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.

goat dinner

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):

Sausages 1

Self portrait with kielbasa and Daniel:

Portrait with kielbasa

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. . .

The haul


  1. Recorridos Virtuales
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    It´s great that you liked the Birria, but that restaurant doesn´t look half as authentic as a mexican market birrieria:

  2. Karan Dhillon
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Goat is quite popular in India as well but unfortunately its very hard to find an Indian restaurant in the US that serves goat. Usually the goat is replaced with lamb which is a poor substitute for goat (at least in Indian dishes).

    Goat marrow in my opinion is superior to all other types of marrow.

  3. David Duncan
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I love your food posts, you’re making me hungry.

    Oh, the link to Bobak’s doesn’t work.

  4. Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    When Americans think, “pastry,” they generally think, “France.” But the Germans and the Danes and the Poles all make pastries that are every bit as good as anything that comes out of France.


    • RFW
      Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      And for those interested in creating Central European pastries at home, Lilly Joss Reich’s The Viennese Pastry Cookbook is a good place to start. I’ve made more recipes out of it than out of any other single cookbook. With one exception, it was all excellent. The exception was “Anise crescents” which tasted of uncooked flour. I suspect the recipe needs more fat in it.

      Reading between the lines, it appears that while the Italians, French, and Germans sensu strictu go to a bakery to buy their pastries, the Austrians and Hungarians make them at home as a point of pride.

      Highly recommended. Try the Dobos torte!

    • JBlilie
      Posted June 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      And don’t forget the Czechs. Magnifique!

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted June 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        That should be “vyborné” of course…

  5. Tom
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    That’s the worst part of living where I do. No ethnic restaurants except for a crappy Thai place and a Puerto Rican hole in the wall joint that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in 80 years. I am envious of your food trip.

  6. Aaron S.
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I do miss Bobak’s. I work a block away from the former location of one of their buffets. A group of us would walk over for lunch fairly regularly and then regret how much we stuffed ourselves when it came time to walk back. I was devastated when it changed ownership and eliminated the buffet (I think there was some kind of Bobak family dispute at play).

  7. BilBy
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Glad to see someone extolling goat – it’s bloody nice meat. A good goat curry is a heavenly thing; yet, in the USA I have met people who have never even eaten lamb and at the suggestion of goat meat react as if I had considered roasting a baby.

  8. Alexandra M
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Wow, that all looks fantastic! When I lived in Brooklyn NY in the 1980s, I did a lot of Indian cooking, and when I found out that a local butcher had goat for sale, I was determined to make a goat curry. I never did, because the butcher categorically refused to sell me any, saying that it was “only for the Jamaicans!”

  9. Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    My objection to their cooking goat. I broil it, and never overcook. I eat it rare. As a meat in a meal, rare goat is unsuspected surprise to anyone who understands goats. How sad that they cook it for many hours.

  10. bc68251
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Just to set the record straight… more Poles in NYC than Chicago, or Warsaw. Third behind NYC and Chicago is Buffalo.

  11. Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I do like goat, but every time I get it, it seems full of bone shards. does it have to be like that or is someone doing something wrong?

  12. Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read every comment on your site, but I did get a giggle out of one of your reviews being featured on ‘Least Helpful’ Not sure if you’d seen it yet –

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s great! It’s poor protocol to review an unread book & I do wish Amazon would switch to reviews ONLY from “Amazon Verified Purchase” people

      Weirdly the same guy gives a couple of fossil books 5 stars [he may be a fossil collector], but also a couple of “Ancient Aliens” DVDs also get the 5-star treatment ~ though he doesn’t necessarily hold that they exist…


  13. Boris Molotov
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Looks delicious. I agree, goat is underappreciated. One of the best meals I have had was in the Balkans where they slow roasted a goat over a spit and let the juice drip over slow cooked potatoes below. Yum!

  14. Michael Day
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Were the fresh tortillas corn or wheat? I had wonderful fresh corn tortillas with eggs every morning at a conference in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico a while back (along with excellent coffee). I also had wonderful curried goat and interesting (but quite good) goat’s head soup while visiting the University of the West Indies Marine Lab in Discovery Bay, Jamaica many years back.

  15. Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Love the goat graphic on the sign, and the food looks great. In Tucson, this type of restaurant is spelled “Birrieria” and the meat is usually beef unless “birria de chivo” is specified. One of our favorite Tucson Mexican places is Birrieria Guadalajara, which is tiny but excellent.

    The Polish sausage and pickled fish are making me hungry!

  16. frank43
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Can’t wait to get back to Bobak’s. Being at a university with an Ag school, we occasionally get goat at the meat lab – the results of Week 4, or maybe 5, each semester.

    We also get lamb, chicken and pork from local farms. One of the difficulties of getting farm-raised odd meats (goat and lamb, especially) is that our local processor tries to cut it like a mini-steer. Neck, shanks, chops – brilliant. Lamb sirloin – not so much.

  17. ivy privy
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Professor Chupacabra!

    So “wedding salami” is a real thing, and not just a euphemism – who knew?

    • Posted June 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      You beat me to it. I was going to say both of those things.

  18. gravityfly
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Are we slacking off on writing the book, Jerry? Lol

    Goat is delicious…if done right.

  19. Steven Obrebski
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    All this talk of East European and Jewish food makes me remember that my autobiography can be recounted in the context of food stories. I apologize for the length of this
    I am Polish. When I was going on to eighteen and about to go to college, my father called me to the
    kitchen and made me eat (in spite of my objections) a large chunk of salted Russian rye
    with smoked bacon, drink three tablespoons of olive oil and down a huge glass of vodka
    (about 5 shot glasses full!). Why?, I kept asking. You’ll see, he said. About 45 minutes later
    he came to my room where I was studying and asked if I felt anything. I did’nt, I felt no
    effect of the alcohol. “That’s how you drink vodka with Russians”, he exclaimed. All that oil keeps the alcohol from being absorbed quickly. And indeed, in subsequent years, before any serious drinking was to be done at various events, I would eat some bread and down three tablespoons of olive oil, and never felt the effect of the alcohol beyond the buzz one gets from a couple glasses of wine. I went off to college well prepared to socialize with people who insisted on showing how macho they were by boozing it up.
    The other cuisine lesson my father taught me is how to eat marrow. He would have the butcher cut the big long bones sagitally. Then he would tie them with strings and boil them in water spiced with the dregs from the bottom of pickle jars. It was then eaten out of these long bony trays on the Russian rye with, of course, a few shots of vodka. I still eat marrow on rye with a bit of vodka in his memory.
    My introduction to Jewish cuisibne came when I was in the Boy Scouts and joined a troop
    headquartered in as local Jewish temple because the troop I was already in was full of pugnatious boys that the scoutmaster wouldn’t control. All the other scouts were Jewish. The head of the troop, unsure of attitudes of Poles with regard to Jews asked for a note from my mother that she approved. (We left Poland right after the war and I am proud to say my parents were in the underground and engaged in effortrs to rescue Jews). I was asked to participate in a ceremony on some high holiday. Except for the exquisite voice of the cantor, I found it boring until I was ushered into a large hall with tables laden with delicious goodies. Since then when I am asked my religion I sometimes state that I belong to the First Church of Jewish Delicatessen.
    I could go on about East European food, but its lunchtime and indeed there is some marrow and vodka in the freezer. Jerry’s food reports always drive me to the kitchen. Also
    there are some glorious tamales saved up with
    a bit of tequila.

    • Posted June 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Long comments worth reading are rare, but that was a pretty good one. Mostly just because of the line, “That’s how you drink vodka with Russians.”

      • Steven Obrebski
        Posted June 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your forbearance. That
        vodka drinking lesson can be viewed as a sort
        of Polish kids Bar Mitzvah.

  20. JBlilie
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful! I love goat and eat it whenever available on a menu. I also cook with it when I can conveniently (and even sometimes inconveniently) obtain it.

    In particular, I like Caribbean-style goat curry. Yum yum yum!

  21. JBlilie
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Love the Polish food as well: Especially the sausages!

    • Posted June 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Anybody else suspect there may be a punchline lurking in a Polish shop selling Italian sausages?


  22. Vaal
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful. I’m a big fan of goat as well.
    I love Indian and Jamaican food (and Mexican) but for Rotis my favorite is the more stew-like Guyanese version of a goat Roti.

    Thanks again.


  23. Karan Dhillon
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    By the way, those of you in the Boston are should visit highland kitchen on highland ave. They have a pretty good goat curry.

  24. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    OMG the sweets are awesome. I would have eaten all of them by now and had them as main courses, especially the poppy seed cake!

  25. pacopicopiedra
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    The Lithuanian sausage looks like it exploded. Or maybe “sausage” is the Lithuanian word for “ground meat.”

  26. Mark Joseph
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    When I was a missionary in Haiti, one of my colleagues once remarked that “the only good thing about eating goat is knowing that a goat died.”

    I have nothing to offer, as I’m not much of a meat eater. My wife, however, is a carnivore, and she really likes goat.

  27. Sean
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Reading “Polish wedding salami” instantly converted my 33 year old brain into a 13 year old reprilian mush, trying to figure out a funny joke to post.

    • Sean
      Posted June 18, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      reprilian was meant to be reptilian. Sorry

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 18, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        Reprilian mush sounds like some sort of Klingon dish.

%d bloggers like this: