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The largest menu in Chicago - El Barco


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The largest menu in Chicago - El Barco

Vital Information | Jun 23, 2003 10:36 PM

I noted in an earlier thread that one of the distinguishing features of the coffee shop was the long menu. "Hobo" skillet breakfasts, need five varieties. Club sandwiches and croissant "melts", it is all about choices, baby. There is even a place in New York City, that is especially favorite for its big menu--see link. But none has a menu as large as El Barco.

OK, enough with the tease. El Barco's menu IS pretty big in the conventional sense. Plenty of choices and even a kids menu, something not seen that often in Mexican places (minor quibble, where the price should be for the kid's carne asada, is a big hole where they hang the menu's up), but when I say the El Barco menu is big, I mean BIG. As in one menu is pretty much the size of your table and/or a beach towel. In contrast, the space between the tables and the wall in the outdoor patio is so small that only the Mexican versions of Kate Moss need apply for waitress positions.

The thing to get on that BIG menu is simple. The big grill, a/k/a The Mexican Weber Grill for 2 or more [sic]. It is amazing that what will come to your table can fit within the narrow aisle of El Barco, but fit it did. A cast iron frying pan about 16 inches in diameter. It gets placed on the same mini-butane stoves used in Chinatown for hot pots. At your disposal so much chicken breast, steak, crab legs, crawfish, shrimps, mussels, fried fish, grilled fish, calamari and Captain Nemo sized versions of octopus that Dr. Atkins WISHES he was still around. Actually, better than all that protein were these excellent, crunchy yet greasy home fried potatoes AND sweet potatoes. Granted within this morass of food, not everything was great, but when the all-you-can eat buffet gets plopped at your table, why be picky. Also, note, I immediately turned the flame off. The stuff is plenty hot, and the cast iron pan retains enough heat. Do you really need more?

Believe it or not, not everyone opted for the mixed grill. Ms. VI ordered, but barely touched as she was mesmerized by the giant arms of octopus, a mixed coctail of shrimps and more normal sized octopus. My Dad liked his bowl of shrimp stew.

I have to compare El Barco to Islas Marias, there is both being Mexican seafood and surely some overlap on menu. Like seeming all Mexican seafood places, you get tostadas instead of chips. Both are good places. El Barco resembles much more an American concept of a restaurant, and the staff was much more conversant in English. I still like the little touches at Islas Marias, the comped bowl of ceviche, the sexy pictures, the out there of the place, the frothy green sauce, but no one can compete with a menu like El Barco.

I apologize I forget to pick up El Barco's address, but it is on Ashland between Division and Augusta.



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