Carnitas Don Pedro
I will always associate Pilsen, Chicago’s heavily Mexican neighborhood, with arctic temperatures and a brutally cold walk from the pink line despite bundling up to the best of my abilities. That’s what you get for only visiting the city in January and February.
And awesome carnitas, of course. I’m deeply envious of Chicago’s Mexican food offerings. New York isn’t even close to the urban desert that Californians and others who never eat outside of Manhattan would lead you to believe. But we’re mostly Pueblan. Chicago’s immigrants reflect other regions, tasty regions like Michoacán, famous for their slow lard-simmered chunks of pork.
On my first and last trip I tried Carnitas Uruapan. This time I vowed to branch out, good as their offerings were (plus, they have a lot of suicide food signage). This is daytime food. We arrived after 2pm and things were winding down, only the pork was available, none of the brain tacos, menudo or nopales salad listed on the chalkboard menu in front near the door.
This is a pound, more than enough for two, and the default order. We had no trouble cleaning the plate, though (never getting up early enough for breakfast on vacation, this was our brunch. I would’ve eaten more if I’d known how disappointing our Thai food dinner would be). At first glance, I would’ve preferred more skin and odd fatty bits. I still did even after digging in, but the white meat I feared would be desiccated was absolutely moist and rich. I guess I’ve been served some lame pork in the past.
In addition to these condiments and warm corn tortillas, squeeze bottles of both green and red salsas are on the table. I preferred the green; it was spicier. Taking a cue from the father at the table next to us, I cut open a pickled jalapeno and dribbled its hot, vinegary liquid over my tacos. Add a squeeze of lime and some cilantro and onions and you have a perfect taco.
You would think I was from a tropical climate, how strongly the single-digit temps stymied me (I kept thinking about being told how elderly die of cold every year during Hong Kong's 60-degree winters). I actually had to stop in a café, sit and drink a coffee and warm up, before I could brave the ten blocks back to the subway.
Carnitas Don Pedro * 1113 W 18th St., Chicago, IL