma tomatoes along with cilantro, red onion and lime. Johnathan, an experienced pepper wrangler, wears gloves when handling Bhut Jolokias.

    Salsa w/Bhut Jolokia, both red and green

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    Birria is delectable, rich clear flavor, highlights of luscious fatty ancho mole tinged crispy bits, clean as a mountain spring consomme and earthy house made tortillas. Bhut Jolokia salsa hot, extremely hot with a surprisingly delicate fruity aroma and flavor.

    Kevin Pang meets the Bhut Jolokia

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    Part of the joy of Zaragoza is interacting with the amazing Zaragoza family, warm generous. A couple of neighborhood kids plopped down on the stools to say hello to Norma, she ruffled their hair, asked about school and gave them each a taco as snack. A very nice lady.

    Norma and Kevin chat while Johnathan and Bhut Jolokia plot world dominance in background

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    If you are fan of fruity flavorful habanero heat, I suggest a visit to Zaragoza in the next few weeks for salsa made with Bhut Jolokia, a more intense experience than habanero.

    Note: Zaragoza's Bhut Jolokia salsa is a special request, though they will be happy to make it for customers who ask long as the Bhut Jolokia supply lasts.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #38 - October 5th, 2009, 7:11 pm
    Post #38 - October 5th, 2009, 7:11 pm Post #38 - October 5th, 2009, 7:11 pm
    During the South Side Saturday organized by happy_stomach, we made a stop at Birrieria La Barca to try out their wares. I had never had the tatemada style of birria before and, at least based on this one experience, really prefer it to the unroasted versions I've had elsewhere.

    (click images for higher-resolution versions)

    Pickled Peppers and Onions
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    I really enjoyed the onions in particular, though the peppers were very good as well.

    Nopales Salad
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    As mentioned by Rene G upthread, the texture of the nopales was unfortunately limp. I usually love nopales (a big fan of the fried ones at La Oaxaquena), but this dish definitely fell short for me.

    Tejuino
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    Let's just say that this is definitely a taste I have not yet acquired.

    Birria Tatemada
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    The main event - definitely worth the trip. The concentration of flavors and browned edge bits definitely set this apart from birria I've had in the past.

    Machito
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    Our second order of birria was ordered con machito. Only three pieces were on the plate, so I didn't actually snag a piece - I'll let GAF, happy_stomach and ByranZ comment on it. Very visually appealing though.

    Worth noting is the homemade tortilla that it's nestled in - they were incredible. Thick, pliable, extremely pleasing texture-wise. I don't know if they're 100% corn - I'd almost suspect a bit of wheat flour or something to give them their light thickness. Who knows.

    Guerva
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    Catfish roe, cooked with peas, onions and peppers. Not particularly interesting in my book, but certainly fine.

    Something that flaps its wings
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    Stupidly, I didn't take a photo of the inside of the menu, so I don't actually know what this was called. There were three entrees listed on the menu - birria, birria con machito, and this. With a language barrier in place, we couldn't quite figure out what we were ordering, but based on some pantomiming we knew it was something with wings. Probably my favorite dish at this stop, the quail (or whatever) were perfectly cooked, and the almost mole-like sauce covering them was savory and delicious.

    The staff was extremely hospitable and the food delicious - I'll definitely make my way back there sometime soon.

    -Dan
  • Post #39 - October 5th, 2009, 7:15 pm
    Post #39 - October 5th, 2009, 7:15 pm Post #39 - October 5th, 2009, 7:15 pm
    wow, Zaragoza has gotten most of the love in this thread - and I'm sure it's deserved - but that La Barca stuff looks incredible. Thanks for the excellent post and pics... sorry I couldn't make the south side expedition.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #40 - October 5th, 2009, 7:42 pm
    Post #40 - October 5th, 2009, 7:42 pm Post #40 - October 5th, 2009, 7:42 pm
    Kenny,

    I haven't been to Zaragoza yet and hope to make it over there soon to compare. La Barca really was great, and if Zaragoza is better, it just means that I need to be working birria in to a more regular rotation in my diet.

    -Dan
  • Post #41 - October 6th, 2009, 9:10 pm
    Post #41 - October 6th, 2009, 9:10 pm Post #41 - October 6th, 2009, 9:10 pm
    I really enjoyed this place. Maybe I'm jaded, but I kind of agree with the poster in the TOP TACO thread who conjectured, to paraphrase, aren't all these asada and pastor kind of sameish. On my more cynical days I'm wont to agree. Nothing is sameish here. Even the tortillas were distinctive. Thicker and more pillowy than one might expect for a corn-based product.

    I had some truly memorable dishes and drinks here. That corn drink, tejuino, is some serious, serious stuff. Milky, a bit grainy, very sour, strangely sweet. I can't say I've had anything like it. The birria was very tasty, tender yet full of gamey goat flavor. The little extras--the nopales, brick-red salsa, hot chiles, and especially the pickles--were nice touches that kept each bite a bit different than the last. I was kind of obsessed with the machito. Seriously, what more could you want on the morning after a night of hard drinking than goat offal wrapped in intestine? I swear, we left some for dansch, though.

    The small bird dish--first I thought squab or quail, but the light meat made me thing poussin--was delicious. The sauce hinted at some spice and the deep roasted flavors one usually associates with a good, dark mole. This sauce might appear on other menus more generically as like "pipian rojo" or something of the sort. I shy away from mystery sauces at most places, but here I was scooping it up with extra tortillas.

    Am excited to try Zaragoza in the near future.
  • Post #42 - October 6th, 2009, 9:16 pm
    Post #42 - October 6th, 2009, 9:16 pm Post #42 - October 6th, 2009, 9:16 pm
    If you order machito do you also get plain old birria as well?
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #43 - October 6th, 2009, 9:22 pm
    Post #43 - October 6th, 2009, 9:22 pm Post #43 - October 6th, 2009, 9:22 pm
    You can get them as a combo plate. No smothered enchilada included.
  • Post #44 - October 7th, 2009, 9:27 am
    Post #44 - October 7th, 2009, 9:27 am Post #44 - October 7th, 2009, 9:27 am
    BryanZ wrote:I was kind of obsessed with the machito. Seriously, what more could you want on the morning after a night of hard drinking than goat offal wrapped in intestine? I swear, we left some for dansch, though.


    I know I cut a piece of the machito so that there would be enough for dansch because I remember using my pocket knife. Problem is I can't remember whether I then ate said piece after eating my own...by accident, of course. :oops:

    I really enjoyed the machito, perhaps more than my share--no hangover necessary. It was very goaty and offaly, with just the right amount of chewiness.
  • Post #45 - October 9th, 2009, 4:44 pm
    Post #45 - October 9th, 2009, 4:44 pm Post #45 - October 9th, 2009, 4:44 pm
    PIGMON wrote:Zaragoza uses a consommé made with tomatoes and various spices and contains no meat drippings from the first stage roasting whatsoever; being a completely separate broth. Consequently, you get a highly rendered yet juicy goat and then topped with this clean consommé at the end. The end result is a subtle, moist bowl of birria without the usual goatiness and fat content that turns off most anybody who’s ever tried the dish made in most other places in Chicago. If you go on weekends (and sometimes even during the week), delicious fresh homemade tortillas are being made right behind the counter.


    I want to call some attention to this accurate and compelling description to get even more folks to try Zaragoza, where I'll shortly have half a 'frequent goat diner' card stamped - the delicious broth is made exclusively from vegetables and spices, making it vegan. Norma says she offers it without the goat to vegetarian diners, which, combined with the shortening tortillas, garnishes, and salsa de molcajete if you like (an additional $3), would make for a spectacular meal.

    They seem to be handmaking the tortillas more than ever these days; chico and grande platos are up in price very slightly ($6.50/8.50), and they also make excellent quesadillas. The cafe casero is remarkably smooth and drinkable in quantity with hardly a care (especially with the way they refill it), a different experience than rich, sweet, bitter cafe de olla at Xni-Pec and many other places.

    These guys couldn't be nicer. They treat their paisanos and gringos with equal warmth, familiarity, and concern, those concerns to be healed with food, in the tradition of the best LTH-beloved places. I'm remiss in not saying sooner how much I appreciate Mike and Rene bringing Zaragoza to the community's attention along with many other places.
  • Post #46 - October 9th, 2009, 8:48 pm
    Post #46 - October 9th, 2009, 8:48 pm Post #46 - October 9th, 2009, 8:48 pm
    LUSHie Erin here; got to check out Birrieria Zaragoza for the first time this rainy afternoon. While I have known the neighborhood well for years, it was the first time I have managed to get over to BZ after many months of good intentions. I wish I had not waited so long. Coming down off a cold this week has been taxing, but the lifted and elegant consomme, combined with a hearty crumble of the dried chile peppers atop the goat seem to have nudged the last remnants of the cold off the radar. It was a short visit, but after long, inspiring chats with Norma and Jonathan, I know I will be back soon, with more friends and loads of wine and beer pairings in tow. Tatemada for the win! Santander, were you there this afternoon?
    Lush Wine and Spirits
    1257 S Halsted/2232 W Roscoe
    312-738-1900/773-281-8888
    lushwine.wordpress.com
  • Post #47 - October 10th, 2009, 2:07 pm
    Post #47 - October 10th, 2009, 2:07 pm Post #47 - October 10th, 2009, 2:07 pm
    dansch wrote:Something that flaps its wings
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    Stupidly, I didn't take a photo of the inside of the menu, so I don't actually know what this was called. There were three entrees listed on the menu - birria, birria con machito, and this. With a language barrier in place, we couldn't quite figure out what we were ordering, but based on some pantomiming we knew it was something with wings. Probably my favorite dish at this stop, the quail (or whatever) were perfectly cooked, and the almost mole-like sauce covering them was savory and delicious.

    Those birds at Birrieria La Barca were guilotas, almost certainly quail. I never tried them but they look like a must-order for my next visit. Below is a shot of La Barca's door. In Chicago, at least, guilotas (sometimes spelled huilotas) usually refers to quail, whereas cordoniz (or gordoniz) usually means Cornish game hen. You can read a lot more in this classic thread from years ago on Chowhound.

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    BryanZ wrote:Am excited to try Zaragoza in the near future.

    You should be; I suspect you'll enjoy it at least as much. La Barca's birria is damn good but Zaragoza's is in a different class. As you point out, part of the appeal of La Barca is their many non-goat offerings. They're generally excellent and the variety makes it great fun to eat there. Zaragoza's laser focus on goat is impressive. They make awfully good tortillas and salsa too but that's pretty much the entire menu. I like both places a lot. It depends on my mood.

    I'm hoping there's yet another birrieria (or two) in Chicago that's up to the level of Zaragoza and La Barca. I sure haven't found it yet but it's fun looking.

    One final note about Zaragoza. It's surprisingly easy to get to using public transportation—less than a half hour from the Loop. From Adams & Wabash, the Orange Line took 21 minutes to get to Pulaski. Then a 7 minute walk and I was there. Getting a plate of goat shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Of course, you'll probably want to walk another block north to Pastel! to get dessert. Keep in mind that Zaragoza is closed on Tuesday and Pastel! is closed on Monday.

    Zaragoza has a spiffy new awning.

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    Birrieria La Barca Jalisco
    4304 W 26th St
    Chicago
    773-522-1450
    Mon-Sun 9-6

    Birrieria Zaragoza
    "La Birria Maz Zabroza"
    4852 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-523-3700
    Mon & Wed-Fri 10-7, Sat-Sun 8-4

    Pastel!
    4814 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-523-5595
    Tue-Fri 730-730, Sat 9-8, Sun 10-6
  • Post #48 - October 11th, 2009, 8:08 pm
    Post #48 - October 11th, 2009, 8:08 pm Post #48 - October 11th, 2009, 8:08 pm
    Though I’ve been following the discussion of Zaragoza Restaurant, and it’s particular version of birria, since it began - the restaurant is situated in a part of the city I have little reason to visit (other than the restaurant) and if I did want to visit the travel time is too lengthy to justify the journey. So I designed a Saturday trip – yesterday – encompassing visits to Great American Cheese Collection (“GACC”) and Zaragoza Restaurant. I’ll discuss the visit to GACC on the shopping forum.

    If the trip to the southwest side was solely to visit GACC I would have returned home a bit disappointed, because I don’t think it was worth the effort. However, my visit to Zaragoza Restaurant made my day, my week and probably my month.

    It took a little bit of a round-about route to get from GACC to Zaragoza Restaurant, but I made it fine. For people for whom transit on the Orange Line elevated train is convenient the restaurant is within relatively easy reach – situated about two blocks north of the Pulaski Ave. station (if you don’t want to walk the distance (nighttime, rain, snow, etc.) you can find a CTA bus at the station that’ll drop you almost across the street from the restaurant).

    As soon as I opened the door and stepped inside the restaurant I felt at home. Juan (though I think he introduced himself as “John,” instead) – wearing the white jacket of a chef - quickly greeted me and son Jonathan joined-in quickly afterwards, and wife, Norma, stuck her head around the corner from the back kitchen to add her greeting as well. I first thought of occupying a two-top table on the window wall but seeing Juan working away with the goat meat behind the counter I sat in front of but off to one side facing him.

    Almost simultaneously Juan and Jonathan asked me if this was my first time visiting the restaurant and if I understood the food being served, etc. When I replied that I knew something about the restaurant he asked how and I mentioned LTH, and both Juan and Jonathan mentioned their previous visits with LTHers. I brought along a “hard copy” of this discussion thread and the family (now including son Eric) thumbed through the text – and particularly the photos – and laughed and talked about the times the photos were taken.

    Juan said he’d fix me a “first timer’s” plate of meat ($8.50) and he carefully selected some rib meat, some from the shoulder and some of the previously discussed “love handle.” I marveled as Juan picked through the oven pan of meat and bones and how he so carefully made his selections, trimmed the meat and arranged the meat on the platter – and how so delicately he bathed the meat with the clear broth before serving it. The man is a perfectionist. Juan’s artistry and behavior in the “kitchen” is probably no different than other good chefs in the city – but, given the type of operation Zaragoza Restaurant appears at first glance to be – I was impressed.

    I’ve eaten birria before – in Mexico – and it’s not a dish I go out of my way to look for. I’ve been unimpressed each time. This was the first time I had birria in the estilo de La Barca, however – and it was an extraordinary experience for me. Never before – in any of the forms it’s served – have I enjoyed goat meat as much as I did with this birria. I was enjoying it so much I didn’t add any of the few condiments available – until Jonathan suggested some of the house-produced smoked pepper salsa, and Juan suggested some onion.

    I enjoy freshly-made corn tortillas but wasn’t as over-the-top excited about them as others posting in this discussion seem to have been. True, most Mexican restaurants in the city use commercially-produced tortillas, but I travel in Mexico regularly and more often than not the meals I eat there are accompanied by freshly prepared tortillas. Two women produce the tortillas for this restaurant and each has her own styles of preparation. Juan told me one woman makes the tortillas thin and the other thicker than the first. The woman making the tortillas during the time of my visit made the thin variety – which I prefer. With this type of meal I don’t use a fork, just pieces pulled from the tortilla and when Jonathan watched me eat he commented about it and we talked about the eating habits not only of the restaurant’s customers but of his family – and he said he eats the same way I do (without the utensils).

    To wash-down my plate of birria I chose a 24 oz. bottle of bottled-in-Mexico Fresca (toronja – grapefruit flavored). ($2)

    My visit to the restaurant was but an hour, or slightly longer, but it seemed an eternity. During my meal and while Juan was preparing platters of birria for other customers he and I had a back-and-forth discussion which included: sourcing and suppliers of the goats (he’s using 15 weekly, now), baking and staging for quality control, his decision to focus on birria and eliminate other food items (such as enchiladas, which he served when he opened the restaurant) and how that decision sparked a continuing discussion amongst family members, and other things. The dialogue included, also, Juan asking me as many questions as I was asking him – about birria in the section of Chicago where I live, about birria in cities and towns I’ve traveled to in Mexico, about mole and pozole, etc. The wide-ranging discussions weren’t just between Juan and me, but also included each of the family members jumping-in and out at various points. As was mentioned earlier in this discussion thread, if you sit yourself at the counter it'll be impossible to avoid an interaction with family members.

    After I’d left the restaurant and was headed back home I thought of how Juan’s style/personality/appearance closely resembles Dr. Sanjay Gupta – the Neurosurgeon/Physician medical affairs consultant at CNN.

    I found it difficult to tear myself away from the restaurant, but I was facing a 1.5 hour bus ride home. And for the entire time on the bus I kept thinking about the flavoring of the goat meat, the broth and how this visit to Zaragoza Restaurant fundamentally changed the way I will view birria in the future . . . and how very fortunate we are to live in a city that affords us the opportunity to sample the depth and strata of so many cuisines.
  • Post #49 - October 12th, 2009, 9:00 pm
    Post #49 - October 12th, 2009, 9:00 pm Post #49 - October 12th, 2009, 9:00 pm
    Zaragoza is the first Birrieria is the entire U.S. to have a "buy 10 get one free" goat card.

    Image
  • Post #50 - October 12th, 2009, 9:57 pm
    Post #50 - October 12th, 2009, 9:57 pm Post #50 - October 12th, 2009, 9:57 pm
    PIGMON wrote:Zaragoza is the first Birrieria is the entire U.S. to have a "buy 10 get one free" goat card.

    Image


    Coincidentally, the first free goat card in my wallet.
  • Post #51 - October 13th, 2009, 7:45 am
    Post #51 - October 13th, 2009, 7:45 am Post #51 - October 13th, 2009, 7:45 am
    PIGMON wrote:Zaragoza is the first Birrieria is the entire U.S. to have a "buy 10 get one free" goat card.

    Image


    That is so awesome.
  • Post #52 - October 13th, 2009, 3:31 pm
    Post #52 - October 13th, 2009, 3:31 pm Post #52 - October 13th, 2009, 3:31 pm
    I had a rather fortuitous first visit to Zaragoza today. Mother Hen PIGMON took his chances with flu-ridden me and was my chauffeur down to 26th St. After a failed attempt at carne en su jugo, PIGMON remembered that Zaragoza recently changed its hours and is now open on Tuesdays, so we made the short drive south.

    This is the quintessential GNR. Granted PIGMON is a regular, and Jonathan and Andie know him, but I don't know if I've ever been greeted as warmly on a first visit to a restaurant as I was today. The energy of this place and the people who run it (just Jonathan and Andie today) is bright and proud, and it's in the food. I know the goat, which parts one gets, varies, but I can't imagine it being better than what we got today. My goat anatomy is also spotty, but we got some fall-off-the-bone rib meat, some love handles and some offaly goodness.

    Jonathan slicing and plating liver for us:

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    Image

    The flavor, tenderness and warmth of the meat, combined with the consommé and the tortillas made directly in front of us, rendered me speechless. A few minutes after we got our food, Jonathan came over to ask us how we were doing, and PIGMON's response was, "Do you hear us talking?" There was literally no talking, only roasted goat-eating.

    I don't know what else to say about this place except that it was love at first bite. I don't live close to Zaragoza, and I don't have a car, but, with Rene G's public transit directions in hand, count me a card-holding frequent goat-eater starting now. I can't wait to get back to try the machito.
  • Post #53 - November 21st, 2009, 9:31 pm
    Post #53 - November 21st, 2009, 9:31 pm Post #53 - November 21st, 2009, 9:31 pm
    Standing on the “El” platform at Wells and Washington Sts. early afternoon today I watched as a train approached and said to myself, “Which shall it be?” “The Pink Line train to Los Corrales, or the Orange Line train to Zaragoza Restaurant.” Decisions, decisions, decisions. It was a Pink Line train that pulled into the station and when the doors opened I stepped in, then out – and I waited for the Orange Line train to arrive. Los Corrales would have to wait its turn . . . because my desire to visit to see the Zaragoza family was stronger.

    Walking through the front door of Zaragoza Restaurant was like making a return visit to the home of relatives or best friends. What a wonderful, loving family this is. All but wife Norma (who celebrates a birthday tomorrow) and son Tony were working today (Tony was hanging Christmas lights on the house, taking advantage of some excellent weather today).

    Quesadilla de Chivo

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    During my prior visit Jonathan asked if I wanted to try a quesadilla and I responded “No, because I can have a (cheese) quesadilla in just about any Mexican restaurant. I’ve come for the birria.” It was I who asked about the quesadilla today – in a question to Juan’s daughter (whose name I’m shamefully forgetting at the moment) – and I was surprised when she asked if I wanted the quesadilla with cheese or the meat. What meat? The restaurant is now serving the goat meat from the birria with cheese (and the freshly pressed and griddled corn tortilla) to make a quesadilla that presents an out of this world taste. What a bargain for $2.

    Birria Tatemada

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    I’d ordered the large platter of birria and while Juan carefully constructed the meat on the plattter Jonathan asked me what I’d ordered (his sister had taken my order) and I replied, “The large platter, with whatever your father wants to put on it.” He responded most people eating the birria (there) order surtido – which often includes tongue, nose, etc. – and though I really didn’t want to know what was being put on the plate because it all looked so good (and because I can be a bit squeemish when it comes to certain animal body parts) – I’m assuming it included, also, maciza (“ordinary meat”) . I trust(ed) Juan wouldn’t serve me something I wouldn’t enjoy.

    Eric and Jonathan took great care to arrange the dried red pepper, container of salsa, the onions and other condiments in front of me. Jonathan sort of apologized for the fussing, explaining “The details are important to me.” “And to me, too,” I replied. He then walked into the back kitchen and returned with a small bowl of salsa mojacete with its smoky flavor – because no platter of birria tatemada at the Zaragoza’s is complete without it. The tortillas weren’t thin, nor thick today – just the right thickness for the meat , and my liking.

    A testament to my opinion about what I was served: only the bones remained when I was finished. It was, once again, excellent. My beverage of choice: two bottles of Jarritos Piña (pineapple soda)

    Flan de Crema (cream cheese flan)

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    The Zaragoza’s haven’t been serving desserts but a woman who has a small business making flanes stopped in and Jonathan took a liking to her and has stocked two varieties of her flan as a test to see how customers respond. I’m a sucker for flan and when Jonathan asked if I’d like to try one I obliged – selecting the flan de crema, a flan made with cream cheese (and one I've not sampled before now - in Chicago or Mexico) . Flan is typically served a certain way, loosening it in its container and turning it upside down on a plate so the syrup runs down the sides. That wasn’t the way it was served by the Zaragoza’s and I thought it a bit awkward eating it out of a small aluminum tart-like container and having to dig down for the watery syrup. I viewed the presentation as a taste testing of a possible menu addition so the taste was most important to me and not the prettiness and presentation. I didn’t much like the flavor and when Juan asked what I thought I said, “It’s better than no flan at all,” to which he and a friend of his sitting in front of him near me at the counter burst into laughter. They understood what I was saying. Mas o menos. So Jonathan – undeterred – collected a serving of the vanilla flavored flan, the other one the woman had made, and sat himself down next to me at the counter, he handed me a spoon and we tasted the vanilla flan together – as family members would at the kitchen table. I thought the vanilla flan and its fragrant syrup was superior to the crema variety – and the gesture of the shared tasting is indicative of how the family interacts with its customers – its guests.

    His exuberance still not deterred, Jonathan next stepped around the counter to retrieve a small plastic bag containing 4 or 5 gorditas de nata (sweet gorditas) – smallish, sweet griddled flour discs (pancake-like) served with coffee in parts of Mexico after dinner or in the evening (maybe more often in the central and north sections of the country). He’d met a man who makes the sweet gorditas and thinks they may be a nice addition to what the Zaragoza’s offer in the restaurant. Jonathan – who will return to culinary school after the start of the new year – has a great imagination – or is inquisitive – for things which might attract more people to the family’s restaurant. Juan, the dad, is a patient man.

    I spent more than an hour and a half at the counter with the family and the discussion of their birria, of Mexico and Mexican food here and there (in Mexico) was non-stop and laced with hearty laughter. Juan didn’t miss a beat as he participated while preparing platters of birria and tacos for customers who came and went - nor did he neglect those other customers, because he (and his (and Norma's) children) carried-on a continual banter back-and-forth with everyone in the room. What a great time I had.
  • Post #54 - November 25th, 2009, 5:08 pm
    Post #54 - November 25th, 2009, 5:08 pm Post #54 - November 25th, 2009, 5:08 pm
    On a pre-Thanksgiving errand to the Southside (the Great American Cheese Company, open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), I stopped at Zaragoza for their excellent Birria Tatemada. I can't say that it is world-class (from my own lack of experience), but of all the good birria, this is the best. I learned that they marinate the goat in a complex mole sauce prior to cooking and then served with a separate liquid. One can still taste the subtlety of the mole.

    I commented to Norma how thankful I was to have them here, and she informed me that they will be featured on Channel 7 tomorrow at 11:25 a.m. for a news feature on things that Chicagoans are thankful for: I was not the first, nor the last, nor the most mediagenic to be thankful for their birria. (It will be repeated a few days later at 6:00 a.m., but I am thankful that I will be asleep at the time). Well-deserved praise for Juan/John, Jonathan, and Norma.

    There are GNRs and then there are archetypal GNRs. Zaragoza is one of the latter.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #55 - November 25th, 2009, 5:58 pm
    Post #55 - November 25th, 2009, 5:58 pm Post #55 - November 25th, 2009, 5:58 pm
    GAF wrote:On a pre-Thanksgiving errand to the Southside (the Great American Cheese Company, open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving)


    Not to derail, but I discovered yesterday that Giles will messenger cheese to me for around $20 or so (plus cost of cheese), which is worth it when you're short of time to drive south. I just asked him to send me five of his favs, which he did, along with full page descriptions of each. Nice.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #56 - November 25th, 2009, 6:06 pm
    Post #56 - November 25th, 2009, 6:06 pm Post #56 - November 25th, 2009, 6:06 pm
    Will Norma send birria in the same package? Now THAT is a deal. :lol:
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #57 - November 28th, 2009, 7:08 pm
    Post #57 - November 28th, 2009, 7:08 pm Post #57 - November 28th, 2009, 7:08 pm
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    I went at my birria today like a hound going after a ham. Birrieria Zaragoza’s new birria preparation on offer, served plato de barro, is more of a goat soup than their usual plate of roasted goat accompanied with consommé.
    In this preparation, the requested mix of goat is laid out in a terra cotta bowl and then a generous serving of consommé ladled on top. Some parts of the goat soaked up much of the juice while others kept their integrity well. The absolute standout bites, however, were the ultra-crispy outer carmelized bits which soak up the consommé while keeping its lovely crispiness and will knock you over with its concentration of flavors. If you opt to try this soupier version, it’s a must to request the most roasted and crispy parts that they have on hand.
    Ideally, I would order it this way once every two or three outings, especially in the cold season when I'm more apt to enjoy soups. This was one of the greatest meals I've had there in my 30 or so visits (don't get me wrong, they've all been at least very good).

    This is some mighty fine eatin’…comfort food which is right up there with, say, a plate of Allen & Son barbeque.

    Damn, I forgot to get my Zaragoza goat card stamped this time!
  • Post #58 - November 28th, 2009, 8:46 pm
    Post #58 - November 28th, 2009, 8:46 pm Post #58 - November 28th, 2009, 8:46 pm
    PIGMON wrote:[Damn, I forgot to get my Zaragoza goat card stamped this time!

    Keep your receipt and bring it with you next time. If you are as much a frequent visitor as I suspect you are, they will gladly stamp you for today's visit.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #59 - December 2nd, 2009, 3:26 pm
    Post #59 - December 2nd, 2009, 3:26 pm Post #59 - December 2nd, 2009, 3:26 pm
    I've visited La Barca, but not Zaragoza. I'm considering birria for my birthday dinner, but I need a place where 10 people can sit together, and probably linger over dinner at least a little bit. Is Zaragoza big enough?

    Two of us will be kids aged 4 to 7, and they're not mine, so I haven't been able to indoctrinate them with a venturesome palate. Would Zaragoza have some bland chicken dish we can order for them?
  • Post #60 - December 2nd, 2009, 4:20 pm
    Post #60 - December 2nd, 2009, 4:20 pm Post #60 - December 2nd, 2009, 4:20 pm
    ryanwc wrote:I've visited La Barca, but not Zaragoza. I'm considering birria for my birthday dinner, but I need a place where 10 people can sit together, and probably linger over dinner at least a little bit. Is Zaragoza big enough?

    Two of us will be kids aged 4 to 7, and they're not mine, so I haven't been able to indoctrinate them with a venturesome palate. Would Zaragoza have some bland chicken dish we can order for them?


    10 people would be a takeover of Zaragoza's current space; I'd only do this if you called them in advance and scheduled at a low volume time. There are no bland chicken dishes, only goat (and also no Dana, only Zuul), though they make a fantastic quesadilla. Also, the broth is vegetarian. A bowl of the broth and some fresh-made tortillas should please anyone, especially with a [rb] mol-ca-HAY-tay [/rb] full of fresh salsa. Happy birthday.

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