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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 #91 - February 4th, 2011, 3:32 pm
    Post #91 - February 4th, 2011, 3:32 pm Post #91 - February 4th, 2011, 3:32 pm
    I wrote the GNR nomination. Very excited, as it's my first. It seems like it was quite long but i am still finding things to talk about!

    In this thread:
    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=17068
    When razbry asked for a one “perfect bite” of food, seebee directed razbry to “Carniceria Leon for an al pastor and carne asada taco, squeeze of lime, salsa, onion, cilantro on each…. Leon is one of them. Char grilled skirt steak tacos. When done correctly, one of the best small food delights for the price that absolutely screams flavors if you ask me.”
    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 #92 - February 4th, 2011, 4:08 pm
    Post #92 - February 4th, 2011, 4:08 pm Post #92 - February 4th, 2011, 4:08 pm
    JeffB wrote:Some places get "discovered," the crowds show up, and they start sucking. On Saturday afternoon, Carniceria Leon (now TC) was lousy with foodies in addition to Mexican regulars tucking into menudo and chivo. New, welcoming menu signs had everything in English. After years, people apparently stopped walking by the place because it looks "sketchy" or whatever they say. My heart kind of sank. Then I got my tacos. Sweet baby Jesus. The pastor, goat and steak were each as good as or better than ever, with huge portions of meat (more than ever, really) and the salsas, grilled jalapeños and menudo were all up to snuff.

    And, while I'd like hand-made tortillas as much as the next guy, the local tortillas used at CLNTC are very fresh and quite good. (As a digression, note that Chicago has long had the best tortillas in the county due to our many fine tortillerias and masa mills; now that local taquerias are spoiling us with wrappers hechos a mano, folks are dissing the fine locally-made joints as an inferior product. They definitely are not that, any more than good machine made pasta is "inferior" to kitchen-made pasta.)

    Most deserving non-GNR GNR going these days.


    Dibs on seconding the nomination.
  • Post #93 - February 4th, 2011, 5:35 pm
    Post #93 - February 4th, 2011, 5:35 pm Post #93 - February 4th, 2011, 5:35 pm
    Grande si!
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #94 - February 5th, 2011, 8:46 am
    Post #94 - February 5th, 2011, 8:46 am Post #94 - February 5th, 2011, 8:46 am
    I love the food at Tierra Caliente and, now that I live closer by, frequently stop by on weekends for a few tacos and some of the grilled jalapeños sitting out on the counter. Beyond great food (at crazy reasonable prices) and friendly staff, the thing that always amazes me is how rare it is that I saddle up to the counter and don't find some other LTHer there too. In fact, I've been there when multiple waves of LTHers came through during the course of my meal.

    To me, a big part of a GNR is that it's captured the mindshare of LTH (gets the "LTH love") and I feel like Tierra Caliente is solidly ensconced in the LTH community. A great nomination, which I happily support.

    -Dan
  • Post #95 - February 5th, 2011, 10:01 am
    Post #95 - February 5th, 2011, 10:01 am Post #95 - February 5th, 2011, 10:01 am
    From 2007:
    Jefe wrote:Asada had great charred flavor, but was a bit dry from being held in a sixth pan. Al pastor was undercooked. And saddest of all, no charred coarse salted 'penos!

    2010:
    Jefe wrote:Man, I had a middling experience here today. I witnessed layers of undercooked, red-stained pork being cut from an exhausted-looking trompo and finished hastily on the griddle. No pineapple in sight. I should have known better. Also, despite the crowds, asada was not being grilled to order and I received a taco promptly assembled from a holding pan. Fortunately the meat was not dried out, tough, gristly, or excessively greasy, but lacked a discernible char flavor or appearance. I ordered the "campechano" and received a mix of asada and pastor- which, by the way, is listed on the menu just as such, so I cannot blame them for false advertising, but I was hoping to receive the mythical chorizo and carnitas hybrid taco. So disappointed I couldn't even eat it, I took it to go for a nosh with less scruples to be had after 2 am later tonight. Watching some of the kitchen habits of those guys during a rush period might also be enough to turn me off from the place. At least they had the charred jalapenos today, which at this point, after a few unsuccessful runs, might be my only reason to return to Tierra Caliente. Boo.


    Might be a lone voice in the wilderness here-
    I certainly see the appeal of TC- it has all the look and feel of a GNR. Living in the 'hood, I have been eating here for years, even pre-LTH tenure. I've definitely had a fantastic taco or two and I will return to play the odds.
    All said, when I want consistently grilled-to-order asada I hit up De Pasada a half mile to the south. I've done Mexico City al pastor tours too, and TC would rank towards the bottom of my experiences there. I hit up Taqueria El Jaliciense to satisfy my (always crisp) al pastor jones these days.
    For me at a less than 50% success rate, I can't add my support to this nomination.
  • Post #96 - February 5th, 2011, 12:03 pm
    Post #96 - February 5th, 2011, 12:03 pm Post #96 - February 5th, 2011, 12:03 pm
    Jefe,
    Perhaps you've had a streak of bad luck. While no restaurant is perfect 100% of the time. In the 100 times i've been, I've only had a less-than-perfect taco once or twice, so that puts it up at 99% on for me. Even the 1 time I was by no means disapointed since i just ordered a couple different tacos which were spot on, oh well $2 down the hole.

    Today is saturday, perhaps it's time to ACTUALLY get their campechano done the right way. That coupled with either barbacoa or birria and i'd be shocked if you don't have a change of heart. On weekdays, we figured out they do serve campechano with pastor/steak since they don't have carnitas on weekdays. Carnitas is a weekend specialty. I'd love to hear your reaction. As i said in my nomination, the pastor is regarded very highly on the board, and it's the best i've had, but I'm often more impressed with the other offerings, and the fact that they do so many tacos that are just perfect is a hard task with a 2 person taco counter, but they pull it off, for me, 99% of the time.
    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 #97 - February 6th, 2011, 12:11 pm
    Post #97 - February 6th, 2011, 12:11 pm Post #97 - February 6th, 2011, 12:11 pm
    I whole-heartedly support the GNR nomination for Tierra Caliente. I don't live anywhere near it and have only been there about a half-dozen times but it's been right on the money all those times but one (when it was still good but not transcendent). When I'm in the mood for tacos, this is my first choice and going anywhere else almost always disappoints. For me, it's consistently been a great place to eat and it's the eptiome of a food destination.

    =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 #98 - February 7th, 2011, 11:53 am
    Post #98 - February 7th, 2011, 11:53 am Post #98 - February 7th, 2011, 11:53 am
    Best pastor and asada tacos in Chicago. Free grilled jalepenos are awesome. Everything is fresh and the staff is friendly to boot.
  • Post #99 - February 7th, 2011, 2:14 pm
    Post #99 - February 7th, 2011, 2:14 pm Post #99 - February 7th, 2011, 2:14 pm
    Tierra Caliente really is in my neighborhood and since I introduced my girlfriend to it, it's become a bit of a tradition. We walk there (in any weather) and enjoy a couple tacos ea and grilled jalapeno's and get out for $10 for both or us. You have to look pretty far to find this quality @ this price. Mario's comes to my mind.

    And the owner? This summer I did a party (a greatest food hits of chi) and needed 50 pastors @ 9 am. When I tried to buy them with advance notice to be p/u the night before, he insisted that he'd open up earlier the next am, "just knock on the door" so he could give them to me fresh.

    If this isn't a great neighborhood restaurant, I don't know what is.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #100 - February 7th, 2011, 2:23 pm
    Post #100 - February 7th, 2011, 2:23 pm Post #100 - February 7th, 2011, 2:23 pm
    Jefe wrote:All said, when I want consistently grilled-to-order asada I hit up De Pasada a half mile to the south.

    Do you know if it's the same De Pasada that's just opened on Chicago next door to Mr. Taco? I had a solid meal there a few days after they opened. The asada looked promising, but the meat was excessively chewy.

    Image

    The lengua and pastor were very good though.
  • Post #101 - February 8th, 2011, 12:19 am
    Post #101 - February 8th, 2011, 12:19 am Post #101 - February 8th, 2011, 12:19 am
    BYOB!? Has anyone noticed this sign before?
    Image
    Where else could you get tacos this good, in a blizzard?
    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 #102 - February 8th, 2011, 12:22 am
    Post #102 - February 8th, 2011, 12:22 am Post #102 - February 8th, 2011, 12:22 am
    Image
    Image
    Image
    Image
    Image
    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 #103 - February 8th, 2011, 6:42 am
    Post #103 - February 8th, 2011, 6:42 am Post #103 - February 8th, 2011, 6:42 am
    ^-----^

    Nuff said.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #104 - February 8th, 2011, 7:02 am
    Post #104 - February 8th, 2011, 7:02 am Post #104 - February 8th, 2011, 7:02 am
    The pastor is amazing - especially when you catch it at its crispy, juicy peak; but whenever I go to TC I can't resist their birria de chivo tacos - oily, stewed goat meat with a healthy fat to meat ratio. Taking bites from a taco in turn with nibbles from their fried, salted jalapenos - sublime. GNR.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #105 - February 8th, 2011, 10:52 am
    Post #105 - February 8th, 2011, 10:52 am Post #105 - February 8th, 2011, 10:52 am
    Since nothing was moving in the snow yesterday and I found myself there, I stopped by at Tierra C. First off, someone needs to explain to me why the traffic was so horrifically bad - yeah, there was some snow but that does not begin to explain the constant snarl I found in every direction. Aside from that...

    The pastor and the chorizo pleased me and made my day, for a sinfully low price. A good taco starts with the meat -can I enjoy the meat all by itself? Is it properly cooked, bursting with flavor? Because if you do not have that good foundation, how can you build a good taco. It met all my requirements, and I will be back.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #106 - February 8th, 2011, 11:00 am
    Post #106 - February 8th, 2011, 11:00 am Post #106 - February 8th, 2011, 11:00 am
    dicksond wrote:Since nothing was moving in the snow yesterday and I found myself there, I stopped by at Tierra C. First off, someone needs to explain to me why the traffic was so horrifically bad - yeah, there was some snow but that does not begin to explain the constant snarl I found in every direction. Aside from that...

    The pastor and the chorizo pleased me and made my day, for a sinfully low price. A good taco starts with the meat -can I enjoy the meat all by itself? Is it properly cooked, bursting with flavor? Because if you do not have that good foundation, how can you build a good taco. It met all my requirements, and I will be back.


    I almost met you there--was driving past, thinking the same annoyed thoughts about the traffic AND how hungry I was and almost pulled over. Sorry I missed you (AND the pastor!!)
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #107 - February 16th, 2011, 8:49 pm
    Post #107 - February 16th, 2011, 8:49 pm Post #107 - February 16th, 2011, 8:49 pm
    laikom wrote:Today is saturday, perhaps it's time to ACTUALLY get their campechano done the right way. That coupled with either barbacoa or birria and i'd be shocked if you don't have a change of heart.


    Alright, for the sake of good sportsmanship, I stopped in last Saturday to try the above mentioned tacos. I ordered one campechano, one barbacoa, one birria. I was gruffly served first the barbacoa, then the birria a few minutes later. While expecting the third taco was still to come, I overheard the grill man (not the skinnier, much friendlier guy that usually takes my order) explain in Spanish that they were out of chorizo when someone ordered campechano. They were served the pastor/asada mix. And btw, asada was coming out of the sixth pan and pastor off the griddle. The trompo looked hours from charred.
    Back to the tacos, not bad. Barbacoa was good, fatty, on par with Pasadita. Birria was tender but under seasoned, so I grabbed the salt shaker. Granted this may be the closest birria to my crib, but in this great goat town, I am willing to go the extra mile for the good stuff.
    The guy next to me ordered three Tacos Tierra Caliente and wanting my third taco I followed suit. The menu explained the taco as asada with grilled onions and spicy sauce. I watched the grill man prepare these tacos- hot held asada on the griddle with a fistful of the fine-dice garnish onion, then a few minutes later a squirt or two of the table salsa to finish.
    I see the appeal of this place, an archetypal diamond in the rough. On a weekend afternoon the place was bustling with neighborhood regulars, families, eccentric oldsters, and fellow LTHers, including the affable Jazzfood (it was a pleasure to make his acquaintance that afternoon!)
    Great neighborhood, hell yeah! Neighborhood restaurant, obviously. Just not my favorite tacos in town.
  • Post #108 - February 21st, 2011, 5:43 pm
    Post #108 - February 21st, 2011, 5:43 pm Post #108 - February 21st, 2011, 5:43 pm
    I made a quick stop today to pick up the much lauded pastor tacos. I don't have much to add to the discussion, but the taco was perfect. Great char on the skin, well spiced. I'd be interested in trying more items on the menu, but it'll be hard to resist the charms of the pastor, spinning tauntingly behind the counter.
  • Post #109 - March 2nd, 2011, 5:23 am
    Post #109 - March 2nd, 2011, 5:23 am Post #109 - March 2nd, 2011, 5:23 am
    I've long been on the record as a lover of Tierra Caliente, but yesterday's visit was the Chow Poodle's first. We showed up around 3:30, well after the lunch rush, but everything was excellent as always. Chile rellenos were being made up and fried in the big cauldron they use for carnitas on the weekend and the al pastor was being cut direcly from the spit. The tacos were their ususal excellent selves and the Chow Poodle declared them her favorite in town saying, "I wish every toco joint could have flavor like this."

    Image
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #110 - March 7th, 2011, 1:25 am
    Post #110 - March 7th, 2011, 1:25 am Post #110 - March 7th, 2011, 1:25 am
    I visited Tierra Caliente and Marrakech (directly across) last week and admired my pastor at the former, about which I had a good conversation with the trompomaestro. For this and the atmosphere, I am glad to see the nomination, but will add that from this and other visits, TC is a one-trick burro for me, having never been fully seduced or convinced by the lengua, steak, dry-microwaved tortillas, or chorizo, and having had extremely poor birria (unrendered, with many bone fragments) there on a recent visit.
  • Post #111 - March 7th, 2011, 7:40 am
    Post #111 - March 7th, 2011, 7:40 am Post #111 - March 7th, 2011, 7:40 am
    LTH,

    I've loved Tierra Caliente since it was Carniceria Leon, JeffB has my undying thanks for turning LTHForum on to the place.

    RBI* no more.

    Tierra Caliente, count me a fan!

    *recommended by ignored
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #112 - March 7th, 2011, 9:24 am
    Post #112 - March 7th, 2011, 9:24 am Post #112 - March 7th, 2011, 9:24 am
    I'd love to go there with some of you guys sometime and see what ordering strategy you use. The one time I went, they nuked the tortillas and filled them with rubbery old al pastor from a steam table, then smiled and nodded and handed it to me when I requested fresh. Obviously this place has the approval of LTH as a whole, and I'd sure like to love it as much as the rest of you do, since I'm not sure I've ever had a truly great al pastor anywhere. And one bad experience isn't enough to derail this kind of momentum, nor should it be; perhaps I'm the "exception that proves the rule." But based on my one experience, I can't say I'm a big fan.
    Ronnie said I should probably tell you guys about my website so

    Hey I have a website.
    http://www.sandwichtribunal.com
  • Post #113 - March 7th, 2011, 9:46 am
    Post #113 - March 7th, 2011, 9:46 am Post #113 - March 7th, 2011, 9:46 am
    Went with the wife and a couple of newbies yesterday around 3. Pastor cone was nice and crispy! We had 3 taco's Campucheno, Pastor and one of the Birria Barbacao. The folks we brought live down the street on Division and couldn't believe they had no idea about this place. Everything was great and the Barbacoa was just marvelous. Almost like a pot roast. They were like how did you find this place and replied LTHforum of course!
    Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?...........Louis Armstrong
  • Post #114 - March 7th, 2011, 10:20 am
    Post #114 - March 7th, 2011, 10:20 am Post #114 - March 7th, 2011, 10:20 am
    JimTheBeerGuy wrote:I'd love to go there with some of you guys sometime and see what ordering strategy you use.
    Basic TC ordering strategy.

    (Nutshell: al pastor is best when traffic is slow, carne asada when they are getting slammed, at least as it applies to Carniceria Leon. )
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #115 - March 7th, 2011, 11:06 am
    Post #115 - March 7th, 2011, 11:06 am Post #115 - March 7th, 2011, 11:06 am
    G Wiv wrote:
    JimTheBeerGuy wrote:I'd love to go there with some of you guys sometime and see what ordering strategy you use.
    Basic TC ordering strategy.

    (Nutshell: al pastor is best when traffic is slow, carne asada when they are getting slammed, at least as it applies to Carniceria Leon. )


    My experience with that ordering strategy. I won't rehash, but I'll just say that, like Jim, my attempts to get fresher product were ignored.
  • Post #116 - March 7th, 2011, 4:20 pm
    Post #116 - March 7th, 2011, 4:20 pm Post #116 - March 7th, 2011, 4:20 pm
    I stopped by yesterday around 3pm, as the lunch counter was being cleaned up and shut down. The trompo was still spinning, with a very thin cone of very crusty pork. I asked the guy if he was still serving and he said absolutely, and set me up with a couple of tacos al pastor. Beneath the crusty exterior he shaved off was fatty, rich pork, giving the perfect textural contrast.

    -Dan
  • Post #117 - March 7th, 2011, 8:23 pm
    Post #117 - March 7th, 2011, 8:23 pm Post #117 - March 7th, 2011, 8:23 pm
    Just wanted to add that I've made several trips in the last year to TC thanks to the guidance of this board and have had nothing but success--crispy charred pastor, delicious carne asada, the somewhat elusive chorizo/carnitas campechanos and the wonderfully flavorful birria de chivo. The only think surprising thing to me about this nomination was that it had to be made--as a relative newcomer to LTH, I thought it already WAS a GNR!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #118 - March 7th, 2011, 11:34 pm
    Post #118 - March 7th, 2011, 11:34 pm Post #118 - March 7th, 2011, 11:34 pm
    jhawk1 wrote:Everything was great and the Barbacoa was just marvelous. Almost like a pot roast.

    This is exactly how i describe the barbacoa to people. It's the most unique barbacoa i've had and the best, so tender that it falls apart very easily, yet such huge solid chunks, just like a pot roast or beef stew my mom used to make.
    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 #119 - March 8th, 2011, 7:15 pm
    Post #119 - March 8th, 2011, 7:15 pm Post #119 - March 8th, 2011, 7:15 pm
    My hat's in the ring for Tierra Caliente. Stopped in today to confirm--walked in at 1:15, post-lunch rush. Only one other fellow at the counter; trompo dripping away. A quick slice liberated some crusty pieces into the waiting pan, and thence immediately into what became my tacos, after a hearty smattering of cilantro and onion. Following those glorious treats down my gullet was my first taste of their barbacoa--pot roast is a good start, but this description does not quite do it justice. All in all, it was great, but not as good as the pastor, with its magical blend of char and achiote. Occasionally, I have had tacos/tortas/huaraches al pastor that rival this at Maxwell Street Market, but it's more of a crap shoot there. When I want to impress friends and out-of-towners--and let's face it, myself-- with the beauty of the trompo, I take them here.

    Edit: Ugh, I totally forgot discussion ended yesterday :(
  • Post #120 - March 9th, 2011, 5:52 am
    Post #120 - March 9th, 2011, 5:52 am Post #120 - March 9th, 2011, 5:52 am
    mtgl wrote:Edit: Ugh, I totally forgot discussion ended yesterday :(


    Discussion never stops on LTH Forum. That's what we're here for. Only discussion as it relates to the GNRs ended yesterday.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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