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Jun 26, 2008 03:31 PM

The Mejia brothers and their Morelia-style "gaspacho"

I thought that I had posted on this before and searched high and low through the archives for it. Someone then reminded me that I had sent the first notice out in summer 2006 only to my email list and sent me back a copy of that original email. I am copying the entire email below and include an interesting response to it made by Zim. The brothers no longer operate on the ne corner of Touhy and Clark as they did then, but could be found M-F up to early afternoon in front of the Mega Mall in Rogers Park. By 4 p.m. every day of the week (M-Su), Antonio and Victor Mejia would have moved the cart to the sw corner of Morse and Clark where they maintain the rather elaborate set-up which I will describe below. Last summer (2007), another brother, Manuel, ran a third location in Albany Park, on the sidewalk just e of the Kimball Brown Line station, but Manuel's wife is pregnant and he is back in Mexico at the moment and is unlikely to return before the end of the season.

The business deal made with Norka of Cafe Salamera obviously did not work out at all. She ended up selling the business to the lovely owners-warm and wonderful folks!-of what is now Masouleh. Here's hoping that the restless Nori was happy with how it all ended up.

I stopped by Morse last week to say hello and for the "gaspacho" (spelled with an "s" here). Victor prepared this one-with the same precision and care that I described observing in Antonio in the email. Traditionally, this specialty of Morelia (Michoacan) is made with the fine dice of the classic trio of jicama, pineapple and mango (or just jicama with one of the fruits) although it is not unusual to see people requesting a dice of cantaloupe or other fruits to be added in as well. The quality of the dice, both its fineness (no more than about 1/4 ") and its evenness is essential. The brothers squeeze their own orange juice (the small sour ones when in season), and prepare their own chile powder (from guajillo I was told). There is in addition a home-prepared chile sauce (made from arbol and lime juice I was told) that is used to amp up the heat if desired. Even the powdered cheese (of the cotija type) is obviously chosen with care. Because of the popularity of this stall and the volume of business that they do in the summer, one of the women is dedicated to just chopping cilantro and onion (4-5 members of the family man the small cart!) The chopping surfaces and all the work areas are kept meticulously clean and as has been the case for years, the fruit preparers always put on disposable gloves before working with food. In addition, they have managed to rent out a water source this year by extending a very long hose from a nearby house to use for general washing and to leave the sidewalk absolutely spotless after they leave.

Halfway through preparing the gaspacho, Victor or Antonio will hand you a tniy spoonful so that the mixture could be calibrated to your taste (more salt? more lime juice?, more heat?) The end result is a quite astonishing thing: a refreshing hot weather soup-fruity, savory, spicy-that contains none of the classic ingredients associated with any of the many peninsular versions of gazpacho (tender almonds, olive oil, bread, tomato etc), but is clearly reminiscent of it: a purely Mexican riff on the Andalucian idea.

I discovered recently that "Morelia-style gaspacho" (written out this exact way) was, quite implausibly, served as part of the White House menu (along with cranberry jello and other good things) last Thanksgiving (2007)!!! Whatever: gaspacho makes a delicious starter for a summertime supper. A tub of it (the brothers sell two sizes: $6 or $8) could also be divided into shooters to serve as a very stylish and unique appetizer for a summertime party.

The cocteles (cokteles) de frutas ($7 a brimming cupful-choose from a vast range of choice fruits: cucumber, coconut, Altamirano mangoes etc) prepared at this stall is top-notch-without any equal anywhere else in the city-either among ambulant fruit vendors or even compared to storefront businesses that offer this summertime treat. I am referring to the dozens of Mexican ice cream shops or paleterias throughout the city that also offer coktel de frutas (sometimes presliced and then kept in cooler) in the summer e.g. a shop on Irving Park around Rockwell (?), or the helados place on the 56th block of S Kedzie. When the Mejia brothers occupied the old Salamera space, they specialized only in fruits and drinks: aguas frescas, cokteles and licuados featuring very Mexican combinations of fruits and vegetables, often bearing fantasy names ("vampiros" etc), similar to the superb pina/apio/nopales licuado I had in Iguala last year or the blood red beet/orange juice that could be had in the main plaza in Xalapa right by the woman who sells tacos de tortitas de acelga (I buzzed like the Everready bunny after THAT drink!). We are now seeing more of this specialized type of business-so specialized in fact that the few token snacks also offered seem like afterthoughts, and not serious attempts at "product diversification". Cokteles de fruta has also in its own way crossed over and is now offered even in non-Mexican-owned business such as at the new Tiztal (sp?) Cafe on Clark, n of Montrose.

For sheer excellence at what they do, I would rank the Mejias' stall among the very very best Mexican streetfood businesses to be found anywhere in Chicago on a par with Manolo's/Rubi's at Maxwell Street Market, whose tacos I once called (in old posts from 2002) the greatest tacos to be found anywhere in the US (do a CH search using words like "greatest" + "tacos" + "Chicago"). I still stand by that claim BTW and after all these years have not found any taco anywhere quite comparable to these. Another excellent Mexican streetfood business, though very different in character, is the rambling, disorganized so-called double maroon/blue vans business (search the dozens of old posts on this//I need to write update on the extended family that run these vans one of these days) with its delicious and unusual tamales nejos (go to the blue van for this) or atole de ciruelas (maroon van's is better).

Other very good fruit carts that offer coktel de fruta/gaspacho include one on Montrose, as well as the one located at the corner of Thome (which is one block n of Granville) and Clark, right outside Kitty Moon. This cart is run by the owners of El Gallito Mexicano (one business n of Kitty Moon//they're from Ciudad Hidalgo) which makes delicious regional specialties (barbacoa de borrego, carnitas) but which has been closed for three+ weeks now bec of a plumbing problem which the landlord has chosen not to tackle yet. It's very good gaspacho (at $4/$6/$8) but not quite on the level of the Mejias'.

Of course Zim was quite right in his response when he pointed out that I was underestimating the number of summertime street food businesses. On a recent ride south on the Kimball bus on a weekday afternoon, I counted no less than 12 carts between Diversey and North (and this is not even including the carts on Milwaukee, Armitage etc). A recent weekday afternoon survey of 26th street yielded a count of 20+ vendors: eloteros (who double as esquite vendors in the winter), paleteros, those who make diablitos/chamoyadas (the best of which is Senor Guadalupe from a town near Xalapa, more on him some other time on a separate post: he deserves it), boys who sell bags of home-fried potato chips (bottle of chile sauce on hand to dress your chips), the sellers of "prepared" chicharron, then the Mexican hotdog sidewalk grills. East of Cremeria Santa Maria, the sidewalks are dominated by aguas frescas specialists offering a large range of juices: pepino, tamarindo etc even homemade tepache (with the pineapple still floating inside) in the case of one vendor at I think Sawyer (?). On weekends, this number increases with the addition of vendors of homemade sweet breads or tamales (specially in the late afternoon)! Beyond La Villita, there's Lawrence, Montrose, stretches of Armitage/ North/Fulleton, Cermak, S. California, South Kedzie, S. Ashland, diff stretches of 47th, 51st, 59th, 63rd etc, the parks, the football fields etc But all of this is best left for a separate discussion on another day...


-----Original Message-----
> Sent: Wed, 27 Dec 2006 10:37 PM
> Subject: Norka and fruit vendors
> Of the dozens and dozens of street food vendors in
> Rogers Park, one of my favorites, summer after
> summer, is the fruit stand called Fantastic #1. Ran
> by the Mejia family (today, Antonio was manning the
> cart at the corner of Touhy and Clark, and brother
> Victor was at Morse and Clark, just north of Dona
> Lolis), this is one of the best of the Mexican fruit
> stands in the entire city, which boasts at least 8
> on the stretch of Clark St just south of Howard
> alone this afternoon! (If one estimates another 12
> or so such vendors on 26th between say California
> and Pulaski, plus one in many of the parks
> frequented by Mexicans, one might imagine as many as
> 50 in the city on any given Sunday afternoon in the
> summer.) There is one reason why they stand apart
> from the rest: scrupulous attention to details and
> the sheer quality of the fruits that they serve-the
> crunchiest jicamas, sweet mangoes from Altamirano,
> Michoacan whenever possible, the best coconuts from
> Acapulco. Each fruit is swiftly and precisely
> chopped using razor-sharp knives and then carefully
> arranged in a plastic cup before being dressed with
> chili powder and lime juice. The Mejia brothers
> come from Zitacuaro, Michoacan, which I have written
> about extensively online after my visit in early
> 2003 (Diane Kennedy lives in the mountains outside
> Zitacuaro), but it is the vendors of the famous
> cocteles de frutas of the capital city of Morelia
> that they are trying to emulate. Even more
> specifically associated with Morelia is the
> so-called gaspacho (or gazpacho) which can be
> related to its Andalucian namesake only through the
> loosest association. It was fascinating to watch
> Antonio prepare the fine dice of fruits in the
> gaspacho I ordered, which in this case, consists of
> a classic combination of mango, pineapple, jicama,
> although most Mexicans will request other fruits
> (cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber etc) to make up
> preferred combinations. Thin perfect rounds of
> pineapple are sliced off in one easy stroke before
> being chopped finer. Mangoes, skewered on a stick,
> have their two plump ends sliced off before the pit
> (and the bit of fruit clinging to it) is presented
> to the client to nibble on-an anticipatory lagniappe
> to keep him distracted and happy. The juice of two
> small oranges is pressed right into the cup of diced
> fruits, while Antonio slowly stirs in a sprinking of
> chili powder. The movements are slow and meticulous
> and reminded me of a great bartender stirring a
> martini into being; like an engaging bartender,
> Antonio keeps up a banter, takes orders, explains
> his creations. The juice of two limes, cebolla, cilantro,
> salt go in as well. Cheese of the cotija sort
> finishes the fruit "soup".
> While chitchatting with me today, Antonio casually
> mentioned that they have just moved to a storefront
> recently-within the last 15 days or so (I was asking
> him what the family does for a living in the
> winter). He told me that the shop is located on
> North Shore and Clark ("las muchachas estan alli" he
> is referring to the wives). But that drew a blank
> from me until he said that the space is quite
> beautiful and used to be a Peruvian restaurant!!!!
> It turns out that Norka of Cafe Salamera had
> established a partnership with them at the
> storefront that she had so carefully refurbished at
> great expense. She would have forfeited a lot if
> she had turned back on her lease and this seems to
> be her best way forward. What a shock! So this is
> what she is up to now!
> ***
> Reply from Zim:
> thanks for the update on Norka, I'm hoping that she
> and the Mejia brothers are more successful with the
> new place than salamera was.
> It's interesting about the mango pit being given out
> -
> In India, the flesh around the pit (in hindi
> "gutli")
> for eating mangos (as opposed to those you just suck
> the juice out of) is the most prized piece. You
> mention that they try to source mangos from
> altamirano
> - what variety are these?
> As far as fruit vendors, yes there are a number
> along
> clark, but it pales to the variety down 26th street,
> last time I was down there in the summer for jury
> duty
> I am sure that the number was upwards of 20 - though
> I've never thought to do a comparative tasting.

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  1. Thank you. A most valuable post. I plan on visiting, tomorrow.

    1. Just to be clear, after 4 pm, they're at Morse and Clark? "Would have" makes it sound like they did so in the past.

      1. Greetings, Richard, it's so nice to see one of your long and amazing posts here again. I look forward to hearing more about chamoyadas. :-)

        Re: estilo Morelia: Is it your impression that the Michoacanos are mostly on the north side of Chicago (carnitas specialists aside)?

        10 Replies
        1. re: Amata

          Hi Pete,
          Sorry for the confusion. They were very precise when they gave me times for each location but I didn't take notes and could not be sure after the fact (while writing the post) if they said up to 2 across from Mega Mall and then at Morse after that. That's why I hedged a bit by saying "would be at Morse by 4". As a matter of fact, I found them early Sunday afternoon (perhaps at 1?) at Morse (they are not at Mega Mall on weekends). At any rate, I think the info the way I have worded it is reliable.

          Hi Amata,
          Haha. I know you have a "special" interest in chamoyadas ;0) You need to tell me however if that tiny tiny ice cream place about a block from you that makes homemade stuff is still there and is still offering chamoyadas or have they gone out of business?

          Re: Michoacanos in Rogers Park

          No, they are everywhere but there is a notable concentration of folks from Ciudad Hidalgo and nearby areas in this part of Chicago as I have noted in old posts from 2002/3 (see for instance the post on monarch butterflies//but also see the posts I made while travelling through Ciudad Hidalgo). This is specially evident in the names of businesses (e.g. Taximaroa which is the ancient name of Ciudad Hidalgo) but also the kinds of food items advertised informally (on a hand-written piece of paper taped to the window) here and there: e.g. "tenemos corundas con puerco en salsa verde"

          1. re: RST

            Hi Richard,

            no, unfortunately that tiny ice cream place is gone (as you sadly predicted a while back, their business plan was not workable...). The only storefront place I know of for chamoyadas is that paleteria down in Brighton Park (Tropicale, on Archer near Kedzie), where they spell it chamollada, as I recall. I remember you didn't like the ice cream there all that much, though.

            1. re: Amata

              Richard, thanks. I am taking my daughter up to Argyle tomorrow so we will search it out while there. Sounds SOOOO delicious. Particularly since it is supposed to be nearly 90 tomorrow.

              1. re: Amata

                Hi Amata,
                That's too bad!

                Chamoyada is not necessarily always listed or advertised but it is assumed to be available at any helado/raspado business (in the same way that condiments like catsup/mustard are assumed at any burger place). When a separate list is made (and posted on the wall, or in front of a cart) it is usually in order to highlight/present a list of the nieves among all those available that are appropriate for chamoyada (i.e. nieves de agua-typically of the sourer fruits-and not de leche). Such lists could for instance be found on all three Mexican ice cream places on the 5000-6000 stretch of S. Kedzie (Tropicana at 5646, Sweet Designs in the 5200 block, and the Duranguense place that I will mention below). If I have time later this week, maybe I will put together a post on chamoyada! (Also more on the helados place cross from Cemitas China Poblana later.)

                Places that specialize in helados/nieves (and derivative forms: diablitos, chamoyadas, glorias etc) and those that specialize in coctel de fruta/aguas frescas/licuados (plus derivative forms such as "bionicos" which is the popular "fantasy name" for coctel de fruta topped with yogurt, granola, honey) might also offer items from a third kind of business: the gelatina/flan makers. Or these summertime sweets might be offered in the context of a cafe (espresso etc), or of a pastry/cake shop, or even be found next to a taqueria (take care of your jonesing for tacos AND helados in the same trip.) There are many permutations, and examples can be given of each: e.g. for a juices + breakfast place, see Mary's Lemonade on 51st; for juices + helados + tacos, check out the hidden Chaparrita #1 on 25th/Whipple, which incidentally is the only place in the entire city to offer the true D.F. style tacos de fritangas-prepared in the typical charola etc. Arandas-there's one on 47th-also has it but does not have quite the full exact range of the typical D.F. fillings: suadero (true suadero). sweetbread, chorizo and longaniza, and so on (Chaparrita #2 on 5957 S. Kedzie doesn't have this but offers delightful D.F. style tacos de canasta and tacos al vapor.)

                In general snacks at such places are of the simplest reheatable sort: hot dogs perhaps or (cold) tortas de jamon. Occasionally however, one might stumble on spectacular homemade items made on an irregular basis perhaps by an aunt or a grandmother, or by the hired help who is from a different region, and can make something special (remember the Syrian woman who made Middle-eastern spinach pies at Wikstrom's?) and sold on the side: tamales, for instance or a splendid jericalla.

                An example of an ice cream business hiding not just one regional item but in fact a small "secret menu" of regional specialties could be found at 5141 S. Kedzie. The business card (postcard) quite hilariously lists it as 5141 S. Kekzy-so collectors of misspelled menus do rush down to get a copy! The misspelling made me realize that in fact Kekzy is how my Mexican friends tend to hear and pronounce this street (casca!)

                The ice cream at "Cafe-Chocolate Ice Cream" (this is the formal name) is neither homemade or even Mexican: the product is Edy's and signs offer coke floats, banana splits, milkshake etc. A list of "desayunos" offer chilaquiles, huevos al gusto, nachos con queso, hamburgers con papas etc. Another list however lists

                "Gorditas y Burros estilo Durango"

                tiny delicate handmade gorditas (smaller than the gorditas of the Bajio) or burritos (homemade flour tortillas; small logs-nothing at all like your north-of-the-border burritos) stuffed with

                -Chile pasado con queso (remember this special kind of dried chile? the chile vendor from Maxwell Street gave you a bag of this when we visited a couple of years ago)
                -Cuajada con rajas
                -Requeson con rajas
                -carne deshebrada (very typical filling from the north!!!)
                -picadillo (rojo o verde)
                -chicharron prensado

                In addition "menudo con grano estilo Durango" could be had on weekends!


                Incidentally, there is also another gaspacho vendor not too far away on the NW corner of 51st and Kedzie (across from Brisas del Mar). The coctel de fruta/gaspacho is average-to-good, not great, but the cart is worth mentioning bec it lists (on front of cart) two variant forms: "caldo de oso" (like a gaspacho, but made only with jicama and sometimes also pepino: the name almost certainly does not mean "bear soup" but comes from "caldo de huesos") and "chalupas" (cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise, seeds scooped out, doused with lime AND cane vinegar, salt, chile etc).

                Very nice area of town, lots of little gems. Don Pan might be the very best panaderia in the whole city: the concha is as good as the one at Lacteos Sta. Maria.


                P.S. A wonderful new place opened up about 4 days ago that I think you/A and L will like a lot. It's slightly w of one of my favorite places El Cabrito on Cermak (across from Our Lady of Tepeyac). The sign isn't even up yet: but there is a hand-written piece of paper on the window for "Cheli's". The owner is from Michoacan (near Maravatio) but the chief cook Sra. Graciela is from Axochiapan, Morelos (an hour or so from Puebla; which the Puebla sphere of influence) which is the exact town Maxi from the old Kappy's came from. The menu lists guaxmole de espinazo, tamales de pescado, mixiote de pollo. Tortillas are hechas a mano of course (as is usual for Chicago) so making the jump to offering tlacoyos de requeson like Maxi's isn't that big a jump and I urged them to DO include it!!! They offer a daily special as comida casera and Graciela will even pack up a pre-ordered "lonche" for you and open the door at 4 a.m. for pick-up. Hurry on down!

                1. re: RST

                  Richard, thanks (as always) for generously sharing your "discoveries". I'm particularly intrigued by the Duranguense burros and the brand new Cheli's. It'd be great to have a place that could fill the gap left by Kappy's...

                  1. re: Amata

                    If you go, mention that "Ricardo" sent you and they will know what you are looking for (tlacoyos and other goodies!)

                    While replying to a thread on the Mexico Board, I remembered yet another variant form of the coctel de fruta: the escamocha. Here is a definition of Jalisco-style escamocha from the book Sabor Que Somos:

                    Las escamochas
                    Una de las especialidades tradicionales de los subterráneos son las escamochas. A simple vista podrían confundirse con un cóctel de frutas común. Sin embargo, tiene algunas particularidades que las distinguen claramente. La
                    escamocha está preparada básicamente con pequeños trozos de piña, papaya, sandía, plátano y guayabas que se disponen en una capa de vidrio transparente. Como «adorno», llevan una mínima porción de melón, ciruela, manzana o mango,
                    según la temporada. Rubén Mosqueda, experto en preparar escamochas, dice que la combinación de estas cinco frutas básicas es la que le da personalidad a la escamocha. «No es echarle cualquier fruta que encuentres». A diferencia del coctel de frutas tradicional al que se le suele añadir
                    jarabe dulce, la escamocha es condimentada con limón, jugo de naranja, sal y azúcar. «El secreto es la preparación», dice Mosqueda, «y si se pasa de algo ya no sirvió». La combinación del ácido del limón, tan apreciado por los tapatíos,
                    con el azúcar y la sal, otorga a la escamocha una peculiaridad que difícilmente se encuentra en preparaciones similares.
                    Junto con las escamochas, las refresquerías ofrecen todo tipo de jugos.

                    (Quick recap: pineapple, watermelon, papaya, banana and guava-five specific items-dressed with lime juice-sometimes also orange juice, salt, sugar)

                    Escamochas are available are various helados/nieves places around town e.g. El Sabor de Michoacan at 3320 W. 55th


                    I really wanted to concentrate on this thread on coctel de frutas and variant/derivative forms but drifted off into discussing helados/nieves (I am trying not to get too involved in discussing raspados/glorias/chamoyadas/diablitos so that I could devote a whole thread to it). Since I've gone off-topic this far, I might as well quickly add two more historical notes on Mexican ice cream in Chicago:

                    1.) Heladerias/Neverias do not necessarily always coincide with paleterias. The modern-style "clean, well-lighted" ice cream places (Tropicana in Brighton Park, El Sabor de Michoacan on 55th, Flamingos etc) also offer their own paletas (de agua as well as de leche, in broad-ranging flavors: nanche, zarzamora, chamoy, tequila, coco, guayaba, grosella, rompope, nuez, jamaica, diablitos etc). They will also dip the paletas in chocolate (and add sprinkles of choice) to make esquimales. El Sabor de Michoacan also offers tiny tiny mini-paletas for .35 each.

                    But the traditional neighborhood paleteria is really a wholesaler-you can buy a single piece directly at the location-but most of the product is sold by ambulant street vendors who rent out the ice cream carts or are otherwise subcontracted to sell paletas for a commission. This is important: paleterias define the limits of each one of our Mexican neighborhoods-there isn't a SINGLE one that is not anchored by a paleteria. Rogers Park has one, and the carts carrying that name ply the area-crisscross/traverse the residential streets of its neighborhoods. Albany Park has one in that paleteria on Lawrence and is it Sacramento? There's Ayutla on the 2500 S block of Western. There's one on the 2500 S block of Pulaski. And dozens of others. The only exception is Humbolt Park, which curiously doesn't have a paleteria but has the phenomenon of the competing (seemingly all independent) helados de coco/fresa/limon carts on Milwaukee. I worte about this once before in my old post on Senor Bruno (always on the corner of Milwaukee/Kimball/Diversey) and his superlative helado de coco.

                    2.) Mexican ice cream places in the south side are an extension of the south side tradition of italian ice. Not only do they serve the same social function (family destination in the summertime etc) as the old italian ice places but often they take over the very physical spaces those old businesses were located in e.g. ice cream shack on Cermak about 3-4 blocks e of Damen etc etc

                    1. re: RST

                      Richard, thanks, I didn't know anything about escamochas at all, I'll keep an eye out for them now.

                      I really like the idea of the mini-paletas! There are always so many flavors that I want to try...

                      I know what you mean about the paleteria places as wholesalers. Last summer L and I stopped in at the one on Kedzie across from Cermak Produce (another one serving Albany Park) and the proprietor was startled to see us. It was really more a staging area for all the little carts. He also wanted to make sure I understood that the paleta I was ordering (pepino) was picante... :-) (L, boringly, just had an ice cream sandwich.)

                      Regarding the convergence of Italian ice places and nieves, I agree. I miss Cafe Frieda in my neighborhood, which served Italian ice in various flavors catering to Mexican tastes. And have you been to Dave's Italian Ice on 18th St? I believe the proprietor there is not Mexican but has adapted to the changing neighborhood with coco, tamarindo, etc.

                      1. re: Amata

                        Dave's on 18th! Yes, how could I have forgotten that place!

                        Maybe helados/nieves places DO deserve a separate post: there's so much more to say about it and its presence in Chicago.

                        The tiny ice cream carts in Humboldt Park (and throughout the city) almost all offer helados/nieves de garrafa (made in the traditional hand-churn). All of the "modern" ice cream places make it with machines-which means nothing of course: Los Dos Polos in Coatepec, Veracruz (one of my benchmarks for great ice cream-and possibly the finest ice cream in all North America) I am sure makes it in a machine but what ice creams!!! The usual flavors at the nieves de garrafa carts are coco (most common, fresa, limon (usually dyed green for effect), perhaps mamey. Most local makers use a syrup or frozen fruit pulp (it's easy to tell right away from the bright perky very forward flavor), Senor Bruno might be the only one who grinds his own coconuts to make ice. A couple of years ago, Heather asked for recommendations for a Chicago street food issue and I auggested Bruno. Not only did she feature his picture in the magazine, she also went back to give him a copy of that issue. I could tell that he was very proud of the fact. If you are reading this Heather, godblessyou for that kind gesture!

                  2. re: RST

                    RST wrote:
                    "An example of an ice cream business hiding not just one regional item but in fact a small "secret menu" of regional specialties could be found at 5141 S. Kedzie. The business card (postcard) quite hilariously lists it as 5141 S. Kekzy-so collectors of misspelled menus do rush down to get a copy! The misspelling made me realize that in fact Kekzy is how my Mexican friends tend to hear and pronounce this street (casca!)

                    The ice cream at "Cafe-Chocolate Ice Cream" (this is the formal name) is neither homemade or even Mexican: the product is Edy's and signs offer coke floats, banana splits, milkshake etc. A list of "desayunos" offer chilaquiles, huevos al gusto, nachos con queso, hamburgers con papas etc. Another list however lists

                    "Gorditas y Burros estilo Durango"

                    tiny delicate handmade gorditas (smaller than the gorditas of the Bajio) or burritos (homemade flour tortillas; small logs-nothing at all like your north-of-the-border burritos) stuffed with

                    -Chile pasado con queso (remember this special kind of dried chile? the chile vendor from Maxwell Street gave you a bag of this when we visited a couple of years ago)
                    -Cuajada con rajas
                    -Requeson con rajas
                    -carne deshebrada (very typical filling from the north!!!)
                    -picadillo (rojo o verde)
                    -chicharron prensado

                    In addition "menudo con grano estilo Durango" could be had on weekends!"
                    Richard, thanks for this post. The A/A/L team went there for a late lunch today and we loved it. They've been open about a month. It's a tiny spot -- only two tables plus a few stools along a counter.

                    We ordered one of each type of burrito listed on the chalkboard: requeson con rajas, cuajada con rajas, chile pasado con queso, carne deshebrada, and picadillo (we went with rojo, didn't sample the verde). Probably two of these compact burritos would be a good lunch serving per person. (We ended up with 6 altogether for two eaters, L opting for a hot dog (!)) I especially liked the slightly smoky taste of the chile pasado. And the cantaloupe agua fresca I had was excellent, too.

                    Oh, also a chamoyada for dessert... :-)

                    The women running the place are terrifically friendly and we had a nice chat about the food and ingredients (many brought in from Durango weekly). We asked about the chicharron prensado (pig skin with meat, pressed and dried) that you mentioned in your post and they realized they had left it off the chalkboard that day. To remedy the situation they brought out spoonfuls for us to taste (all we could manage after eating all the other burritos!) It was delicious and we'll have to get back again soon to have it in a gordita or burrito. They also encouraged us to come back for the menudo, available, as you noted, on Saturday and Sunday. But for the menudo you have to get there early: they said it sells out by 10 am.

                    Cafe-Chocolate Ice Cream
                    5141 S Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60632

                    1. re: Amata

                      Menudo con grano (a passable version, not as good as Cafe-Chocolate's) could also be had on weekends at a shack called Jesse's Place (3304 W. 55th) which features a generic menu of all the usual (flattop-griddled) tacos with only two surprising and unexpected things: the menudo and Big Baby (this is Big Baby country after all!) I am not sure that the guy behind the grill is all that clear about the Big Baby concept however. When tested he said "es un double cheeseburger" which it kinda is, and isn't. Still, it might be the only place in the world where you can go: "un menudo con grano por favor, y un Big Baby al lado!"

                      I said that there are three Mexican ice cream places on the 5000-6000 S stretch of Kedzie. There's actually a fourth: Betty's Ice Cream, which I think used to be some sort of (Irish?) old-school southside place (kinda like Lindy's and Gertie's?). It's now Mexican. Incidentally, the area in very rich in what's commonly known old men's bars (AKA bars//we've had threads about this in the old days), which are rapidly disappearing from the face of this city (there used to be hundreds of these quirky hidden bars in virtually every neighborhood of the city.) I remember stumbling many many years ago out of the one just n of Betty's. A couple of cranky chainsmoking old (Irish?) sweethearts run the place. I think it might still be there!

                      Misc notes:
                      Chaparrita #2 has what they call Veracruzan-style tamales, made by a Veracruzan lady who works in the kitchen. No acuyo AKA tlanepa in these but they have some similarity to the tamales rancheros/colados that could be found on the streets of say Xalapa. Banana-wrapped. Very fine, airy texture. Recommended.

                      Since I mentioned Cemitas China Poblana, I might as well note here that it is moving to a new location on 47th and Kedzie this September. These folks are related to the China Poblana in LA. But the China Poblana (a sibling of this owner) in LA runs trucks only (or ran trucks for a long time//they recently acquired a small permanenet locale) and does not have the same range on their menu.

                      There was a second Pueblan restaurant on this stretch that closed 1 1/2 yrs ago. It is now (as of about 1 month) a Salvadoran restaurant. There's also a new Salvadoran that went into the old Restaurante Colima (a little bit west of Birrieria La Barca on 26th).

                      Back to the subject of refresquerias:
                      One of the most extensive menu of juices could be found at

                      Origines Restaurant
                      6532 S. Pulaski

                      which I have completely forgotten about (I used to stop here after a Jonas Mekas movie at Balzekas Museum). Dropped by again last week while reviewing a couple of birria places in that neighborhood.

                      There are 14 juice combinations available-most of them carry rather prosaic names (prosaic compared to some of the "fantasy" names that might be given to these combinations):

                      Dietetico (savila, limon, apio, naranja), Silueta (naranja, perejil, savila), Tonico (platano, espinaca, manzana y leche), Jugo verde (pepino, apio, melon verde, espinaca, savila, nopal, perejil y naranja), Diabetis (jugo de zanahoria, apio, espinaca, savila, y nopal), Agua de alfalfa (pina, alfalfa y miel), Pina Colada, Maravilla de potasio (carrot, celery, parsley, spinach), Jugo de frutas (8 listed), Para perder peso (pina, pepino y naranja), Bomba AKA Super-Shake (12 ingredients listed inclg granola and oatmeal), Vampiro (Betabel, apio, zanahoria), Para la anemia, Para la presion.

                      (heading out for Thursday-only caldo de caguama AKA mexican turtle soup on 26th)

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