The Place Across from Depot
For a good amount of time after “discovering” Freddy’s in Cicero, my lunch would not be complete until I crossed the street and talked blood sausage and other Czech specialities with Jim and his namesake butcher. To a ton of chagrin, Jim closed his corner shop in Cicero. Not so long after, a Mexican restaurant opened in the space. I have never set foot in that space again. Has anyone, anywhere on the Internets tried this place? Who even knows its name besides the place across from Freddy’s that used to be Jim’s. See if you are going to that corner of 61st and 16th in Cicero for lunch, you are going for Freddy’s. And most people who arrived on Roosevelt just east of Austin did so for the Depot Diner.
There is a Mexican place across the street from Depot. A Mexican place intriguing because of signage advertising tacos de cabeza al vapor; steamed beef head, a speciality mostly found on Maxwell Street. The other day, I decided to wrench myself away from the Depot’s hold on this spot in the universe and try Los Altos de Jalisco #2.
It turns out upon entrance, that the speciality is not so much tacos de cabeza but huraches de cabeza, or as I believe they were spelled there, guaraches. Huraches are slabs of fresh made corn dough, masa, shaped like their namesake sandal. Unlike fresh made tortillas, these are not soft and toothsome but crisp and chewy. $4.75 got you a hurache de cabaza, and one hell of a lot of food for $4.75. Beef head meat, which Mario Batali long ago realized would sell better if sold as beef cheeks, is rich from high quantities of gelatin and fat in the meat. When slow cooked via steaming, this stuff melts through the meat. The way they do it at Los Altos, there is no grizzle, no stray eye socket, no bit of part that makes the jaw work too hard. At least not what I could tell.
The meat gets layered on the house-made sandal, a slather of beans, then on top a very generous schmear of crema. Somewhere in this mix was lettuce and tomatoes too. Like I say, a filling $4.75. To complement this, they serve some very good salsas. I enjoyed the red and the pico de gallo style, but became smitten with the green. It was similiar in color, texture and heat to the stuff served in Peruvuan places. Unlike some of those places, Los Altos was free with the recipe. Jalepenos, crema and a touch of avocado blended. The sour cream gave it body but did not mask at all, a powerful punch. The other speciality of the house, it seems is tripa, guts that are way guttier than the honeycomb version French chefs call tripe. I skipped.
The 5800 block of Roosevelt brings most people to the Depot like the 1600 block of 61st street brings most people to Freddy’s. I have not been lured ever across 61st, but I can tell you straying from Depot was pretty worth it.
Los Altos De Jalisco #2
5827 w. Roosevelt, Cicero, IL