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Chicago Area Peruvian Polish

My Teevium: Mi Familia Peruvian, Marie's Polish Bakery, Miko's Ice

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My Teevium: Mi Familia Peruvian, Marie's Polish Bakery, Miko's Ice

Mike G | Jul 29, 2003 03:48 PM

Although I like the name Teevy Challenge, it sounds vaguely like a promotion for Comcast cable (take the Teevy Challenge for 30 days and see if you...). So I'm calling mine a Teevium (and if you try four places it's a Quadreevium).

I decided to see if I could knock off all 3 of my new places in one lunch (without being a total P-I-G pig). I envisioned a taco here, a tamale there. As it turned out the first place was a sitdown meal, which blew that idea, but I did manage to try three previously unheralded (I think, though maybe someone's written about Mi Familia) spots within a fairly short stretch of Logan Square.

Mi Familia-- what sent me in this direction was seeing the word "Peru" on an awning a week or so ago, at 3624 W. Fullerton. Could this be the Peruvian chicken place of VI's dreams? Well no, but it's an interesting find and I can recommend it for further exploration after one meal.

The front is a little grocery-- very little-- with canned and packaged Peruvian specialties. The back 2/3 is a small sitdown restaurant. The owner asked me if I knew it was Peruvian food and immediately pointed to the tacos and burritos on the paper menu. I said no, I wanted Peruvian and picked up the vinyl covered menu, which only has the Peruvian stuff.

Looking for something I hadn't had before at an Ecuadoran or Colombian restaurant, I gravitated to the last section, "Dinners,' whose last item, "Cau Cau," is translated as "Marrow guts mixed with potato, green peas." I worked up from there to "Olluquitos con carne y arroz,' which promised "Peruvian spices." Praying that "Olluquitos" were not "deep-fried spleens" or "boiled cockroaches," I ordered it for the Peruvian spices.

I had a mild moment of panic when I thought they might be diced tripe, LOTS of diced tripe, but determined they were some sort of root vegetable. My best guess was some kind of white beet or turnip. To be honest, I liked the sauce (tomato base), the spices (indeterminate apart from cilantro on top), the Olluquitos and the steak-- but I didn't quite like them all together. The beef and the Olluquitos were best eaten separately, but they were quite delicious each with everything else.

Talking with the owner (we had the place to ourselves) I asked him what the vegetable was. He went over to the store and returned with a can-- they were, let me see I have the name of the exotic vegetable somewhere here... potatoes. In brine. What I thought was beet flavor was in fact pickling flavor. We talked for a few more minutes about Peruvian food (surprisingly he was happy to list for me all the Peruvian restaurants in town-- both of them, Taste of Peru and Rinconcito Sudamericano) and then he took me for a tour of the offerings in the grocery, telling me what they were used for and so on. Of course, after all my filming at Maxwell Street all I could think was, why do I not carry my camcorder at all times? A moment later he was pressing an Inka Cola into my hand to take with me on the rest of my journey. What friendliness, and I wasn't even wearing my "Treat Me Well and I'll Post on Chowhound Which Is The Sure Way To Get Your Ethnic Restaurant Into Cheap Eats in the Tribune" T-shirt. Anyway, there's a lot to try here, and it seems pretty good and definitely welcoming, so check it out.

Not really needing that tamale now, I wandered down Fullerton just to see what there was. In amongst the taquerias and so on, I spotted a bakery in the 3800 block, south side of Fullerton, with a pink art deco exterior and the name Marie's. Talk about places that time forgot-- here was a grandmotherly Polish bakery, bravely standing as the last Polish holdout on a street long since turned Hispanic. They must do a business, however, as there were approximately one million crullers freshly deep-fried behind the glass counters along with an assortment of other typical bakery goodies (and a Polish counterwoman who approximated my Ideal Pastry standards for Polish gals with fetchingly broken English).

I bought an eclair and a poppyseed pastry. The eclair was okay, had a little refrigerator taste to it, not as delicate as you'd like for that pastry, but the poppyseed pastry was the real thing, egg bread and not too sweet, not Americanized in any way. Marie's, check it out because it's probably not long for this neighborhood.

Finally I doubled back (but not before passing the Taco Burrito Joint and reading all the signs carrying on some part of a long-running dispute between the former members and management of the Logan Club, which I guess used to operate something in the building before somebody did something shady with the club's money or something). I made my second trip, actually, to an Italian ice place my friend Zach had tipped me off to, on Sacramento about a block south of Fullerton, Miko's Ice. It's a funny place-- a window opening right onto Sacramento, behind which is a freezer case and a large wooden desk, circa 1955. They have about a dozen flavors of freshly made, extremely cold Italian ice (you really kind of need to give it some time to warm up, it's the first place I've gone that can give you brain freeze on the first bite). The flavors are extremely fresh (which means that the strawberry was much better a few weeks ago than it was today), and so far everything I've had-- lime, strawberry and watermelon-- was quite good. To coin a phrase, check it out too.

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