Dona Lolis keeps coming up here parenthetically as a comparison for other places, but as far as starring in an actual thread, it's been something like a year-- and I notice that one of the posts back then is Seth, who devoured brains at Maxwell St. with Lecterish relish*, saying that he just couldn't bring himself to like the brains in Mexican food versus the ones he had in Italy. (I'm with Vital Info, or at least the VI of a year ago-- veal sweetbreads are divine because I have no idea where my thymus is or what it's for, brains are just not... for me.)
Anyway, my point being, it's been a while since anybody talked about Dona Lolis more than offhandedly, but taking my kid to school in Rogers Park these days, it seemed a good opportunity to try it at last, with at least a little of Muman's scientific rigor.
I had the quesadilla flor de calabaza, a taco al pastor for control (since I had one at Los Mogotes and also, recently, at El Tapatio in Gringoland), and more or less randomly, a gordita with cactus and scrambled eggs (a mistake because I'm not that crazy about eggy stuff at dinner). Anyway, to make a long story short: Quesadilla's tortilla was admirably thin and crispy, but the contents were really salty, and mushier than Los Mogotes, and possibly overcooked so that something released a bitterness that it shouldn't have had. In short, I didn't like it nearly as well as either the one I'd had at Los Mogotes or the bite of somebody's I had at Maxwell Street.
The taco al pastor was just pork so far as I could tell, more like Cuban pork than the spicy red pork that at Los Mogotes actually tasted sort of like a dim sum steamed pork bun. Okay if that's their style, I'm all for plain honest flavor rather than heavily sauced up, but it didn't excite me that much. The gordita thing, well, it was pretty tasty considering that I had already decided I wasn't crazy about the ingredients I'd picked. If the cactus had any particular flavor, I missed it.
The best thing was the free plate of refried beans, which were really terrific, as good as I've had anywhere. The salsas were good, too, and that gave me a thought. So I pulled out the bottom of the gordita, a nice thick round of fried cornmeal, and smeared the beans on it, and topped that with some of the green salsa, in imitation of the bean huarache which had been the one thing I didn't think worked at Los Mogotes. And... it was excellent. I ate 3/4 of the round that way.
So. Dona Lolis is clearly a sincere, authentic place, with some spots of excellence. The fresh tortillas, the excellent beans and salsas, clearly lift it above the average place. But it didn't quite come together for me until I started making my own food there.
The line to tell me I'm nuts starts right over here.
* Lecterish Relish is available at Treasure Island and Fox & Obel along with other seasonings in the Hannibal's Kitchen line.
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