Four restaurants serving great huaraches
At celeb chef Rick Bayless’s food-court counter on the seventh floor of Macy’s, you’ll find tortas, huaraches, quesadillas, tamales, salad and soup, all of which are good enough to counter most fast-food notions. But we’re biggest fans of the torta Cubana, and all of its smoked pork loin and applewood bacon glory. At $7 for a creative Loop lunch, don’t be surprised if there’s a line, but once you’ve braved XOCO, this one’ll seem like a breeze. 111 N State St, seventh floor (312-781-1000). El: Blue to Washington; Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Randolph. Bus: 2, 4, 10, 22, 24, 29, 36, 62, 144, 145, 146, 148. Lunch (closed Sun). Average main course: $8.
Outside of the Maxwell Market, many taquerias have banished fresh masa in favor of machine-made stuff from local tortillerias. Here, there’s a little old lady patting and shaping balls of the cornmeal dough and griddling them until they puff up like corn-perfumed balloons. And while the tacos and gorditas (including a rich picadillo) are good, the star of the show is the braised chicken tinga flecked with smoky bits of chipotle, served on a flat oval-shaped huarache and topped with crumbly queso fresco. 1547 W Elmdale Ave (773-878-8470). El: Red to Thorndale. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $4.
Who knew that a masa patty shaped like the bottom of a leather woven shoe could taste so divine? Apparently, the patrons watching huaraches being made to order at this tucked-away Mexican outpost do. In this cafeteria-style dining room, regulars pounce on blistered chile rellenos, giant meat-stuffed tortas and hand-slapped sopes. Chicken soup and savory chicken mole keep them traipsing back for more. 3021 W Lawrence Ave (773-539-5902). El: Brown to Kedzie. Bus: 81, 82. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $9.
Mom’s Old Recipe Mexican Restaurant The name says it all: These are Mom’s recipes, executed by her daughters in a colorful Gladstone Park storefront accompanied by occasional live (and very lively) music. But was Mom a good cook? The enchiladas, which are filled with steak and covered in a peanut-y, chunky mole, and the moyetes (slices of bollilo bread layered with beans and pico), indicate she was pretty decent. But the shrimp ajillo, which is marinated with tons of chiles and garlic, and the delicate huarachitos (oval-shaped masa patties thinly spread with green salsa and diced red onion) suggest her recipes were worth preserving. 5760 N Milwaukee Ave (773-467-1009). Lunch, dinner (closed Tue). Average main course: $8.