Would there be another name besides Logan Square for the neighborhood (which I mentioned in the Italian thread below) that includes Pulaski between Belmont and Addison? West Logan Square? I don't know, but cutting down through it the other night to get to Taqueria la Oaxaquena (good as ever, and happily, busier than ever thanks to its Cheap Eats four forks), I noticed that in addition to the little cluster of old school Italian joints (Oddo's, La Villa, etc.), there was a new awning announcing a South American restaurant called La Humita.
La Humita turns out to be specifically Ecuadoran, and "humita" is the name for the kind of tamale, soft and cheese-filled and pretty damn scarfable, that I've had at other South American restaurants like La Pena. Having the Wild Boys with them, I ordered extensively off the appetizer menu for them, and as it turned out had many of the same things I'd had on a sampler plate at La Pena-- besides the humita, we had plantains (very nicely fried and sweet) and "potato pancakes" which were less like any potato pancake your Jewish grandmother made and more like fried balls of mashed potatoes in a peanut-tasting gravy. The effect was sort of like mixing the kugelis from Julia's Lithuanian with the peanut sauce from a Thai restaurant.
The dinner menu is pretty standard South American-- you've got grilled meat, grilled meat and more grilled meat, including some pork, lamb and fish choices. (The most unusual one is Guatita, stewed beef tripe in, again, a peanut sauce. "You got tripe in my peanut butter...") Not vast variety but my steak was very nicely done, with the usual salty crust and a sprinkling of parsley which hinted at chimmichurri without actually being it. The pleasant surprise on the plate was a side of lentils stewed in a tomato-based sauce which was hearty and flavorful.
La Humita is several steps more upscale than the typical South American, not that it's dressy but it would fit right in Lincoln Park or Bucktown with its sponge-painted walls, square china and the sleek stainless-steel cooking area on display on the other side of the bar (not to mention real chef's uniforms and hats on the people working it). Obviously the proprietor had restaurant experience elsewhere, and when I asked him about it I very quickly got the whole story.
His name is Ulpiano Correa and yes, he does have restaurant experience-- years working for Marriott. Finally he has managed to open his own restaurant, and he designed everything, the menus, the interior, the whole works. They've been open about a month, and he's still refining the menu. He definitely wants to offer an experience that's nicer than the corner taqueria yet still reasonably priced for the neighborhood; though I would say dinner is fairly priced (pretty reasonable, really, but just barely in Cheap Eats range), there's a $5.95 lunch special that's quite cheap. Despite being on Pulaski, which is a semi-forlorn side street compared to bustling Milwaukee, he says Thursday to Sunday night business has been quite good, but lunch needs help and in fact he killed a selection of sandwiches because they were just not selling and he preferred to offer something more like dinner at a lunch price.
As far as the humitas go, apparently it's common in Ecuador to nosh them (a la tea time) with coffee, and he has posted hours for "humita time" from 4 to 6. Also, though normally I try to avoid cheesecake, he talked me (or my 4-year-old) into ordering his homemade cheesecake with a passion fruit sauce, and it was very tasty-- the tartness of the passion fruit gave it what those gloppy strawberry-covered ones lack.
Like other South American cuisines, Ecuadoran is not highly spiced (when I mentioned chimmichurri he went off for a minute on how he doesn't like garlic!), but very pleasantly done in its own way, and the atmosphere is nice enough you could have a business lunch there. Check it out.
3466 N. Pulaski Rd.
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