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ByBy's-West Chicago

tony | Feb 1, 200307:40 PM

I’ve been to this place several times now and each time I go back it’s to get something that wasn’t available the previous time. I’m pretty sure the cook is from Oaxaca based on a few of the written specials, but I need to do more research. I first went to get champurrado but it was too late and they were all out. I got a few tamales instead. They were well prepared with care given to keeping them moist. The chicken inside was still jiucy and seasoned with a heavy red chili, most likely ancho. Served with garlicky red thin salsa, this was a tamale made with love.

The champurrado was a meal in a cup. Thick but not gloopy and viscous, it had the nice chocolate, cinnamon, brown sugar (pilconcillo.) thing going on. The large was large and something you would drink if you were planning on plowing the back forty later that day.

So on our next visit I wanted to try the quesadillas with huitlacoche or flor de calabaza. Everybody raves about these two fillings so I wanted to see what the big deal was. Fridays only, sorry. Momentarily shaken, but undaunted we carried on and ordered a huarache with carne asada, a sope with chicken and a quesadilla with nopalitos.

The quesadilla was good and we’re almost positive the tortillas and flatbreads are all made in house. The cactus was mild, mixed with Oaxacan style cheese and nicely crunchy still but not slimy in the least. It could have used a just a bit of salt, but that is minor. The huarache was about the size of a 9 or 10 shoe and covered with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and carne asada. All of that was topped with a full grilled and sliced nopale leaf. The meat was good, but not great like the skirt steak at La Pasadita. The salsa provided for the chips was deep red and in the mid range of heat levels eaten simply with chips, but when put on the food it took on a whole other life. Without getting too philosophical, it was the type of simple dish that makes you appreciate basic combinations of ingredients that have been around for hundreds of years and scoff at the sad bastards of a chocolate martini or a plate of free form lasagna.

The sope was the best of the three and gone quickly. The handmade yellow masa shell was crisp on the bottom and tender on the inside. Real beans made with real lard and chicken moist and seriously flavored with chilies. Some crumbled cheese and good spoonfuls of salsa made me look at all the previous sopes I’ve eaten made with the mass produced white masa shells sort of sadly.

The real strange thing about this small joint with 5 tables is that one third of the menu is burgers, gyros and bacon cheese dogs. It’s an unassuming little place with some good regional representations of Mexican dishes you don’t see in every taqueria. Oh, and they have pozole too, but I have to find out if it’s green or red.

142 W. Washington
West Chicago

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