. . . well, not quite yet.
Last week, I saw this sign positioned outside the door at La Casa de Isaac . . .
I took a stroll around the corner (passing into Highwood as I did) and met up with Isaac Nava inside his new shop. The plan is to turn this space into a Jewish deli in the not-too-distant future. In the interim, Isaac and his brother Moishe will operate the store as a grocery store and eatery that specializes in down-home Mexican plate lunches that can be had cheaply and on the fly.
Isaac & Moishe's Deli, Fruits & Vegetables - 311 Waukegan Ave, Highwood, IL (in the former G&G Grocery space)
For now, one focus is on the grocery side. Fresh produce is featured but I love the hats over the door, too.
All sorts of spices and chiles are available. I neglected to take a pic of the gigantic bags of chiles that are also on the shelves.
Fresh meats are in one case.
Pictured here are patas, cleaned, prepped and ready for cooking.
Fresh fish is delivered on an almost-daily basis. And yes, that's beef tongue on the top shelf.
Here, you can see the steam table from where the hot lunches are served, and the butcher's station beyond that.
In front of the meat/fish counters and steam table station, there are few tables for eating in.
I was transfixed watching the butcher cut this round for cecina . . .
He did this doubling over technique, which kept the beef intact as he worked back and forth on the round.
One long piece of cecina, all the exact same thickness.
Next, Isaac took me into the kitchen where Moishe's wife Lidia and 2 other women were making tamales . . .
Lidia, on the left, leads the brigade.
One of the day's tamale types was Queso & Rajas, and the strips of tomato, onion and serrano peppers that went into them were cooked slowly before they were placed in the masa.
Each tamale gets a wedge of creamy cheese, too. I forgot to ask what kind of cheese this was.
Another type of tamale on this day was a shredded chicken in salsa verde.
The gigantic pot in which the tamales are steamed.
A look inside the pot, which is divided into sections.
Isaac told me that he wishes he could serve tamales at La Casa de Isaac but there just isn't room for a pot this big in the kitchen there. He tells me that if they cannot be served directly out of the pot, they aren't good enough to bother with. At the deli, a batch will be made each day and when they run out, they run out.
Another dish that was being made on this day was tapadito. It's basically a Mexican version of pot roast, made with beef shanks, guajillo peppers, tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Before the meat and vegetables are combined, the meat is slow stewed in marjoram, thyme, basil and garlic.
Guajillo peppers reconstituting before being added to the tapadito.
The tapadito is just about ready.
I had to run back to the office but before I did, Isaac insisted on bringing out a few plates for us to share. It's very cool that the offerings will change from day to day . . .
Delicious -- complex, rich and spicy (and still steaming).
Chicken en Mole with Beans and Rice
I really enjoyed this plate, too -- not only the tender, moist thigh but also the excellent beans -- which were tender and whole, and not mashed up into a paste.
Tamal de Queso y Rajas
I had to run before the tamales were completely cooked firm but I tasted one anyway and it was spectacular. The creaminess of the cheese and sweetness of the masa countered the spicy, tangy rajas majestically.
I don't know how long the Nava brothers will be running the Deli in this configuration but it's a real gem. And when they eventually convert it into a Jewish deli, I'm guessing that it will be just as wonderful. After all, not only are these guys Jewish but they accumulated years of experience working in the deli business before they opened La Casa de Isaac. Stay tuned. It should be an interesting and delicious ride in this space.
Isaac & Moishe's Deli, Fruits & Vegetables
311 Waukegan Ave
Highwood, IL 60040
La Casa de Isaac
431 Temple Ave
Highland Park, IL 60035