Here at ETW, we have noticed a couple of trends in our many years of restaurant-going. Food value in relation to quality goes up when owners and employees are primarily speaking a language other than English. Smaller places are better – street places are the best. And the fewer items on a menu, the tastier those items will be. So, if you have a small place with one menu item where nobody is speaking English, you will probably have a great time. Such is the case at Carnitas Uruapan, a small, unsuspecting establishment in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen, that serves up only one menu item – carnitas – and serves it very well.
The protocol: after walking in, the man behind the counter will greet you in Spanish. Greet him back, and ask for a number of libras (pounds) or carnitas, either mixta (mixed with skin and ears) or not. Say thanks, grab a table, and in a few minutes a large plate of carnitas will appear in front of you. Your server will also bring you a few small Mexican staple extras: the necessary complement of corn tortillas, pickled jalapenos and carrots, as well as two salsas: a thinner one with tomatoes and cilantro, and a much spicier, thicker version. After that, the combinations are up to you. We tended to be big fans of throwing everything together in a tortilla and scarfing it down, but then again, the carnitas are wonderful, juicy, and flavorful just on their own. The single pound we ordered turned out to be too much for both of us, so we had some for lunch the next day. Total bill for this feast? $10.
Just as well, the food is accentuated by two factors: the quick, efficient, no-nonsense service (always a plus in our eyes), and the absolutely fantastic pig murals and assorted decorations all around the restaurant.
On a final note, we are yet to be disappointed in Pilsen, either in terms of cultural institutions or eating establishments. Add Carnitas Uruapan to the ever-growing list of must-tries.