Taqueria La Oaxaqueña is a bit more than a taqueria. Its quite small--only about eight tables--but has a fairly extensive menu with a number of Oaxacan specialties.
Three salsas are served with chips while you wait. Theres a thin green one, nice but nothing out of the ordinary. The thick chunky one is interesting, made with costeño rojo and arbol chiles plus roasted tomato and grilled onion. Some good flavors though on one visit it was a bit watery and bland (bad batch of tomatoes?). The thick smooth orange salsa is the most unusual. Made with costeño amarillo chiles and ground pumpkin seeds, it has a rich, subtly hot flavor.
My first visit I tried the Torta Oaxaqueña ($4.75) consisting of a standard bolillo stuffed with grilled cecina (grilled salted flank steak), a little chorizo, avocado, tomato, red onion, and smear of beans and a little mayonnaise. This was among the best tortas Ive had (Ive enjoyed many, many at Doña Torta/Tortas USA) and easily makes my top ten Chicago sandwich list. The cecina was a very generous portion of very good quality meat, nicely grilled with some nice charred edges and abundant salt. The chorizo was also very good without the grease of many versions. The other accompaniments harmonized well.
There are several other tortas, not all of which are explained on the menu. Here are the mystery tortas: Tonala is cecina plus chicken; Huatulco is cecina plus chorizo; Monte Alban is milanesa (breaded steak) and cecina; Tezoatlan is cecina, nopales (cactus), and extra avocado. Theres also a Torta Vegetariana that sounds very good as well as some more standard choices. I think I saw a Torta Cubano (milanesa, chorizo, salchicha, jamon y quesillo; $6) and it was absolutely gigantic. I doubt you could go too far wrong with any of these. Well, maybe the Torta Hawahiana (just what you think) would be a bit of a risk, although they assured me it is very popular.
Camarones Oaxaqueños ($6.50) is an odd appetizer and not at all what I expected (its possible I ordered something else by accident). A large plate of rice covered with sautéed chunks of green bell pepper, tomato, onion, and shrimp. The shrimp were nicely jacketed in melted stringy cheese. Except for the shrimpncheese it was kind of boring.
I ordered the Tamales Oaxaqueñas ($6) and was presented with two immense bundles wrapped in banana leaves. The well-salted masa held big pieces of chicken, still on the bone. The flavoring was interesting, with sprigs of hoja santa in evidence. This is a dish Id suggest splitting unless youre a huge masa fan and are very hungry.
At the moment, they regularly make only one mole but others may be available as specials. The Pollo en Mole ($8.50) was a very tender half chicken in a pool of mole negro topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Some so-so rice with peas and carrots and plenty of hot but ordinary tortillas came along. The mole had good complex flavors, a nice rich oiliness, and more than a hint of chocolate.
The Chiles Rellenos Oaxaqueños sound great but I havent been able to try them yet. Unlike most versions, theyre made with ancho chiles. The Enchiladas Oaxaqueños were also recommended by the very friendly owner. There are also quite a few seafood offerings.
They have about 10 Mexican beers ($3) and a few domestics ($2), several Jarritos flavors, and homemade horchata and jamaica. Also a small bar, really just a few bottles of tequila next to the cash register. The restaurant is neat and clean and I think English is spoken by all. This is a pretty good little place that Im looking forward to visiting yet again.
Heres a link to a post of Robs from a month ago where he talks about the menu. I think there now may be a slightly different one. On my first visits they were out of menus and the one I have now doesnt list rice pudding (but pies and gelatin are still there!).
Taqueria La Oaxaqueña
3382 N Milwaukee Av
10-10:30 Sun-Thu, 10-11:30 Fri-Sat