Saturday, January 31, 2009

Put another Triple D restaurant... the record books. This time it was Cemitas Puebla in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Leaving my red convertible in the garage, my son and I set out in our 100,000-mile plus Dodge minivan (so much more fitting for a boring old white guy, don't you think?). Bibliophiles might recognize Humboldt Park as the place where Saul Bellow grew up. Bellow, however, would probably not recognize it as it is predominantly Hispanic today.

A cemita is a sandwich from the Puebla region of Mexico. It's served on sesame seed bread layered with avocado, choice of meat, adobo chipotle peppers, fresh Oaxacan cheese and papalo (whatever that is). Apparently it's the only place in town that serves them. As we walked in we were greeted by the owner's father, who is a natural businessman. He quickly sized me up as a newcomer (uncanny!) and led us to our table. As he was explaining the menu to us I surreptitiously glanced around the room (this is easy to do when you're wearing Ray-Ban wayfarers). Not only was I the only one wearing that brand of sunglasses, but I may also have been the only non-Mexican in the place (go figure).

At the old guy's suggestion, John and I ordered the chalupas for an appetizer. Fortunately each item had an English translation next to it. This one consisted of "five corn tortillas doused in salsa verde and salsa roja topped with onions and aged cheese." Beautiful. And I'll have a Coca Mex (Mexican Coca-Cola) and my son will have a regular Coke (don't want to get too crazy).

When the old guy finally walked off we got down to the serious business of perusing the menu. The first item that caught my attention was the taco arabes, which was featured on Triple D. But the description included the phrase "spit roasted" and I unaccountably lost interest. There were also quesadillas with chicharron (dry pork rind) but again, that didn't grab my imagination. Besides, we came to get cemitas, the Mexican sandwich that gives its name to the place. But which one? There were so many. Pata sounds good, until you find out that means "cow foot." That doesn't sound so appetizing. God knows where those Mexican cows have stepped. So John finally settled on carne asada (steak) and I chose milanese (breaded butterfly pork chop). They were both good but didn't achieve To Die For status. I think I missed the best one, atomica. The name alone suggests it's good, but the description explains that it combines the milanese with the carne enchilada and jamon (ham). Also, it costs nine bucks instead of six so you know it must be at least 50% better. Oh well, now I have an excuse to come back another time.

While we were waiting for our sandwiches, I recognized the owner from the show. He was working behind the counter and I asked him if he was the guy I saw on TV. He acted a little jaded and I wondered if I wasn't the first boring old white guy to ask him that since he appeared on Triple D.

When we left, the owner's father thanked us both profusely and stuffed a bunch of menus and business cards into our hands and told us to tell our friends. I told you he was a good businessman.

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