We recently returned from a trip to Mexico, where our love for tacos (particularly, Tacos al Pastor) grew ever stronger. Our favorite taqueria is in Pilsen, but sometimes you just get a taco craving, and driving all the way down to 18th street isn’t feasible. So we decided to give the North Clark Street corridor in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago a thorough exploration for tacos. You know, we feel pretty badly that we have ignored this teeming avenue as a spot for Mexican food for so long. However, slowly but surely, we are stating to explore the area, and with good reason – practically every 4th storefront is a taqueria! Do you have any favorites in the North Clark area you can recommend (especially for al pastor)?
6653 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60626
We’ve driven past Masouleh on Clark a thousand times, but it was only when we were seeking a spot for a low-key date night that we actually popped in – and we are glad we did. Named after a picturesque town in Northern Iran, Masouleh specializes in northern Persian food, a new regional specialty to us. Masouleh is a family place, and attracts a wide swath of neighbors, locals and Persian families making the special trip. Masouleh is not too fancy, but just a little bit romantic if you have a low key significant other (nice touch: flowers and candles on the table!). The menu at Masouleh is small and straightforward. You will recognize many of the main dishes from other restaurants, however we were also pleased that they had Northern Persian specialties. We started off with a cucumber and yogurt salad, which M devoured too quickly to be photographed. For mains we got fesenjan ($13) – chicken with ground walnut and Pomegranate sauce, served with rice (pictured below). The dish was simple, but hearty, and the sauce took on a deliciously creamy flavor.
For the second entree we decided to do a little something different. Every day there is a northern Persian specialty, and on that day it was an intriguing salty/sweet dish: Gheimeh Nessar, which is made of beef stew marinated with onions, saffron, split peas, sourberries, pistachios, almonds and orange peels served with white rice. The flavor combination had the potential to be overpowering but it was actually perfectly spiced and delicate. Both of our entrees came with a huge variety of side dishes, certainly more than we expected: pita bread, feta cheese with tomatoes, and a cup of the soup of the day, a hearty lentil. We were positively and pleasantly stuffed, but we decided to make a little room for dessert.
To finish our meal, we ordered Persian Ice cream($3), which was flavored with rose water, saffron and pistachio. Maybe a little too much rosewater, but still very tasty. The table next to us got some tempting-looking baklava, and we are looking forward to trying that next time. We highly enjoyed our dinner at Masouleh, and we can’t wait to try some more Northern Persian food. If you’re looking to impress your foodie date, this is the place!
One of our go-to places for a cool summer treat is Palateria La Monarca in Rogers Park (6955 N. Clark) – we usually get the lime and mango paletas. However, there are a whole variety of Mexican Paleterias (popsicle shops) and Neverias (Ice cream stores) throughout Chicago that we have not yet tried. Even just on the stretch of North Clark near Monarca we noticed a few new ice cream places popping up, including Las Delicias de Michoacan (6649 N. Clark). However, shops aren’t just popping up on North Clark – it is a city-wide phenomenon! WBEZ’ Monica Eng has an article about the proliferation of Mexican ice cream shops, and more than a few recommendations of places/treats to try. In particular, Eng recommends the mangonada, a neveria staple of mango sorbet topped with mango slices and a sweet and salty pickled fruit sauce called chamoy. The mangonada is now on our summer bucket list. What’s your favorite thing to order at a Neveria or Paleteria?