Nearly everyone (nearly) loves Taqueria La Oaxcena, a somewhat Oaxacan taqueria on Milwaukee near Addison. In fact, the hardly Oaxacan "super tortas" are what most people, including me, most order at this place. Still, even if their food strays from the Oaxacan repetoire, it is quite delicious all the same. And they are about to open a second branch on Diversy at about 6200 West (forgive me the exact address, I left if in the car).
Yesterday, I was having a conversation with the Senora about Oaxacan food and expanding their menu (as the Condiment Queen whispered in my ear, "Jerry, you bad man"). She got out a bag of chapulines, tiny grasshoppers (I never knew they were that small) for me to try, but begged off on offering too much Oaxacan food, as they did not see the demand. RST's words, in another post on the other Oaxacan place, inserted below, ring very true. As we patronize both locations of Taqueria La Oaxacena, maybe we can help encourage them to add the grasshoppers and the other Oaxacan dishes to the menu.
RST commenting on Restaurante Oaxacena:
Her menu does not reflect what she and the gentle old lady who assists her are capable of preparing. She is actually set up to make just about anything Oaxacan as long as the ingredients are available (grasshoppers and iguana aren't;)). Through our long and wonderful conversation, she kept heading off to the back to bring back things to show me. A discussion on tlayudas (typical street food in Oaxaca, vendors shout "tlayuda! tlayuda!" everywhere one goes) has her bringing out these refrigerated pre-hand-patted tortillas which are about the size (but elongated) of a small pizza (she jokingly calls them "Oaxacan pizza"). She suddenly goes off and comes back with a piping hot memela (or memelita) for me to sample. These are smaller tlayudas, topped with nothing but a bit of shredded cheese and "asiento" (melted chicharron): the incredible redolence of that melted fat! Unfortunately, because there is hardly any interest in such things in her neighborhood and in this city, she keeps most of this stuff in the back, presenting more recognizable dishes to the general public. And because Oaxacan cuisine is very laborious and time-consuming (the slow rendering of the "asiento" for instance can only be done so far ahead or the fat turns rancid), one resorts to certain expediencies (just as refrigeration) to have things on hand. I suspect that really the best way to appreciate this diamond in the rough is to get to know her better slowly (unfortunately they don't speak English here), know what she can do best and then
preorder certain special items the day ahead (and she will gladly make them) to ensure perfect freshness.
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