18th Street: The carnitas stop
A satiating subset in the sea of Mexican cuisine off the Pink Line.
Chicago’s best Mexican food lives in Pilsen, and this stop puts you in the heart of the ’hood’s best carnitas: seasoned pork marinated and braised in its own juices and roasted to perfection. The mother lode is across from the El at Carnitas Uruapan (1725 W 18th St, 312-226-2654). There’s no menu; carnitas is it, ordered by the pound either straight up or mixtas (including crispy skin and ear) and served traditionally with corn tortillas, cilantro, onion, salsa and peppers. At $7 per pound, one pound is more than enough for one person. Two blocks east is Sabas Vega (1808 S Ashland Ave, 312-666-5180), a taqueria that has specialized in carnitas for more than 50 years. The platter for one person will easily serve a pair. No time for a sit-down meal? Get a quick carnitas fix directly next to the El at Luciano’s Carniceria y Licoreria (1714 W 18th St, 312-666-7544), a deceptively large convenience store sporting a full meat market. Take-away carnitas are available on weekends only.