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Jul 17, 2008 09:45 PM

(Old School) (Non-Authentic) (Chicago) Mexican

OK, here's an odd one.

Many years ago -- ah, youth -- I used to live near Armitage and Sheffield. I'd walk over to La Canasta on Armitage a few days a week for lunch or dinner. At the time, I'm not sure I would have been able to tell the difference between Rick Bayless and Taco Bell, but I always thought the food at La Canasta, and places like it, was kinda easy, fun, not horrible, and inexpensive. Didn't even really think of it as "Mexican", just yummy good food.

Nowadays, I'm a much more fancy-schmancy diner. Done raised up my palate, beyond what I can afford. Oh well. I've been to all the fantastic Mexican places here in Chicago, and that are so highly recommended on this great great Chowhound board, many many times, and just love that food. And I understand all the reservations (and warnings) about whatever you would call that "Mexican" food I'm referring to in the old days, before everything changed.

But still ... still ... I still hanker every now and then for that taste. Cheesy, heavy, but digestible. Good salsa and chips. At least one 100% agave tequila to request with the fairly cheap margaritas. Walk out stuffed (that was the point back then), with the bill (now) before tip sorta 30-ish. Nice Carne Asada. Enchiladas Suizas (??) Medium size guacamole app, not crazy $$.

Easy to get a table, not too close together and not too noisy, good place to have a talk with somebody -- while consuming what is basically "in-authentic" (oh my oh my) comfort food, and ok drinks -- without spending too much. But the food was always high quality, even though it wasn't "hip".

Does any of this make sense? La Canasta moved into a place on Webster, where I think I used to eat also, when it was a grocery store with a restaurant in the back. Then they left. Now they're back, and it's really really not that thing anymore. I don't even know what foodies (disparagingly) call that food ... 70's Northern City Tex-Mex?

Maybe that doesn't exist anymore, at least on the north side. I'm kinda in the Lakeview & Lincoln Park dining zone, but am interested in the city in general.

Thanks in advance for even reading my too-long post.

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  1. el Coyote in LA (infamous) and Browning's in Little Rock.

    Mexican that most certainly isn't authentic, but also isn't chain.

    1. Never been to La Canasta in any of its manifestations, but when I first walked into Uncle Julio's I thought I'd entered a "way-back" machine, at least as far as Chicago was concerned. You might want to give it a look:


      1 Reply
      1. re: jbw

        Lalos, Uncle Julios, There may be some "Las Fuentes" locations still around - what's the place a few blocks south of Wrigley? I think there are places you are looking for all over. Chevy's if you're ever in Schaumburg near Woodfield. In Oak Park, there's a joint called La Majada that would prolly be right up your alley. I think there are a good number of these joints. I heard someone describe them as "Sombrero Mexican" places, and I steal that name from time to time.

      2. I'd even say some of the Pepe's locations may fit the description you're looking for. Definitely cheesy, decent salsa & chips, good carne asada tampaquena, enchilada suizas & tostada suizas, great melon (or was it mango) margaritas. One of them could kick me on my butt for the evening! I could've lived off of tostada suizas from the old Lombard Pepe's back in my early years. I can still taste them; sure doesn't seem like that was 30 years ago!