Saturday, July 11, 2009

La Pasadita, Chicago, IL

One of the good things about graduate school is having the opportunity to travel to new places to present our research. On the downside, since we tend to be on the bottom of the academic totem pole, budget is a primary concern. As such, I found myself bleary eyed on the L from O'Hare to the Chicago Loop, having woken up at 5 AM to catch the most affordable early morning flight out of Pittsburgh to give a talk at a recent conference.

To make the commute longer, construction on a section of the L tracks required me to disembark the train, dragging my luggage onto a bus to complete the trip to my hotel. I was tired and cursing my decision not to take a cab, when a mural visible from my bus window at the intersection of Ashland, Division, and Milwaukee streets reminded me of the presence of La Pasadita, a series of three adjacent Mexican taquerias that I had enjoyed on a previous visit to the city.

Stomach now growling, I continued my way to my downtown hotel, only to be told my room wouldn't be ready for a few more hours. I left my bags at the front desk, and immediately hopped back on the shuttle towards the airport to La Pasadita to get some breakfast. By ten AM, I was the lone customer at the 1132 North Ashland joint. Not holding back, I ordered the super carne asada burrito, figuring that would satisfy my now raging hunger.

The ever-present taqueria tortilla chips were served with my drink, along with their two house salsas: green and black. I enjoyed a few chips while watching the morning shift set up the restaurant for the day, the waitresses and cooks flirting with one another, catching up on last night's gossip. The black salsa was particularly excellent, flavoured prominently with roasted peppers and garlic, searing my lips and tongue.

Before long, my burrito was served, and even though this wasn't my first La Pasadita burrito, I was impressed. The giant tortillas were expertly packed with loads of beef and rice, and perfectly proportioned quantities of lettuce, tomato, sour cream, grated cheese, refried beans, and guacamole. Unlike a lot of lazily packed burritos, these ingredients were evenly distributed such that every bite had a nice ratio of beef to everything else.

Having estimated the size of the impressive burrito to be almost 9 inches in length and 5 in diameter while tipping the scales at close to two pounds, I settled into a slow, comfortable pace, squirting a little of the hot salsa before each bite. Squirt. Bite. Squirt. Bite. I savoured the well-seasoned, nicely seared meat, and the garlicky guacamole. I was full after I had finished the first half, but persevered until my plate was empty.

The assembly proved not only to be flawless in its ingredient distribution, but in terms of structural integrity too. The foil-wrapped bomb didn't tear, didn't crumble, and didn't leak or spill a drop of its precious goodies.

La Pasadita is unique in that once its popularity proved to overwhelm their original location, they opened up a new branch, not in a different part of the city, but first two doors down, and then across the street to better serve their existing clientele. You can choose from one of three storefronts within 50 feet of one another, and regulars all seem to voice their preference. I'm told that during rushes, there are lines into all three locations.

By 11AM, the restaurant had slowly started to fill with a mix of hipsters getting breakfast and labourers eating lunch. I slowly waddled to the register to the pay my $10 tab, including tip. Not bad for enough calories to feed me for the rest of the day.

La Pasadita has three adjacent locations located at 1132, 1140, and 1141 North Ashland Avenue in Chicago, IL. All stores are open from 9AM to 3AM daily. You can check their website for more information and for individual store phone numbers.


MissK said...

Paul, I miss you guys, and this post makes me want to take a bite out of my screen!!!

hungrycanuck said...

Thanks for the comment! We missed you too, but have a lot of new pictures and notes to process into blog posts from our travels!