The Wife and I traveled to Bucktown last night to eat at Chilapan (in the former Tamalli space).
About Mexican food, I’m jaded, and I’m more than weary of run-of-mill Mex. Glancing at the menu at Chilapan, I realized that this place might surprise.
I always like to find traditional dishes that I don’t immediately recognize. There used to be two types of “budins” on Chilapan’s menu: Azteca and vegetarian. Last night, the menu no longer listed the veggie option, so we got the Azteca.
The Wife informs me that when the kids were little, she made them something like budin all the time: it’s a textbook-perfect use for leftovers, basically just layers of tortilla interlaced with whatever you have on hand, bound together with a light sauce. At Chilapan last night, the budin was layered with chihuahua cheese and dark chicken meat in a poblano cream salsa.
The edges were crispy and there was a lot of textural variation throughout the quarter slab we received (they seem to use larger than average tortillas that they cut into four cake-like slices).
Our server told us that budin is a “higher class” of Mexican food that varies by region. I’d assume it would vary based on region, but it seems like a relatively classless creation because although it can be made fancy (see photo above), it’s a fine and simple strategy for reusing old tortillas and leftovers in a way that’s just delicious and, by nature, constantly changing.
The word “budin” can be translated as “pudding,” and there are apparently incarnations of budin all over Latin America: a kind of spice cake from Puerto Rico, a sweet bread from Argentina, an actual pudding-type coconut dessert from Bolivia, and so on. I am not a big fan of salad
, and even from my garden I tend to harvest my obscure, heritage leaves and ram them quickly down my pie hole just as I would medicine. I know I need the stuff but it’s just so drab. I felt differently about the chayote and tomato salad last night:
Carved into little shells or ears, the eponymous veggies in this salad “looked” more interesting than I’d expected, and the chef splashed them with a guajillo salad dressing that was quite good.
Chilapan is worthy. It’s BYOB (no corkage): we brought a 2006 Montecillo Crianza, which had the right kind of youthful roughness to stand up to some of the more piquant platters, though Chef Jorge Miranda has a deft hand with the chili pods, and he balances flavors so that you get a lot of flavor and dimension from the chilies without tongue-numbing burn.
People sometimes ask me about my favorite Mexican places, and now I have a new one to recommend.
2459 W. Armitage
Chicago IL 60647