In a final attempt to have fun before I start serious book-writing, I took half the day off yesterday to have a food trip. My ex-student Daniel, who likes his noms, was around, and I invited him to the Birreria Zaragosa on the South Side, near Midway Airport. In case you don’t know, a birreria is a Mexican place specializing in goat, a vastly underappreciated meat that is best sampled at either a birreria or a Jamaican restaurant. It’s gamey, which I like, flavorful, and, when cooked properly, tender and luscious.
The Birreria Zaragoza is a small, family-run place, unprepossessing but fiercely dedicated to its one dish: goat. It’s local grass-fed goat, lovingly stewed for hours and served in a flavorful broth.
Here’s the inside of the restaurant, which was full of locals chowing down on cabra. If you enlarge the menu (below), you’ll see that it’s almost all goat, with a few quesadillas thrown in as an afterthought.
Having done a bit of preliminary investigation, I knew that the most highly prized parts of the goat were those parts close to the bone, especially the ribs and the pistole (the shank). Here’s one of the cooks displaying the pistole:
One of the best parts of the meal are the tortillas, which are made completely by hand, rolled out by this woman and then flattened in an old wooden tortilla press. They’re a bit on the thick side, and absolutely delicious: a perfect encasement for the goat:
A superb lunch: a plate of goat (the prized pistole) with a stack of fresh tortillas, lime, chopped onion, and homemade smoked-tomato salsa, all washed down with a glass of cold horchata.
Afterwards we repaired to a Polish place: Bobak’s Restaurant and Sausage company, famed for its sausages and other Polish delicacies. (Chicago, I’m told, has more Poles than any city in the world save Warsaw. And they’ve brought their food culture with them.)
Here are some of their homemade sausages (there are dozens of types):
Self portrait with kielbasa and Daniel:
The various kinds of pickled and preserved fish beloved by Poles:
A box of kolacky, or fruit-filled cookies. They come with prune, cherry, apricot, and apple fillings.
And my haul for the day: a big $1.79 link of kielbasa wselna (Polish wedding salami), half of which I’ve just had for lunch; paczki, or Polish donuts, pierniki uszatki, or glazed gingerbread cookies; a jar of plum preserves (Polish jams and preserves are cheap and delicious), a jar of pickled beets with onions, and a log of macowiec (poppyseed cake). You can see my sweet tooth at work here. This should hold me for a while. . .