I made a return trek from West Ridge to 49th and Pulaski Road Saturday, to pay homage once again to a Mexican dish which has become a favorite of mine - Birria Tatemada – at Zaragoza Restaurant.
I’ve been a reluctant fan of birria (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birria), because most of what I’ve had in Mexico hasn’t been to my liking. It’s been “okay,” but not something I’d search-out – even when home in Chicago. But when I read Mike Sula’s article in the Chicago Reader (http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/...) about Birria Tatemada (a style of preparation indigenous to La Barca, Jalisco) and Restaurant Zaragoza, and I made my first visit to the restaurant - I became a convert.
Zaragoza Restaurant is run as much as a labor of love as for economic reasons by the Zaragoza family – Norma, Juan and their four children. Son Jonathan prepares the plates of goat most weekdays with father Juan doing the carving on the weekend. The family currently prepares 22 goats each week. My platter of choice has been the “plato bien surtido,” which includes meat from various parts of the goat, and, this week, some liver. The plates are accompanied by freshly-made/hand-pressed on-site corn tortillas. On Saturday’s alone, the restaurant goes-through 100lb. of corn masa. Various salsas are available, and the steaming “salsa mocahete” is currently my favorite. Fresh-cut lime, cilantro and diced white onion round-out the condiments. The broth for the goat meat is vegetable-based, with none of the fat from the roasted goat infused. It’s a clean, clear broth good to drink on it’s own if you like.
When I visit the restaurant I sit at the counter – the “Bar” because doing so affords the opportunity to interact with whomever – Juan or Jonathan – is serving-up the plates, and with Norma and the children. I enjoy the interaction with the family as much as I do eating the food – it’s a 2 for 1 experience, no additional charge!
The restaurant’s been open about two-years and business has been building steadily. Recently featured on a Univision Spanish-language dining-out television program, Zaragoza Restaurant has seen an up-tick in customer counts – including, surprising to the owners, immigrants to Chicago from Asian nations and Africa, particularly from Senegal where a popular dish in that country closely resembles birria.
The restaurant is BYOB. A variety of soft drinks imported from Mexico are available for purchase as well.
For someone such as I, living on the far north side of the city and who uses public transportation to get around, traveling to Restaurant Zaragoza is a long journey (about 2-hours in each direction, in my situation) – but worth it (but not an ‘every week’ venture). If you move about by car (as I was this past weekend), well, it’s much easier. There’s an Orange Line elevated train station about 1.5 blocks south of the restaurant, and the Pulaski Rd., Archer Ave. and 47th St. busses will get you there as well.
For the Chowhound looking for truly “authentic” Mexican food, available probably at only several locations in the Chicagoland area – you won’t be disappointed by Zaragoza Restaurant.
4852 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL 60632-4116
Open Mon,Wed-Fri 10am-7pm; Weekends 8am-4pm