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El Chapin [was Tierra Caliente, was Carniceria Leon]

El Chapin [was Tierra Caliente, was Carniceria Leon]
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  • Post #61 - June 30th, 2010, 3:19 pm
    Post #61 - June 30th, 2010, 3:19 pm Post #61 - June 30th, 2010, 3:19 pm
    pigOut wrote:I've recently been turned on to the wonders of beef tongue, and got a lengua and an al pastor taco which were both fantastic.

    Yeah, Tierra Caliente's lengua is definitely my favorite in Chicago.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #62 - June 30th, 2010, 3:37 pm
    Post #62 - June 30th, 2010, 3:37 pm Post #62 - June 30th, 2010, 3:37 pm
    PigOut wrote:
    I had a Canpechano taco (or was it Campechano, I should have paid better attention to the menu), which was described on the menu as being steak and marinated pork. Indeed, what I received was a delicious and generous mix of steak and al pastor. Now I've gotta try that steak and chorizo mix Gary mentioned.



    What gary mentioned was the weekend only campechano. Which is carnitas and chorizo, not steak. It's only weekends becuase the carnitas is only weekends. It's my favorite carnitas, in the city. Actually most tacos from tierra caliente are my favorites, not just in the city, but in the world. Mexico City included.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #63 - June 30th, 2010, 3:43 pm
    Post #63 - June 30th, 2010, 3:43 pm Post #63 - June 30th, 2010, 3:43 pm
    laikom wrote:
    PigOut wrote:
    I had a Canpechano taco (or was it Campechano, I should have paid better attention to the menu), which was described on the menu as being steak and marinated pork. Indeed, what I received was a delicious and generous mix of steak and al pastor. Now I've gotta try that steak and chorizo mix Gary mentioned.



    What gary mentioned was the weekend only campechano. Which is carnitas and chorizo, not steak. It's only weekends becuase the carnitas is only weekends. It's my favorite carnitas, in the city. Actually most tacos from tierra caliente are my favorites, not just in the city, but in the world. Mexico City included.


    Had a temporary brain freeze, carnitas and chorizo...that sounds even better.
  • Post #64 - June 30th, 2010, 3:57 pm
    Post #64 - June 30th, 2010, 3:57 pm Post #64 - June 30th, 2010, 3:57 pm
    Sunday morning in need of goat, stumbled onto carnitas and went w/the flow.

    Image
    Image
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #65 - June 30th, 2010, 4:32 pm
    Post #65 - June 30th, 2010, 4:32 pm Post #65 - June 30th, 2010, 4:32 pm
    Does anyone know how late they stay open?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #66 - June 30th, 2010, 4:41 pm
    Post #66 - June 30th, 2010, 4:41 pm Post #66 - June 30th, 2010, 4:41 pm
    stevez wrote:Does anyone know how late they stay open?

    Why? Are we making you hungry?

    I'm pretty sure they're open until 8:00 daily. It's a grocery store too, so they start to clean up a little earlier (7:30 or 7:45). I've definately walked in right before 8:00 and gotten tacos, i just couldn't be picky, they gave me what they had left. On another occasion, I've been told that they have already closed up the restaurant and come back tomorrow.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #67 - June 30th, 2010, 4:47 pm
    Post #67 - June 30th, 2010, 4:47 pm Post #67 - June 30th, 2010, 4:47 pm
    BTW, not sure if it's been mentioned on any of the other tierra caliente threads, but the other location, on Armitage west of western, is 99% as good as the original location. The staff was recognizable from the original location, so it makes sense that the food was as good.

    Carniceria y Taqueria, Tierra Caliente 2
    2556 West Armitage Avenue,
    Chicago, IL‎
    (773) 486-8843‎
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #68 - June 30th, 2010, 5:18 pm
    Post #68 - June 30th, 2010, 5:18 pm Post #68 - June 30th, 2010, 5:18 pm
    laikom wrote:Why? Are we making you hungry?


    Yes, as a matter of fact. I've never been there much later than 3:00 and I was't sure if rthey were open for dinner.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #69 - June 30th, 2010, 7:23 pm
    Post #69 - June 30th, 2010, 7:23 pm Post #69 - June 30th, 2010, 7:23 pm
    laikom wrote:BTW, not sure if it's been mentioned on any of the other tierra caliente threads, but the other location, on Armitage west of western, is 99% as good as the original location. The staff was recognizable from the original location, so it makes sense that the food was as good.

    Carniceria y Taqueria, Tierra Caliente 2
    2556 West Armitage Avenue,
    Chicago, IL‎
    (773) 486-8843‎


    Good enough for it to be worthy of an often weekly visit for me. It's also more accessible with parking and for those in a hurry, than the original. Now if I can only figure out how to get over to Taqueria Ricardo just as much (thank you Mike G) for the best chicken tacos in town.
  • Post #70 - July 22nd, 2010, 12:28 pm
    Post #70 - July 22nd, 2010, 12:28 pm Post #70 - July 22nd, 2010, 12:28 pm
    I fell in love with Al Pastor tacos last year when I spent some time in Mexico City. After eating some pretty disappointing versions here in Chicago, I had pretty much given up eating Al Pastor north of the border.

    After reading this thread, however, I decided maybe Tierra Caliente could take away the workday blues and transport me back to my travels in Mexico City. The verdict... well, I'm going to have to reiterate the recommendation upthread to get the Al Pastor tacos "crispy". I failed to do so, and received a generous helping of mushy, toothless pork.

    As I shop at Guanajuato for groceries (about a block north) pretty regularly, I'll definitely give it another shot. As a side note, Guanajuato's cafeteria was packed a two in the afternoon. Is it that much better or just more visible?

    MJ
  • Post #71 - July 22nd, 2010, 12:38 pm
    Post #71 - July 22nd, 2010, 12:38 pm Post #71 - July 22nd, 2010, 12:38 pm
    vegmojo wrote:I fell in love with Al Pastor tacos last year when I spent some time in Mexico City. After eating some pretty disappointing versions here in Chicago, I had pretty much given up eating Al Pastor north of the border.

    After reading this thread, however, I decided maybe Tierra Caliente could take away the workday blues and transport me back to my travels in Mexico City. The verdict... well, I'm going to have to reiterate the recommendation upthread to get the Al Pastor tacos "crispy". I failed to do so, and received a generous helping of mushy, toothless pork.

    As I shop at Guanajuato for groceries (about a block north) pretty regularly, I'll definitely give it another shot. As a side note, Guanajuato's cafeteria was packed a two in the afternoon. Is it that much better or just more visible?

    MJ

    As far as the El Pastor has been for me, it has always been sublime. Timing is sometimes and issue and I would urge you to give them another try.

    Image

    As far as the crowds go Tierra Caliente is pretty hidden away.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #72 - July 23rd, 2010, 10:43 pm
    Post #72 - July 23rd, 2010, 10:43 pm Post #72 - July 23rd, 2010, 10:43 pm
    Now that I've introduced my carnivorous girlfriend to the joys of Tierra Caliente, she's been demanding it on the wkends. Last Sat when we were walking out I spied two types of tamales by the cash register. Bright gold and bright red.

    The gold was pineapple, which I'd never seen or tasted. Score. 6 for $5. Brought them in to work w/me for my crew which is nearly all Hispanic and they pounced. Tasted like sweet corn bread w/pineapple. Sapinchebroso. They'd never had them either. The red ones were strawberry. I'm thinking it's a wkend thing. Not even certain they make them there.

    I'd already brought them birria by the lb w/all the accoutrement's last month to win their hearts. These worked even more so.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #73 - July 26th, 2010, 1:25 pm
    Post #73 - July 26th, 2010, 1:25 pm Post #73 - July 26th, 2010, 1:25 pm
    vegmojo wrote:After reading this thread, however, I decided maybe Tierra Caliente could take away the workday blues and transport me back to my travels in Mexico City. The verdict... well, I'm going to have to reiterate the recommendation upthread to get the Al Pastor tacos "crispy". I failed to do so, and received a generous helping of mushy, toothless pork.
    MJ

    I've had both my best and worst Chicago Al Pastor experiences on two recent visits to Tierra Caliente. The first was everything as wonderful as has been described upthread. The second was yesterday where I received an overstuffed taco of mushy, sour, salty meat. To my untrained eye, I couldn't say why one was wonderful and the other awful.
  • Post #74 - July 26th, 2010, 10:59 pm
    Post #74 - July 26th, 2010, 10:59 pm Post #74 - July 26th, 2010, 10:59 pm
    Jed wrote:
    vegmojo wrote:After reading this thread, however, I decided maybe Tierra Caliente could take away the workday blues and transport me back to my travels in Mexico City. The verdict... well, I'm going to have to reiterate the recommendation upthread to get the Al Pastor tacos "crispy". I failed to do so, and received a generous helping of mushy, toothless pork.
    MJ

    I've had both my best and worst Chicago Al Pastor experiences on two recent visits to Tierra Caliente. The first was everything as wonderful as has been described upthread. The second was yesterday where I received an overstuffed taco of mushy, sour, salty meat. To my untrained eye, I couldn't say why one was wonderful and the other awful.


    was this at the Ashland or Armitage location?

    Previously i had praised the newer, Armitage location as being as good as the Ashland location. I'm going to have to take that back now, I have had sub-par pastor at the Armitage location, which I would describe similarly to how you do, too much flavor and mushy. Almost tasted saucy like some of the ketchupy ones other places do up on the griddle. On the other hand in 100 or so tacos I've had at the ashland location, i have not had a bad taco, pastor or otherwise.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #75 - July 27th, 2010, 8:52 am
    Post #75 - July 27th, 2010, 8:52 am Post #75 - July 27th, 2010, 8:52 am
    laikom wrote:was this at the Ashland or Armitage location?

    Previously i had praised the newer, Armitage location as being as good as the Ashland location. I'm going to have to take that back now, I have had sub-par pastor at the Armitage location, which I would describe similarly to how you do, too much flavor and mushy. Almost tasted saucy like some of the ketchupy ones other places do up on the griddle. On the other hand in 100 or so tacos I've had at the ashland location, i have not had a bad taco, pastor or otherwise.

    My transcendent and my terrible Al Pastor experiences were both at the Ashland location. I agree with your description of saucy, almost sour ketchupy.
  • Post #76 - July 27th, 2010, 9:05 am
    Post #76 - July 27th, 2010, 9:05 am Post #76 - July 27th, 2010, 9:05 am
    You seem to be describing undercooked pastor wherein the achiote-based marinade hasn't transmuted into delicious carmelized magic. I the years I've been touting the place, I've warned folks to pay keen attention to the condition of the meat cone. That said, I've also been to TCwCL scores of times for the pastor and haven't had the described experiene. I hope it is a rare and not increasingly frequent problem....
  • Post #77 - July 27th, 2010, 9:10 am
    Post #77 - July 27th, 2010, 9:10 am Post #77 - July 27th, 2010, 9:10 am
    Tierra Caliente can be a real hit-or-miss situation. Paying attention to the meat cone only goes so far, because if they're busy, they'll start shaving the meat off the cone and finishing it on the flattop. Serviceable, but not the best way to experience pastor.
  • Post #78 - July 27th, 2010, 9:13 am
    Post #78 - July 27th, 2010, 9:13 am Post #78 - July 27th, 2010, 9:13 am
    Anyone out there have a translation for "Right off of the cone and into a hot tortilla - please do not cook it on the grill."
    (?)
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #79 - July 27th, 2010, 9:15 am
    Post #79 - July 27th, 2010, 9:15 am Post #79 - July 27th, 2010, 9:15 am
    seebee wrote:Anyone out there have a translation for "Right off of the cone and into a hot tortilla - please do not cook it on the grill."
    (?)


    In my experience, declining the meat coming off the grill gets you no service at all at TC. You may have to wait there until they're done with the rush, and the cone is again lazily spinning, virtually untouched. Others' MMV, though.
  • Post #80 - July 27th, 2010, 9:25 am
    Post #80 - July 27th, 2010, 9:25 am Post #80 - July 27th, 2010, 9:25 am
    If they are that busy, you order the carne asada or come back later. (I know you know that, but it bears repeating.)
  • Post #81 - July 27th, 2010, 9:35 am
    Post #81 - July 27th, 2010, 9:35 am Post #81 - July 27th, 2010, 9:35 am
    JeffB wrote:If they are that busy, you order the carne asada or come back later. (I know you know that, but it bears repeating.)


    Not trying to be a pain, your advice is generally sound, but in my experience, that works only if you don't mind carne asada from the bucket o' grease (which I do). Otherwise, they're not doing carne asada and pastor in their tiny kitchen at once.

    To explain, I think there's this lore about TC that doesn't exactly bear out in reality -- at least not lately (maybe they're more crowded lately?) -- that if the pastor on the trompa isn't ready, they're grilling asada on the grill, so that's what you order. Not so, in my recent experience. If the pastor isn't ready, they're shaving it off, and putting it on the flattop. The carne asada, on the other hand, has been grilled prior at some unspecified time, and is sitting in buckets above the taco-making station. The last time I was there, the grill was cold, and they were in full quick-finish-the-pastor-on-flattop mode. The multitudes of Mexicans there, though, didn't seem to mind, and were ordering both types of tacos in bulk.

    Bottom line: Go during off times. On a Saturday, that could mean after 2 or 2:30, maybe later. Or go during the weekday.

    Edited to reflect various vocab errors. Not enough caffeine yet. Oy.
  • Post #82 - July 27th, 2010, 10:02 am
    Post #82 - July 27th, 2010, 10:02 am Post #82 - July 27th, 2010, 10:02 am
    aschie30 wrote:To explain, I think there's this lore about TC that doesn't exactly bear out in reality


    It sounds like Tierra Caliente might not be the place for you. It's not like there aren't any other taquerias in Chicago. Go somewhere else if you're not happy. Personally, I've found that if you order intelligently, as has been outline time and time again in this thread, TC is one of the most outstanding taco experiences in the city (and yes, the time of day you go does make a difference and should enter into the equation).
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #83 - July 27th, 2010, 10:22 am
    Post #83 - July 27th, 2010, 10:22 am Post #83 - July 27th, 2010, 10:22 am
    Sometimes lore is true, but things change over 5-6 years. There was no flat-top griddle until recently. I hadn't noticed they even installed one. One of the reasons I liked C. Leon from the get go was that with only a spit, a gas-flame grill and a big caso, the taqueria had to keep things honest and limited the meats to pastor (spit), asada (grill), and carnitas/barbacoa (caso).

    (The lack of a griddle did limit what they could do to heat the tortillas. I happen to think that a short burst of radiation to corn tortillas is one of the few good uses to which a microwave can be put, up there with crab legs, so I never minded. I have never seen anything else put in that little 'wave, by the way.)

    It's much, much more crowded. Since at least '04 a handful of aficionados here noted how great C. Leon was/is. Despite the very convenient location, the store's gruff exterior (and interior) and language barrier kept the less adventurous away. Early threads even focus on getting past that hurdle. For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, TCwCL has become a crossover hit this year. Maybe it's the new sign.
  • Post #84 - July 27th, 2010, 11:03 am
    Post #84 - July 27th, 2010, 11:03 am Post #84 - July 27th, 2010, 11:03 am
    stevez wrote:
    aschie30 wrote:To explain, I think there's this lore about TC that doesn't exactly bear out in reality


    It sounds like Tierra Caliente might not be the place for you. It's not like there aren't any other taquerias in Chicago. Go somewhere else if you're not happy. Personally, I've found that if you order intelligently, as has been outline time and time again in this thread, TC is one of the most outstanding taco experiences in the city (and yes, the time of day you go does make a difference and should enter into the equation).


    Steve- You're right. Griddled pastor is not for me. Hey, I like TC -- I'm not even dissenting, but adding another data point (one that was raised earlier, but got lost in the mix) about ordering conundrums at TC. Which means that ordering intelligently is sometimes not at all. So, if there's no asada flaming on the grill, and the pastor is being cut off prematurely and flattoped, you should leave and come back another time.

    Jeff - What you say makes sense. I think there has been change recently. It couldn't last forever. TC is sitting on the edge of the crowded Division St six corners. It was only a matter of time before people bit the bullet and went in. My last visit showed that not only more gringos than ever found this place, but also more Mexicans. Such is life.
  • Post #85 - July 27th, 2010, 11:12 am
    Post #85 - July 27th, 2010, 11:12 am Post #85 - July 27th, 2010, 11:12 am
    JeffB wrote: I have never seen anything else put in that little 'wave, by the way.)


    ive seen chili rellenos put in that microwave.

    I find the food consistant and good if not great if you pay attention to the cues & timing mentioned in this thread.
  • Post #86 - July 27th, 2010, 4:26 pm
    Post #86 - July 27th, 2010, 4:26 pm Post #86 - July 27th, 2010, 4:26 pm
    Also a newer menu item..... I stick to the basics and usually visit early (10:30-11) when the grilled jalapenos are still hot and the cone is charred.
  • Post #87 - July 28th, 2010, 6:29 am
    Post #87 - July 28th, 2010, 6:29 am Post #87 - July 28th, 2010, 6:29 am
    yep, get in there around that time and you will never be disappointed.

    Ive never tried the chili rellenos, nver really felt the need to.
  • Post #88 - January 8th, 2011, 2:50 pm
    Post #88 - January 8th, 2011, 2:50 pm Post #88 - January 8th, 2011, 2:50 pm
    For lunch today I finally made it to this place. I intended to have the pastor and lengua tacos, but when I saw that birria was the taco of the day, I swapped that in for the tongue.
    The goat was fatty in a good way; some of the fat had melted and created a delicious sauce.
    But the pastor cone at 11 a.m. was sublime; the crispy pieces made this one of the best tacos I've ever had. It would be the very best except for a little too much salt, but then I'm more salt averse than a lot of people.
    Terrific bang for the buck.
  • Post #89 - January 8th, 2011, 6:07 pm
    Post #89 - January 8th, 2011, 6:07 pm Post #89 - January 8th, 2011, 6:07 pm
    I was happy to enjoy my first meal at TC. After a near misstep of pulling into the parking lot of a neighboring mercado, I was greeted to the TC cook wiping down the last dirty table a little before 3pm last Thurs. A dark line of char lead to the long-marinating bottom of the spiral bulging with juicy pork, and I expected greatness. I ordered 2 tacos al pastor and 1 "tierra caliente," which was billed as asada with griddled onions and a special sauce.

    The al pastor was very good, though I regret not asking if they could top it with piña (none was present at the top of the cone). The slices of pork were larger chunks than I'm used to, I liked this style, and the flavor was all there. While I was eating, some of the achiote rub dripped off my meat and I sopped it up with my finger.

    The corn tortillas were no worse for wear from the microwave "abuse." I was scared tortilla #2 or 3 would curl up and die before I'd get to it, but they must be very fresh tortillas b/c they didn't dry out like that.

    I was somewhat let down with the "tierra caliente" taco, although I heard the meat sizzling on the griddle and I'm sure the onions touched the griddle as well, the onions were basically raw, and the "special sauce" was just a smear of the salsa verde I had on the counter in front of me. Duh. The meat had good flavor if a bit chewy.

    I'm not sure if the cook noticed my disappointment with the asada taco since I was poking around and picking out the meat, or if he was just being a salesman, but he asked if I wanted another taco and like the glutton I am* I said yes one more pastor. He promptly sliced a healthy portion of meat from the bottom of the cone and served it in a triple decker tortilla. Not sure if this was on purpose to hold up the weight of the taco, if it was in an effort to fill me up, or just by accident, but I peeled away the third layer and tucked in.

    The meat on this one was a little chalky from being over-marinated, but it didn't really bother me, the flavor was so good. This perception could also have resulted from having more achiote to pork ratio on the last taco than the first two, with the texture of the rub coming through more aggressively and not necessarily a different texture in the meat. I wouldn't turn down a future taco from the bottom of the spiral, so evidently this wasn't a big issue for me.

    Thank you, LTH, for finding me a great al pastor taco north of 47th street.

    *I did leave most of the asada taco uneaten.
  • Post #90 - February 4th, 2011, 3:06 pm
    Post #90 - February 4th, 2011, 3:06 pm Post #90 - February 4th, 2011, 3:06 pm
    Tierra Caliente has been nominated as a Great Neighborhood Restaurant. Please discuss the nomination in this thread. Discussion closes on March 7.

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