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Dry Beef (Cecina)

  • g

I have recently become addicted to the dry beef at Veloz (1745 W. Chicago). I am very puzzle by this meat. It is thinly sliced, fairly wide strips of beef. The meat is grilled and doesn't seem to be very seasoned. Possibly with some lime. It is also not exceptionally dry (but a bit tough). I was expecting something with a more beef jerky-like consistancy based on the name, but Veloz's dry beef isn't that dry. But damn, it's good. You can really taste the flavor of the beef, and, with some cilantro and onion, it's pretty close to a perfect taco (in my opinion).

I have two questions:
1) Can anyone give me more info on this dish. Why is it called "dry beef?" How is it prepared? Is it specific to a region of Mexico?
2) More importantly, are there other restaurants in Chicago that have good dry beef? I'm very content with Veloz, but I'd like to try different versions.
Thanks
Geoff

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  1. There actually have been some threads on this, and I am embarrassed that I can neither refer you to them, or remember the details to pass them on, but I do know this.

    The famous La Quebrada, at 4859 W. Roosevelt in Cicero, and 51st and California in Chicago has a number of preparations. Their Cesina Estilo Ahuehuepan is particularly nice, and fun to say. And I enjoyed Cesina/Cecina prepared a few different ways in Oaxaca, recently. Just from observation, I would guess it is prepared across a broad section of southern Mexico, Guerrero and Oaxaca at least, but as I said, I am sure someone can provide more specific info.

    Having read lots about La Quebrada, I finally went with my wife a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed it so much we went back this week. Excellent. So far we have worked our way through Picaditas (excellent, subtly but richly spiced, lovely thick bread base, but I could do with less sour cream), Huaraches con Tinga de Pollo (very nice overall, well flavored meat, tasty sauce, but the huaraches were greasy), Cesina Ahuehuepan (salty meat, grilled to perfection, combination pico de gallo/nopale salad makes a blissful counterpoint - this is a magnificant dish), Filete al Mojo de Ajo (lightly breaded, fried fillet, covered with small bits of crunchy, browned garlic in a butter sauce - Mexico meets Provence?).

    However, the second time we went, one of the young ladies took our order (not the fellow who seems to be in charge) and the previously noted festival of mis-communication ensued. I ordered Carne San Luis, grilled steak with arbol sauce, cheese and nopales. It was all very good, crispy and chewy scored steak, pleasantly sauced, large pepper and chunk of cheese. My wife ordered Pechuga Surena - chicken breast with peppers and sour cream, by pointing and I said Surena, and the young lady nodded. Out came Pierna de Pollo San Luis, which is a fascinating dish in its own right - boned and pounded chicken leg, slightly marinated and grilled, served with exactly the same sides as my Carne. And listed just below Pechuga Surena on the menu. We discussed it with the help, and she ended up keeping the dish (my good fortune, as she hardly touched it, and it was great reheated with a bit of fresh lime juice to liven it up, and some salsa on the side). She went by the old, and oft discussed rationale, that if the dish is a deal, it is unfair to the restaurant to send it back. Plus we will go back again. The last main course was a Combinacion Azteca, which while listed under chicken, is a hearty stew of chicken, sausage, cesina, and cactus, in a tangy red, molcajete sauce. I did not get a taste, but my friend declared it delightful.

    And the thick, almost bready, fresh tortillas are very enjoyable. Something about them put me in mind of pancakes. Next time I think I will order something more heavily sauced so I can dip my tortillas.

    I had occasion to go to a mediocre, pretentious and overpriced steakhouse recently (Sullivans by name), and I have to say that if I am not going to the top flight steakhouses (Mortons is my preference, but I know Gibsons and some others fall into this category) for an overpriced, artery-clogging experience, I would prefer to get my grilled steak at La Quebrada. Certainly better in almost every way than say, Outback.

    And, to come full circle, you can get Cecina/Cesina prepared 40 ways, by itself and in everything from taces to stews.

    d

    4 Replies
    1. re: dickson d

      Your wife got lucky. Pechuga Surena is not one of their better dishes! Think I'll try the Pollo San Luis next time.

      1. re: dickson d

        Sorry. A little late reading this thread but on a recent drive through Aurora I noticed what may be a closer west suburban outpost of La Quebrada in Aurora. Haven't had time to try it yet though.

        La Quebrada
        723 S Broadway, Aurora, IL
        Phone: (630) 896-2535

        1. re: dickson d

          Try the Cecina at Condesa number 2 at Ashland and Augusta ave. I have been to Quebrada and had the Cecina, I think Condesa is better, and they have the best hand made toritllas from the kitchen, always fresh there. Low and behold they are from the same town Guerrera, Mexico and Quebrada owner is the Uncle of the owner of Condesa chain ( There are three of them ) so the food is close, but give it a try and compare. I am hooked on Cecina, I am a former Carne Asada lover which i still like and Lomo too.

          We like Nuevo Leon on 18th, El Barrco on Ashland, great pasilla salsa, La Quinta de las Reyes in Berywn ( They make table Roja or Verde salsa besides making the table side guacomole, and new this year La Casa de Samuel in Chicago, was really great food,wife had quesadillas con huitlacoche and squash blossoms in the other I had their cecina was excellent and the Del Rey factory dropped of the masa and the woman made the tortillas up front on the comal talk about fresh.

          I am born Southern California so eating good Mexican since 5 years old, in my blood.

          What i need help on is cooking the proper Cecina I have tried last week, did not come out as good as i get out. I did lime juice, small oil, jalepeno's and tiny garlic on it.

          I need help to cook it the proper way. Easy to buy the meat it is all over in the Mercado's.

          Cheers, Garrito

          1. re: Garrito

            I hope you have tried the Cecina de Venado (venison) at La Casa de Samuel 2834 W. Cermak -- my favorite dish there.

        2. Yes, that is the taco I always ate at Rico McTacos.

          Cecina.

          jason

          1. You mentioned the tacos, but have you tried the Cecina Estilo Veloz or the Cazador Veloz at Taco Veloz? They are cecina heaven and make for hugely satisfying meals, each under 8 dollars.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jim

              I've tried the Cecina Estilo Veloz (excellent), but never had the Cazador Veloz. I know what's for dinner tonight. Thanks.

            2. Wow, this is an old post!
              You can find cecina tacos at a large majority of "full menu" Mexican taquerias and restaurants. The basic taco & burrito joints do not usually carry them...perhaps due to a lower demad. Personally, cecina is far too lean for me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: amoncada

                Does anyone know where I can by Oaxacan cecina, which is dried pork. All the cecina in Chicago that I have been able to find is beef which in Oaxaca is called tasajo.