Have you ever stepped inside a restaurant that you knew nothing about, but somehow, instinctively, knew you were in for a treat?
I've been following chowhound for about four months now. We moved to Chicago a little over two years ago. Never have I learned my way around any city's restaurants with such help as this site. There is always word of mouth of course, and newspaper reviews, and instinct, but I look forward every day to picking up some new tidbits and trying new places. I spend long hours in the kitchen, taking care of the members of the club where I am the chef, but my new "hobby" is exploring the fabulous ethnic eating to be had in Chicago. Yes, I love a great steak, especially when the side dishes are of a level of quality to add interest to a large piece of meat. A finely prepared meal in a top notch restaurant such as Blackbird, MK, Aubriot, Crofton on Wells, or Cantare is also a wonderful experience, but what I enjoy most of all, is discovering new foods, new tastes, textures. You all know what I'm saying. Ethnic food.
My wife was in Dallas visiting with daughters, and I was feeling a little beat up from the Bar Mitzvah and wedding of the previous two evenings. What I needed was a little "therapy", something warm and comforting,
to massage my frazzled nerves,,,Huevos Rancheros!!
I often do Dim Sum when I'm feeling this way, and the constant procession of dishes, with the contrast of steamed, braised, and fried treats, along with a few cups of warm, soothing tea, usually fits the bill, but I needed a huevos rancheros fix.
I learned to appreciate this dish while living in Texas, and as much as I enjoy some tacos de sesos, trompa, chiccharon, or tripa, or a huge, steaming bowl of posole or menudo, there is nothing so comforting to me as a plate of eggs with some great beans, a nice fresh ranchero salsa, a side of chorizo, some warm flour tortillas, and a little butter of course. When I'm feeling this way, you can have your eggs benedict, your scrambled eggs with country sausage, your cheddar cheese omelettes, or even your matzo brei. I'll take my huevos rancheros.
It was raining, as it was cool Monday morning. I entered Nuevo Leon restaurant, took a seat, and felt at home somehow. I've eaten in many Mexican restaurants throughout the southwest, and I instinctively knew that I was in good hands. My first clue was the chips, which were the thin delicate type, rather than those thick ones which are somewhere between leather and cardbord. These were crisp and not at all greasy, accompanied by a serviceable salsa and a bowl of jalapenos and carrots, en escabeche. I went to the washroom, and upon my return, found a cup of cilantro scented chicken soup with rice and a little vegetable. What a treat. It probably costs them twenty cents, or even less , to offer a complimentary cup of soup, but what a great gesture on their part. Then the entree came. The eggs were cooked slightly longer than what I consider ideal, but were still nicely cooked, with runny yolks. The ranchero salsa was the thin, unthickened type, rather than that of the cornstarch thickened
variety, and nicely seasoned. Not much of a kick, but nice tomato flavor. Very nice refried beans. With manteca, and tiny crisp bits of bean running through them. Rice was good. The flour tortillas were very thick and rustic, and there were plenty of them. My only regret is that they do not serve butter, and I won't willingly eat margerine. Maybe I'll
put a stick of butter in my pocket next time I go. Anyway, I happily mopped up the yolks with those great flour tortillas. Success!
Oh, I forgot the chorizo. Very delicately spiced, with clove, cinnamon?, allspice?, I'm really not sure. And the texture. Rich. but not greasy. Coarsely ground but tender. Fabulous.
Thanks to everyone for all of your great suggestions, and thank you Rene, for recommending Nuevo Leon to that Texan in search of migas a while back. I knew I'd find some tasty H.R.