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The 47th-a-Thon [LOTSA pics]

The 47th-a-Thon [LOTSA pics]
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  • The 47th-a-Thon [LOTSA pics]

    Post #1 - April 11th, 2006, 4:05 pm
    Post #1 - April 11th, 2006, 4:05 pm Post #1 - April 11th, 2006, 4:05 pm
    You thrilled to the Short-Notice-A-Thon!

    You've waited breathlessly for the results of each Beef-a-Thon!

    You may even remember as far back as the legendary Westernathon, now shrouded in the mists of ancient memory!

    So now's your chance to be part of the next Thon...

    Image

    The 47th-a-Thon!


    47th Street is one of the most vibrant yet least documented ethnic chow streets in the city. Concentrations of authentic Mexican food comparable to Pilsen and 26th Street exist between Ashland and Damen and west of Western, to name just two stretches. Yet there has been relatively little talk about them either here or anywhere else that good authentic food is talked about-- though three spots figured in Pigmon's epic Carne en su jugo post (only one of them recommended, though). And it's not all Mexican, either-- there are such highlights as Abundance Bakery in the African-American section closer to the lake, Baltic Bakery near Hermitage, and who knows what all. Here are a couple of pics from a recent scouting expedition:

    Image

    Image

    Better yet, I saw people making fresh masa tortillas in windows, I smelled wonderful things cooking...

    Anyway, the first Thon of the season is coming Saturday, April 29! Exact times and rendezvous points and so on to come, but figure on starting mid-morning and lasting most of the day though, of course, you can come and go as you wish. More details will follow as our team of scouts comes up with something more closely resembling an itinerary, but mark your calendars now!

    * * *

    What's a Thon exactly? Basically the idea is to explore, often on foot when practicable, a defined region of the city, such as a single street, or an area like the near south side, or a cuisine within an area such as Beefs of the Southwest Suburbs, or whatever it happens to be. Lots of folks turn out for them, they come and go as they please, there's always confusion and calling of cells and "Where are you? How did you wind up there?" By micro-focusing on an area in a large group, it's easy to try lots of places, including ones people have driven by and never tried for years, while keeping portions down to a taste at each stop so that it's possible to try lots and lots of things over the course of the day. It's a great event for folks who've never come to an LTHForum event before, very informal and always moving and changing.
    Last edited by Mike G on April 29th, 2006, 8:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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  • Post #2 - April 14th, 2006, 8:56 am
    Post #2 - April 14th, 2006, 8:56 am Post #2 - April 14th, 2006, 8:56 am
    Mike G wrote:Anyway, the first Thon of the season is coming Saturday, April 29!

    Mike,

    Count me in!

    I've only been to a few places on 47th, Abundance Bakery and Birrieria Jalisco to name two, and am looking forward to learning more about this great Chicago street.

    Abundance Bakery
    Image

    Birrieria Jalisco
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #3 - April 14th, 2006, 9:04 am
    Post #3 - April 14th, 2006, 9:04 am Post #3 - April 14th, 2006, 9:04 am
    Holy s**t, Gary! All this time, I've been salivating over your famous Old Fashioned Apple Fritter photo, and I had no idea there was another photo in the same genre. Have you ever thought of doing a gallery show of donut photos?

    Mike,
    I'm going to do my best to be there, but my brother-in-law's bachelor party is that evening so I'm going to have to conserve my energy and probably only do a partial-thon.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #4 - April 21st, 2006, 9:54 am
    Post #4 - April 21st, 2006, 9:54 am Post #4 - April 21st, 2006, 9:54 am
    Okay, the kids and I have made a couple of recon flights over 47th and a sense of the itinerary is starting to shape up. 47th is cut up by industrial parcels, unlike a lot of the streets which flow continuously from one ethnicity to the next, so the regions we'd hit are pretty much discrete and self-contained. I don't think this is going to be a tremendously long -Thon, more like lunch and a few hours spent poking around a fairly short stretch or two.

    Kenwood/Bronzeville-- The African-American part of 47th is historically significant and has some new signs of life, but unfortunately restaurants aren't really one of them. Abundance Bakery is the standout, and there's something called Jamaican Market or Jamaican Marketplace which doesn't look like a grocery (it's attached to the Afrocentric Bookstore) and may just sell CDs and red-green-yellow-striped knit hats, but could be interesting. Otherwise, there's a place called Char's BBQ which looked unpromising and fried-fish-oriented to me, but which Rene G says at least has an aquarium smoker. Then there's Pappy's fish/beef/gyros/etc., which looked pretty generic, right by the Dan Ryan. I'm not sure what to say about this section; we could try and see if there's anything there, or someone could just hit Abundance ahead of time and bring it for everyone to try....

    Ashland to Damen-- This is the main event. As Rene G says, this area is a "dense and vibrant" Latino neighborhood, full of taquerias with people working masa in the window, etc. More than that, on Saturday it comes alive with street vendors and lots of other life. (Also Baltic Bakery is nearby, the one non-Latino thing to mention.) Too much to mention individually, I see a couple of happy hours checking this all out.

    Western to Rockwell-- The next interesting stretch is short and more supermarket oriented than restaurant oriented, so there may not be that much to do there, but it will probably reward some poking around. We could also violate the terms of the 47th-a-Thon and check out things on, gasp, Western itself, which has changed a lot since the Westernathon.

    Also, anyone ever been to La Coco's/Maddanthony's? I can't say it looks like anything other than stock Italian-American food, but it's huge, one of those giant, popular places no one has ever heard of...

    Image

    West of California-- Some scattered things for the next couple of miles, such as the Nicky's mentioned by Rene G for those who want to try a Big Baby, but pretty sparse until you hit a little pocket west of Pulaski. There are two mariscos places, both probably pretty good (I tried the smaller, older one, Mariscos Luis, and had an excellent fish taco that was dirt cheap), the aforementioned Illinois Bar & Grill and a couple of other very Chicago bars, a Polish sausage shop where I had to argue with the guy to get him to sell me some of his sausage, and a pretty good Polish bakery called Europa. I'd recommend a stop in this area, definitely.

    Not much from there to Cicero; as far as my reconnaisance has gone, but I think I will try to check Cicero to Harlem next.

    So, all you newbies, think about it and be there!
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  • Post #5 - April 23rd, 2006, 8:20 pm
    Post #5 - April 23rd, 2006, 8:20 pm Post #5 - April 23rd, 2006, 8:20 pm
    Well, if I'd bothered to look at a map before heading down there I'd have seen that there practically isn't any 47th street west of Cicero... at Central it gets cut off by the Stevenson, a water treatment plant, a forest preserve, etc. It probably starts again somewhere in the burbs but I figure a multi-mile industrial dead zone probably signals the end of 47th as we know it... so figure on the area discussed above as the area we'll check out.
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  • Post #6 - April 25th, 2006, 10:10 am
    Post #6 - April 25th, 2006, 10:10 am Post #6 - April 25th, 2006, 10:10 am
    Well, here's what I'm thinking, subject to improvements, better ideas, etc.

    Abundance is pretty much the only thing in its area, and you apparently often have to park on side streets that some may not feel entirely comfortable on. On the other hand, GWiv says the Abundance guy is cool to talk to. So I figure, 10:15 at Abundance Bakery, which is 105 E. 47th Street, for those who care to go there. We will pick up some extra goodies to share with those who care to start at the next stop.

    Next stop, let's reconnoiter at Baltic Bakery, 4627 S. Hermitage, at around 11:00 to 11:15. Hermitage is three blocks west of Ashland, so that makes that a good midpoint for the main Ashland-to-Damen stretch. This will be our main meetup point, so be there if you're coming (although if you come later, I doubt we'll be too hard to pick out on 47th as a group). PM me if you want to exchange cell phone numbers.

    GETTING THERE: From the north side I think it's cool to come down Lake Shore Drive and see 47th from the beginning at the lake; otherwise take the Ryan to 47th, or Ashland or Western go straight through to 47th. From the west and southwest, exit the Stevenson or Eisenhower going south on Ashland. I've driven it a bunch now, including with the kids in back, and found all those routes to be perfectly fine in the daytime.
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  • Post #7 - April 25th, 2006, 10:25 am
    Post #7 - April 25th, 2006, 10:25 am Post #7 - April 25th, 2006, 10:25 am
    Mike,

    One possibility, if we venture slightly off 47th, is Taqueria Los Gallos #2 for Carne en su Jugo. Los Gallos #2 was rated quite high in Pigmon's incredible Carne en su Jugo post and, having been there myself, I can easily see why.

    Taqueria Los Gallos #2 Carne en su Jugo
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Taquerias Los Gallos #2
    4252 S Archer Ave
    Chicago, IL 60632
    773-254-2081
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #8 - April 25th, 2006, 11:29 am
    Post #8 - April 25th, 2006, 11:29 am Post #8 - April 25th, 2006, 11:29 am
    The RTA Trip Planner says that if I leave my apartment by 10, I can be at the Baltic Bakery around 11:10. I'll give it my best shot.

    (For anyone else who might take the CTA, you'll want to be on the Red Line early enough to reach the 47th St. stop by about 10:50. The 47th St. bus ostensibly leaves the station at 10:52 and reaches Wood St. about 10 minutes later, with a two-block walk from there.)
  • Post #9 - April 25th, 2006, 5:23 pm
    Post #9 - April 25th, 2006, 5:23 pm Post #9 - April 25th, 2006, 5:23 pm
    I've been a lurker on this this for some time and my tummy has benefited substantially as a result. I'm planning on coming out from behind the computer to join the LTHers on my first THON, accompanied by a fellow list luker. I have a few questions that I hope you can answer:

    1) Any rules, etiquette, or procedures for THONing that i should know about?

    2) Any tips for pacing yourself? Fron seeing those pics I can see that I have the potential to get stuffed on those fritters and never make it to the second leg.

    3) How are beverages incorporated? Are participants encouraged to (or refrained from) bringing alcohol for places that may be BYO, etc.?

    Thank you all for the great forum and your answers to this newbie's questions. I hope to meet and eat with you this coming Saturday!

    Raul
  • Post #10 - April 25th, 2006, 6:21 pm
    Post #10 - April 25th, 2006, 6:21 pm Post #10 - April 25th, 2006, 6:21 pm
    1) Any rules, etiquette, or procedures for THONing that i should know about?


    I dunno, be the guy/gal who picks up the tab at some place along the way, that's about the only rule I can think of. Help keep it moving rather than bogging down. That's about it.

    2) Any tips for pacing yourself? Fron seeing those pics I can see that I have the potential to get stuffed on those fritters and never make it to the second leg.


    Take small bites. Probably I eat more than a normal day's worth, but I don't eat a whole anything at any stop, and I walk a lot along the way, so it's not a sickening gorgefest.

    3) How are beverages incorporated? Are participants encouraged to (or refrained from) bringing alcohol for places that may be BYO, etc.?


    It depends on the nature of the places but I would say BYO would be inappropriate during the earlier part of this where we're visiting taquerias, bakeries, groceries, etc. Remember too you're walking from place to place, so walking with an open container or driving after drinking is illegal and you're on a major street where John Law might very well see you. Most Thons seem to end up somewhere where drinking is involved, either in the later stops or when it breaks up and heads for a bar, so that's probably where beverages enter the picture.

    That's about it. Welcome and see you then!
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    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #11 - April 25th, 2006, 6:34 pm
    Post #11 - April 25th, 2006, 6:34 pm Post #11 - April 25th, 2006, 6:34 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    1) Any rules, etiquette, or procedures for THONing that i should know about?


    I dunno, be the guy/gal who picks up the tab at some place along the way, that's about the only rule I can think of. Help keep it moving rather than bogging down. That's about it.


    How about, also: PM the organizer (Mike G) with your real name and your cell phone number if you have one?
    :)

    Sounds like you all are going to have a great outing!

    (Mike, no picture of the place on 47th advertising tacos de ojo on their awning??)

    Have fun,
    Amata
  • Post #12 - April 25th, 2006, 6:45 pm
    Post #12 - April 25th, 2006, 6:45 pm Post #12 - April 25th, 2006, 6:45 pm
    be the guy/gal who picks up the tab at some place along the way

    Take small bites

    BYO would be inappropriate during the earlier part

    PM the organizer (Mike G)


    Excellent. Just the type of info I need. Looking forward to it! Thanks.
  • Post #13 - April 25th, 2006, 8:16 pm
    Post #13 - April 25th, 2006, 8:16 pm Post #13 - April 25th, 2006, 8:16 pm
    Amata wrote:Mike, no picture of the place on 47th advertising tacos de ojo on their awning??

    Elvia’s, 1738 W 47th
    Image
  • Post #14 - April 26th, 2006, 7:56 am
    Post #14 - April 26th, 2006, 7:56 am Post #14 - April 26th, 2006, 7:56 am
    We won't be able to join you this time. :cry:

    Looking forward to the reports.

    Suzy
    " There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
    - Frank Zappa
  • Post #15 - April 27th, 2006, 11:06 am
    Post #15 - April 27th, 2006, 11:06 am Post #15 - April 27th, 2006, 11:06 am
    Report back on the snout taco, please. (Trompa)
  • Post #16 - April 27th, 2006, 7:57 pm
    Post #16 - April 27th, 2006, 7:57 pm Post #16 - April 27th, 2006, 7:57 pm
    dickson and I are going to meet up with the group in media res. At some point, we have to bop over to Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan to present the GNR award, and invite any to join who are so inclined.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #17 - April 27th, 2006, 9:27 pm
    Post #17 - April 27th, 2006, 9:27 pm Post #17 - April 27th, 2006, 9:27 pm
    A Guide to East 47th Street

    If you take Lake Shore Drive, exit at 47th Street and head west toward the Back of the Yards neighborhood, you’ll pass through one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods. Especially from the 1930s through 1960s, East 47th Street was a thriving business district and the center of African-American culture in Chicago. Later 47th Street fell on hard times, with many shops going out of business and many buildings being abandoned. More recently there have been some hopeful signs and some significant new construction. Unfortunately a great number of buildings have been demolished with more still to fall. Better see what’s left while you still have a chance. Here’s a brief guide to East 47th Street, from east to west, continuing to Ashland. I’ve included most of the food-related businesses (excluding some franchises and bars) as well as some other notable spots.

    Key: > = on north side of 47th; < = on south side; >> or << = on cross street.


    >Burnham Prairie Path - between LSD and Metra tracks - A miniature prairie/woodlands nestled alongside Lake Shore Drive.
    >Italian Fiesta Pizzeria - 1400 E - Not the original location but Italian Fiesta has been making south-side thin-crust pizzas since the 1950s. You can do much, much worse.
    >Fung’s Chop Suey - 1400 E
    >J&J Fish - 1400 E
    >Gill’s Liquor (demolished) - 1238 E - A true neighborhood institution until it was torn down for the Coop no one wanted (now closed). Home of “It Won’t Go Flat” beer.
    >Masjid Al-Faatir - 1200 E - One of Chicago’s most impressive mosques, financed by Muhammad Ali who used to live a few blocks away.
    <Harold’s Chicken Shack (demolished) - 1235 E - This is where it all started, the very first Harold’s Chicken Shack.
    >Goree Shop - 1122 E - Nice little African crafts shop specializing in mudcloth.
    >Little Black Pearl Workshop - 1060 E - Sort of a south side version of Block 36 in an impressive new building with a worthwhile gallery/store.
    >De Rice - 918 E
    >>Sutherland - 4659 S Drexel - Now an apartment building, Louis Armstrong lived here when it was the Sutherland Hotel. All the greats played the Sutherland Lounge and there are still concerts from time to time.
    <New Approach Diner - 641 E - One of a surprising number of vegetarian spots on the south side.
    >New Bonanza Lounge (closed) - 552 E - Until a few years ago, the last of 47th Street’s music clubs.
    >Lee’s Fried Chicken (closed) - 536 E - A great old chicken shack sign.
    >Lee’s BBQ (closed) - 530 E - Open until a few years ago, I never tried Lee’s.
    >Cupid’s Lounge - 518 E - A popular bar, attracting a mostly older neighborhood crowd.
    >Chicago Philly Steak - One of the hundreds of Philly steak shops on the south side.
    <Mom’s Complete Kitchen - Opened fairly recently, this Jamaican restaurant looks promising.
    <Caribbean Jerk - at Vincennes
    >Muhammad House of Sub (closed) - 456 E - Old sign with demonic catfish.
    >Gerri’s Palm Tavern (closed) - 446 E - A legendary bar. Musicians like Duke Ellington and Count Basie would stop for a drink after their sets at the Regal. Gerri Oliver was still behind the bar until a few years ago.
    <Harold Washington Cultural Center - at King - The anchor for the new 47th Street. Approximately where the Regal Theater was until its demolition in 1973.
    <<Regal Theater (demolished) - 4719 S Parkway (now King Blvd) - It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of the Regal in the development of US culture. Virtually every notable black entertainer performed here at one time. The Savoy Ballroom was a few doors south.
    >47th Street Market Place - at King - Spoken Word Café, Afrocentric Bookstore, Blu 47 (restaurant), Jamaican Marketplace (small grocery store)
    >>Nicole Gallery - King - An upscale gallery featuring African art.
    >>Jokes and Notes - 4641 S King - Months-old comedy and jazz club.
    <Mack’s Chili (demolished) - Longtime fixture on 47th, this is probably the place I’m most mad at myself for never visiting.
    >Don’s Hot Dogs - 318 E
    <Chinese Food no name
    <Philly’s Original not yet open - One of the dozens of Philly steak shops that have opened in the last few years.
    >Arie’s Soul Food (closed) - 114 E - Cool old sign.
    >Kennedy Submarine - A good example of a south side sub shop, serving things you won’t find on the north side, open 24 hours.
    >Harold’s Chicken Shack - 108 E
    <The Deli
    <Abundance Bakery - 105 E - This tiny place makes some pretty good baked goods.
    <Tony’s - Homemade chili and Italian beef.
    >Home of the Hoagy (closed) - 72 E - Now located on the far south side, HotH was one of the pioneers of the Chicago-style steak hoagy. This building, the Rosenwald Apartments now in complete disrepair, is historically important as one of the first mixed income housing complexes. It made the National Trust’s list of Most Endangered Historic Places.
    >Andy’s (closed) - 6 E - Cool primitive sign.
    >Famous Lubricants Inc
    >Pappy’s
    >Los Soles? - One of the most unreadable signs imaginable.
    <Char’s BBQ - 325 W - They have an aquarium smoker but I can’t say the place looks real promising.
    >Flags Club - at Wallace - It looks like a private club and it has a couple flags.
    >Bar no name - 700 W
    <Graveyard Choppers - 725 W - Custom bikes and street rods.
    <Archer Tinning & Retinning - Is this place still in business?
    <La Barca Taqueria
    >Stockyards Industrial Park - The Chicago Stockyards were bounded by Halsted on the east and 47th on the south.
    <El Jacalita
    <Ochoa’s Bar & Grill 1325 W
    <BBQ Select - 1421 W - Wholesale only?
    <Bar 1501 W
    <Carolina Classic Gyros - 1543 W


    Masjid Al-Faatir
    Image

    The Sutherland
    Image

    Lee’s Chicken Shack
    Image

    Mom’s Complete Kitchen
    Image

    Muhammad House of Sub
    Image

    Palm Tavern
    Image

    Harold Washington Cultural Center
    Image

    The Hoagy Shop—Home of the Hoagy
    Image
  • Post #18 - April 27th, 2006, 10:00 pm
    Post #18 - April 27th, 2006, 10:00 pm Post #18 - April 27th, 2006, 10:00 pm
    Rene G wrote:A Guide to East 47th Street


    Well done! :D

    I'm anxious to hear how Saturday goes.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #19 - April 29th, 2006, 11:56 pm
    Post #19 - April 29th, 2006, 11:56 pm Post #19 - April 29th, 2006, 11:56 pm
    The 47th-a-Thon Report

    (Forgive me, this has an insane number of photos-- 47, in fact. Go get a cup of coffee while it loads.)

    Despite gloomy weather we had another great exploration of a great Chicago street, with as many as 14 LTHers present at the high point, including newcomers r2g and Berryberry, Cathy2 and mom Cathy1, and my son Liam, who made sure to get in a sugar rush from doughnuts right at the start.

    1. Bronzeville

    Image

    As I started toward Lake Shore Drive for the 47th-a-Thon, I had to make my way through Cubs traffic-- an ironically fitting start for a journey through stretches of Sox Chicago. Although I had already seen many of the things Rene G mentioned above in my scouting trips, seeing them with the historical context he provided made the drive through Kenwood and Bronzeville poignant-- hard to imagine these struggling, underpopulated areas having once been a place where Louis Armstrong might have bumped into Malcolm X on a teeming, culturally yeasty street. Speaking of yeasty, here we are eating apple fritters from Abundance Bakery in the very shadow of the Rosenwald Apartments:

    Image

    Less greasy and fluffier than the legendary apple fritters at Old-Fashioned Donuts, these are not quite as terrific, but also nowhere near as deadly as those gut bombs. We tried some other things, the chocolate long john was pretty good and the caramel cakes looked damn good, but the fritter is king.

    Image

    After Abundance we drove a few blocks to check out Char's Bar-B-Que. I warned folks that I hadn't tried it, that this was purely experimental, but there wasn't much else to try in the area, so why not. They were actually just opening up-- they'd been dishing up tips till 1:30 in the morning-- and when we asked if they had any barbecue, they said no (and with nothing in the smoker, we were a bit concerned by their claim that they'd have it in a half hour or so). We wound up ordering wings, but I went on to meet the other group already at Baltic Bakery, so I didn't try them. Reports were good, though. Here's a detail from the wall at Char's, apparently of a hamburger learning to surf:

    Image

    Abundance Bakery
    105 E. 47th
    773-373-1971

    Char's Bar-B-Que
    325 W. 47th
    773-538-8631

    2. Baltic Bakery

    Image

    Our next meeting point was Baltic Bakery. Despite its recent health dept. woes, I have great affection for Baltic Bakery because it was one of the first discoveries I made in Chicago that told me I was not in Kansas any more. Specifically, the dark Russian rye, bitter as coffee grounds yet with a note of sweetness, which at the time could be easily found in stores like Jewel; and the far south side address, especially during the years when I didn't have a car and wasn't sure where (and how) I could safely go outside my north side bubble, spoke to me of lively ethnic enclaves where Lithuanian rather than English was spoken and the local culture was more Vilnius than America.

    Image

    Of course, the reality is that Baltic is the only Lithuanian business left in the 47th street area (a little more survives on other streets like Archer, but mainly it's further southwest now), and after Baltic, virtually our entire day on 47th would be Mexican.

    Image

    Besides the bread (I got a huge loaf of my beloved rye and after giving everyone some to taste, gave the rest of that half away so it wouldn't go stale in my breadbox), Baltic has several meat items apparently smoked in house. Everybody loved this smoked ham-like pork shoulder and a similar Polish-type sausage:

    Image

    While Pickle Boy showed what he loved:

    Image

    Bob S. wanted to make sure you saw how flakey the turnover was:

    Image

    Here's the quintessential image of an LTH Thon: cameras out, analytical eye examining food being eaten off the trunk of a car.

    Image

    Baltic Bakery
    4627 S. Hermitage Avenue
    773-523-1510

    3. Mexican, From Ashland to Damen

    Image

    As noted above, the half mile from Ashland to Damen is by far the most vibrant stretch of 47th, the commercial district of the venerable Back of the Yards neighborhood and, within its short span, one of the major Mexican commercial districts in the city along with Pilsen/18th street and La Villita/26th street. We tried virtually the same things at three different taquerias, and to be honest they were blurring together even while we still eating them, but I'll try to reconstruct them to some degree. First up was Taco Atotonilco, a restaurant connected to, fiscally if not physically, the Atotonilco tortilla factory a few doors west whose trucks can be spotted all over town. We ordered a few of almost everything-- carne asada (steak), pastor (pork), lengua (tongue), and so on:

    Image

    Image

    Atotonilco was decent enough, but I don't think anyone was wowed and in retrospect I'd say it was the weakest of the bunch-- nothing bad, nothing great. [edited to correct Pastor mistake]

    Image

    Much better than that was Birrieria Arrandas, which I would call the discovery of this part of the trip. I had first noticed it on one of my reconnaisance missions, because a woman was making tortillas from a big tub of masa in the front window. Since everyone was taking pictures of her at that job, I'll let someone else post a better one than any of mine, but I gotta show you this:

    Image

    Just the other day I was saying I didn't remember what "suadero" was. Now I know: it's a whole pot of stuff, and whatever gets pulled out and chopped is what you get:

    Image

    What kind of meat is this again, Seth?

    Image

    Cheeks, heads, and even eyeballs-- yes, someone ordered the Gorilla Gourmet-infamous taco de ojo, and passed it around. Once again I passed, believe it or not.

    Image

    No, those are just green onions. Relax. Arandas had real pastor, too:

    Image

    One disappointment observed, I think, by SteveZ was that the heating element in the pastor thing wasn't on-- they just sliced off chunks and fried them up. Needless to say, they lacked the crispy edges that make pastor great, and probably had more than their share of gristle (which otherwise would render out to some degree).

    The stars were the steamed meats like cabeza (head), and the suadero, all on freshly made masa tortillas, not the best I've ever had, a little lard would go a long way in increasing their flavor, but any fresh hot masa item is a friend on your plate. (Note: be sure to ask for the tortillas hecha a mano, made by hand.)

    Image

    Down the street we faced two possibilities: carne en su jugo at one of the spots which had scored highly in Pigmon's epic account, or tacos al carbon at a place Rene G thought was pretty decent, Don Cuco's? With a dozen folks, the answer was easy enough: both!

    I went with the group that crossed the street to Don Cuco's, and ordered a couple of carne asada tacos, a couple of pescado (fish), a couple of pastor, and a barbacoa. Berryberry made the comment that this was the best-smelling place we visited, but it turned out to produce somewhat mixed results. The barbacoa was a total dud, flavorless and kind of gross. The fish taco was improved by a spicy mayo, and proved decent enough if hardly a rival to our memories of Tacos del Pacifico:

    Image

    Steak was decent enough, but cooked over gas, not charcoal. The best of the bunch was the pastor-- we'd noticed that the flames in the gyro-rotisserie cooker were really cranked up, and this had lots of pineapple flavor and crispy bits.

    Image

    Then we crossed the street to try the carne en su jugo, already in progress with others in our party. It really is a great soup, imagine a hearty beefy soup like Scotch broth or something, but spiced up Mexican-style with chilis and lime. I only had a couple of slurps but liked it a lot, and will have to try more of Pigmon's recommendations.

    Image

    Incidentally, I wonder what the restaurant must have thought to see people just walk in, stroll right over to a table full of diners, and pick up a spoon and eat from their bowls without a word. While there G Wiv got to talking with a woman at another table who gave him a recommendation for what she said was a great pastor place on 63rd. Have to check it out....

    Taqueria Atotonilco # 2
    1659 W. 47th St
    (773) 247 - 5870

    Birrieria Arandas (sign also says Elvia's)
    1738 W. 47th

    Don Cuco's Tacos
    1847 West 47th Street
    (773) 376-4742
    note: another one about a mile west

    Taqueria Los Altos
    1848 W. 47th St.
    773-523-3121

    4. A brief sojourn near Washtenaw

    Image

    Kind of Mexicaned out, we drove past the shorter and more grocery-based Mexican strip at Western and headed for Johnny's G.A.R., but an imp of perversity struck first; Rene G's exhaustive notes on the street had called Piezano's a strong candidate for worst slice pizza in Chicago, so naturally some of us had to try it. Slice in hand, we assembled at Johnny's, one of the last places making that bizarre, ultra-cheap Chicago concoction remembered only by Rene G, the mother-in-law-- a chili dog with a tamale in place of the dog.

    Frankly, I didn't need any food at this point, even if it had been something more inspiring than the city's worst slice and a cheap tamale on white bread, so my tastes of the mother-in-law, the pizza (which was shockingly less than terrible) and an Italian beef were sort of perfunctory. Maybe SteveZ, who was evaluating the beef for future Beefathon purposes, will have more to add.

    Image

    5. Mr. Superfantastic's Phantasmawonderful Trip to the Psychedelic Candyland

    Image

    Rather than Italian beef, what we needed was something light and desserty to pep us up, so we went slightly off 47th to find it. First stop: a branch of Dulce Landia, the Mexican candy chain famous for chicken lollipops, jalapeno suckers, and beer pops:

    Image

    Oh man, Mexican Wrestler piñatas. Liam, I know what you're having at your next birthday party.

    Image

    These macaroons were really good:

    Image

    These salsas were, SteveZ and I agreed, vile. Smart Shopper's Tip: Do Not Buy Salsa At The Candy Store.

    Image

    If you've never been to Dulce Landia, it's a trip well worth taking. (There's a couple of them around, including one on Fullerton near that cemitas place.) Plus they have the coolest shopping baskets in town:

    Image

    Image

    Likewise psychedelically weird and delightful was Gelatina Cris, one of those Jell-O dessert places that's been mentioned here:

    Image

    Flan, rice pudding, flan with Jell-O, cake, a variety of shakes (some allegedly healthy), and a small but robust assortment of hearty lunch items:

    Image

    In an atmosphere which combines classic American soda fountain:

    Image

    Image

    With an only-in-Mexico surreal religious tableau worthy of Kahlo or Rivera:

    Image

    I wouldn't say any of the desserts would give Bombon any scares, but they hit the spot and it's a hypercolorful, fun place I can certainly see taking the kids to sometime.

    Image

    Dulce Landia
    4616 S. Kedzie Ave.
    773-247-4355
    http://www.dulcelandia.com

    Gelatinas Cris #2
    4725 South Cicero Avenue
    (773) 582-8162

    6. Fish For Dinner

    Image

    By this point our numbers were dwindling-- some off to another LTH event, the Jains dinner-- and so we decided to finish up at the fish place I'd tried the other day, Mariscos Luis. Dinner started with a complimentary Dixie cup of spicy shrimp soup containing, for most of us anyway, one good-sized camaron. Rene G has some interesting observations about why there are so many seafood/mariscos places on the south side, hopefully he'll share them.

    Here's a curiosity I noted on the menu:

    Image

    I cannot explain that.

    Another point of interest: moments after we sat down, it turned out there was a floor show:

    Image

    One good sign: an impressive assortment of salsas, including G Wiv's favorite Yucateco and the Huichol much beloved at, again, Tacos del Pacifico:

    Image

    Basically, the things that sounded like they'd be good were, and the things that didn't, weren't. Ceviche tostada, good, just like it was the other day on my scouting trip:

    Image

    Shrimp cocktail pretty good:

    Image

    Stevez's crab tostada, which at $2.50 was sure to be Krab, was, and wasn't very good. Likewise, the shrimpburger, which some people at the table imagined would be like a crabcake sandwich by the seashore in Maryland, turned out to be shrimp trapped in gooey cheese on a white bread bun:

    Image

    Ladies and gentleman, G Wiv, doing his impression of Spiderman. Stick to the genuine Mexican classics and Mariscos Luis is a good little place, and a worthy end to another great communal exploration of our great city.

    Image

    Mariscos Luis
    4225 W 47th St
    (773) 843-3448
    Last edited by Mike G on April 30th, 2006, 12:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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  • Post #20 - April 30th, 2006, 10:09 am
    Post #20 - April 30th, 2006, 10:09 am Post #20 - April 30th, 2006, 10:09 am
    The highlight of my day was actually John's G.A.R. (Great Army of the Republic?). I've been intrigued by the Mom-in-Law since ReneG wrote about it, and I do like the concept of a cup of chili with an embedded corn roll tamale. Having had it, I can say with assurance that it was not bad. It would have been better with better chili (and of course a better tamale), but it was pretty much okay. This is something I might try to make at home; with better ingredients, it could fly.

    Even odder on the food scale was the tamale on a bun with flourescent relish. This tasted exactly as one would expect, with an imbalanced carb-to-flavor ratio, no need to have it again.

    The beef was, at best, edible, and though I admire the tenacity and scientific spirit of Crain's coverboy SteveZ, this was a bad, bad beef.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #21 - April 30th, 2006, 11:39 am
    Post #21 - April 30th, 2006, 11:39 am Post #21 - April 30th, 2006, 11:39 am
    Hi,

    I was first to arrive at John's G.A.R. (Great Area Restaurant!) knowing this stop was an opportunity to try the Mother-in-Law. I glibly ordered 3 MIL for approximately $1.89 each. I wasn't paying attention initially because Bob S and Josephine arrived, but once I did return to observing the process they were on MIL #2: they cut the steamed tamale in half, dropped it into a styrofoam cup, the added the chili?

    Image

    Thinking there was a misunderstanding between us, I told her I thought the MIL came in a bun. "Oh, you want tamale in a bun then. Do you want the 3rd MIL changed to tamale in a bun?" "Sure." Scanning the menu, I see the tamale in a bun is a mere $1.60. On another wall is the missive, "Water is free, the cup costs $0.25," which may partially explain the price difference. Now the assembly went as expected with hot dog bun, tamale and chili sauce, then she inquired, "What do you want on it?" I told her the typical preparation, then she added onions, tomato slices and relish. Before rolling it up I took a picture:

    Image

    The flavors harmonizing really come with the wrapping:

    Image

    Later SteveZ was shocked by the additions of the onions, tomato slices and relish. His response? He ran back in to buy a tamale on a bun with gardinera. He liked the gardinera so much, he ran back to buy the Italian beef. I just love the unbridled excess of our friends!

    A Mother-in-Law or tamale in a bun, as per John's G.A.R. (no explanation offered by the workers for the GAR), is something to try because it is. While Rene G did advise there are better MIL's out there, I am not anxious to test this any time soon.

    ***

    Mom and I had a great time on this food march. Thanks Mike for organizing and ReneG for the history and detailed list of riches. Everyone else for the willingness to buy, taste and taste again!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #22 - April 30th, 2006, 11:42 am
    Post #22 - April 30th, 2006, 11:42 am Post #22 - April 30th, 2006, 11:42 am
    David Hammond wrote:The beef was, at best, edible, and though I admire the tenacity and scientific spirit of Crain's coverboy SteveZ, this was a bad, bad beef.

    Hammond


    The only reason that the beef was ordered was that the giardinara that we had on one of our talames-on-a-bun was so outstanding that I wanted to see how it worked on an Italian Beef. As soon as I saw tham scooping the beef out of the juice, where it had been soaking since before we even got there, I know we were in trouble. Still, it was some damn good giardinara.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #23 - April 30th, 2006, 11:50 am
    Post #23 - April 30th, 2006, 11:50 am Post #23 - April 30th, 2006, 11:50 am
    stevez wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:The beef was, at best, edible, and though I admire the tenacity and scientific spirit of Crain's coverboy SteveZ, this was a bad, bad beef.

    Hammond


    The only reason that the beef was ordered was that the giardinara that we had on one of our talames-on-a-bun was so outstanding that I wanted to see how it worked on an Italian Beef. As soon as I saw tham scooping the beef out of the juice, where it had been soaking since before we even got there, I know we were in trouble. Still, it was some damn good giardinara.


    Absolutely, and the giardiniera on the substandard hot dog was a good combo -- on a better dog it would have been, you know, better, and it raised the issue of putting this most excellent condiment on wieners, which ReneG told me is how he learned to eat Chicago dogs years ago at Solly's (ReneG, correct me if I'm not remember this correctly, but I believe you said you worked there).

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #24 - April 30th, 2006, 12:12 pm
    Post #24 - April 30th, 2006, 12:12 pm Post #24 - April 30th, 2006, 12:12 pm
    I was sorry to miss this event (had to work most of the day), and now am even sorrier I missed it. The family that owns Atotonilco (restaurant and tortilla business) are erstwhile clients of mine, and I'd always wanted to visit their restaurant. I had forgotten it was located on 47th Street. Maybe now I won't bother making the trip, based on the mediocre experience you all had Saturday, but I will view it as a missed opportunity nevertheless.

    Factoid about Atotonilco: I don't know if they still operate this way or whether it is unique to them, but when I was working for Atotonilco, their company was vertically integrated -- i.e., the Munoz family owned the farms from which at least some (maybe all) of the corn was harvested for the tortillas. Anyone ever heard of such a set up? It apparently has been very successful for them. Not sure why they keep the old restaurant going; maybe sentimental reasons more than because they need the money.
    JiLS
  • Post #25 - April 30th, 2006, 12:28 pm
    Post #25 - April 30th, 2006, 12:28 pm Post #25 - April 30th, 2006, 12:28 pm
    Atotonilco was better than mediocre, it just didn't stand out in any one area, also G Wiv informs I got it wrong, they had the heating elements on the pastor and it was Arandas that did not.

    There are actually three Atotonilcos. The other two are:

    3916 West 26th Street
    773.762.3380

    5656 S Kedzie Ave

    The latter is named Tortilleria but as this piece shows, it also has a restaurant as well.
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  • Post #26 - April 30th, 2006, 12:29 pm
    Post #26 - April 30th, 2006, 12:29 pm Post #26 - April 30th, 2006, 12:29 pm
    JimInLoganSquare wrote: Not sure why they keep the old restaurant going; maybe sentimental reasons more than because they need the money.


    Jim,

    It's more than just the "old restaurant". I've been to at least 3 different Taco Atotonilco's and I think there at least a couple more. I've found the food, and in particualr the al pastor, to vary from location to location. The best I have had is at the TA on 26th St.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #27 - April 30th, 2006, 12:59 pm
    Post #27 - April 30th, 2006, 12:59 pm Post #27 - April 30th, 2006, 12:59 pm
    I like candy so was pleased we stopped at Dulcelandia. I got several items, but the one that really stands out is Obleas Las Sevillanas. This candy is a thin slice of cajeta (goat milk caramel) between thin white wafers (making eating very easy and not so messy; plus the wafers provide a nice flavor/texture contrast). This is a very pleasant, not overly sweet, only vaguely goat-y confection -- and not bad at 20 for around 3 bucks.

    Found a picture of ladies making a slightly larger version of same:

    Image
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #28 - April 30th, 2006, 1:33 pm
    Post #28 - April 30th, 2006, 1:33 pm Post #28 - April 30th, 2006, 1:33 pm
    Thanks to all for the reports and photos -- very enjoyable to read. I have two questions:

    (1) What makes the "Taco Atotonilco Especial" special? (Above the name it says, 'now here/ask for it')

    (repeating Mike's photo:)
    Image

    (2) Who ordered the eyeball taco?
  • Post #29 - April 30th, 2006, 1:40 pm
    Post #29 - April 30th, 2006, 1:40 pm Post #29 - April 30th, 2006, 1:40 pm
    Amata wrote:(2) Who ordered the eyeball taco?


    Do you really have to ask? :lol:

    Hint: consider who might be the most likely person on "the team" to have eaten not one, not two, but three of these grotesque items.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #30 - April 30th, 2006, 2:03 pm
    Post #30 - April 30th, 2006, 2:03 pm Post #30 - April 30th, 2006, 2:03 pm
    (1) What makes the "Taco Atotonilco Especial" special? (Above the name it says, 'now here/ask for it')


    A place like 47th Street holds many mysteries which cannot be answered in a single Thon...

    I'm still waiting to find out what a Cinderella is.*

    * See photo montage at the beginning. Rene G says the stand (now closed) was called "Cinderella" but since that word is in the same size and placement as other individual food items, I wonder....
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