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Quick update: maroon van + St. Sylvester taco tents + gorditas de chales

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Quick update: maroon van + St. Sylvester taco tents + gorditas de chales

RST | Dec 9, 2003 12:37 AM

The coming week is the busiest in the whole year for me and I just wanted to put this in quickly before I forget about it.

The maroon van still operates on weekends, from about 7 (or perhaps even earlier) until they have sold everything, which is around 11. It is no longer parked on Milwaukee itself but is located a few steps away, on Washtenaw (Cafe Marianao faces Washtenaw). I did not try anything here this past week when I visited and did not recognize any of the faces but Senor Teodoro, the head of the family that runs both businesses told me that the maroon van is still part of the same operation.

St Sylvester is on Sacramento (Humboldt Blvd), at the corner of Palmer (Palmer is parallel to and about 2? blocks south of Fullerton). Here's how to get here from the California stop of the blue line. Come out of the station and look across the street. Slightly to the left is Cafe de Pancho (PR restaurant featuring jibaritos etc: see Zim's post). That's on Palmer. Walk over to that corner (California/Palmer) and look down the street. You will see the steeple of St Sylvester about 3 blocks to the west, on the other side of the street. The taco tents are set up on the green area (on the green "median": this is one of our old Grand Boulevards) in front of the church.

There were fewer tents set up this time when I visited but the food on offer is still (generally) the same. I was a bit disappointed that they no longer bring along the turning vertical spit for the al pastor but instead reheat/refry on the griddle. It was very busy when I arrived and so I could not ask too many questions. All the tamales were still stupendous: these are some of the best tamales to be had in the city. They're large, irregularly-shaped, stunningly-seasoned. The rare types are very well-worth trying (the tamales nejos in particular but also the unforgettable tamales de ciruela and the tamales de elote, made with whole corn kernels) but then so are the green and red tamales. One item I have never seen here before is the gordita de chales. This is not the same type of gorditas that we find at-say-Gorditas Aguascalientes (a thick torillas slit open to form a pocket; and then stuffed with guisados) but is almost a kind of "pupusa", a flat disc enclosing a thin layer of filling inside. In this case, the filling is "chales" which is apparently the word (or an alternative word) for chicharron in this part of Guerrero. The rind is not chopped as fine as in pupusas, but retains the gelatinous quality of stewed rind.

It is always preferable to visit the taco tents as the food here is prepared fresh on all sorts of make-shift griddles instead of being served from an ice-chest as is the case with the maroon van.

RST

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