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June 16, 2006

Taqueria Puebla

Dominic Armato
Well, it wasn't a stated goal in January, but 2006 has inadvertently become the year of the taqueria for me.

To be clear, I'm not complaining. Over the past few months, I've come to the realization that, given the number of fantastic taquerias that are everywhere in this city, it's completely inexcuseable how little I know about cheap, casual Mexican. As such, I've been spending a great deal of time tearing through the menu at one of my local joints, Arturo's Tacos (more later), I recently gave the tiny, smoky, east side of Ashland incarnation of La Pasadita a try, and today I popped into my first official (if informal) LTH outing at the recently nominated for a Great Neighborhood Restaurant Award establishment, Taqueria Puebla.

Unsurprisingly, given the source of the recommendation, both the grub and the company were supremely enjoyable. I sat down with Mike and Gary, and we broke bread. We had a nice, long, lazy lunch, shared some grub, shared some stories, talked food and other things, and generally had a really nice time. And any day when I can try three tasty new foodstuffs for the first time is a good day in my book.

Above you see their Cemita Milanesa, an exceptionally tasty little sandwich built around a thin, crispy breaded and fried cutlet of what I believe is pork. This was my first cemita of any kind, so I have no idea what constitutes a typical cemita, but I have to believe this is a particularly good one. The milanesa itself is really nice... a little chewy, but not too much, nice and crisp, lightly seasoned and tasty. It's topped with a layer of guacamole, a couple of whole, tender chipotle chiles in a tart adobo, a pile of shredded fresh cheese (queso Oaxaca, I'm told), a healthy dose of an herb I couldn't identify (Gary did, but I didn't catch it), and the whole thing is served up on a crispy, crusty, griddled sesame bun. All in all, it's a beautifully constructed sandwich... each of the ingredients prepared with care, and all of them working in harmony. I look forward to trying some of the others cemita incarnations, of which there are many.

Dominic Armato
However, as much as I enjoyed the cemita, I adored the chalupas. They couldn't be any simpler, but they're absolutely fantastic. The texture of TP's chalupas is more than excellent, perfectly light and crispy. They're simply topped with a bit of salsa, some minced fresh onion and a healthy crumble of fresh cheese. These are not to be missed.

I also sampled a taco arabe, another first, but at the time I was a little engrossed in conversation and didn't give it my full attention. Suffice it to say that it was quite delicious and I'll be paying closer attention next time. I've been trying to avoid straying too far while I work through the menu at my local joint, but Taqueria Puebla is only about 10-15 minutes down the road, and it's going to be very difficult to stay focused on Arturo's... especially considering that TP is such a friendly little joint run by folks who seem to care greatly about their food and are anxious to please. This is a great spot, and I'll be back shortly. I haven't had dinner. Maybe right now.

Update - March 7th, 2007
To better reflect the menu item for which they've become known (or perhaps to avoid confusion with another Chicago taqueria that uses "puebla" in its name), Taqueria Puebla has now changed its name to Cemitas Puebla.

Cemitas Puebla
3619 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL


Yum, just tried this place last night after reading about it here and on LTH. Quite possibly my favorite Mexican place in this whole city now, and that says a lot, having beat out all three Pasaditas and the Maxwell Street Market. Thanks for the pics and recommendation!

I only wish it was a little more convenient to my house, but at least it's closer to Wrigleyville than it is to Baltimore! :)

The tasty herb in the cemita is named "papalo quelite" and it is topped not with guacamole, but just aguacate, salt and olive oil.

Thanks for the clarification, Jose!

I take it the distinction between the aguacate mix and guacamole would be the lack of onion and citrus, then? I appreciate the simpler mix on this sandwich. A more aggressive guacamole would be distracting, I think.

I just saw this place featured on the Food Network last night - looks like you're ahead of the curve.

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