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#1
Posted April 25th 2006, 12:16pm
La Cecina: Restaurant Familiar

Given that we live on the Near West Side and have various connexions to Hyde Park, we get the opportunity to pass through and investigate many of the intervening neighbourhoods on a regular basis. Among the more interesting stretches for food is the Mexican neighbourhood focussed along 47th Street. This area is rightly being given some renewed attention through the planned group-visit (link) coming up in a few days and this post is a little foreshadowing for that event. But it should also be noted that this area was explored in years past by two of the maestros of culinary exploration in Chicagoland, fellow LTHer Rene G, who seems to have been the first of the chowhounds to investigate this zone, and RST, who also visited and wrote on a number of places there. Here are some links to old threads in Lefflandia:

http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards ... 13513.html

http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards ... 13568.html

http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards ... 27557.html

http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards ... 38489.html

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An excellent example of a kind of Mexican restaurant in Chicago is La Cecina on the northwest corner of the intersection of West 47th Street and Winchester. The kind of restaurant in question here is the family restaurant, serving no alcohol, fairly large in size, with an extensive, largely pan-Mexican menu including also some regional specialties. A better known -- perhaps the best known -- example of this style of restaurant is Pilsen’s Nuevo Leon on 18th Street just east of Ashland: Clean, kid friendly, usually fairly busy, and serving very good food at reasonable prices and in ample portions, La Cecina is the Guerrerense analogue to that norteño stand-by.

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With Lent now past, for the first time in 7 weeks it was once again possible to visit a Mexican restaurant without being ridiculously constrained in eating options. Indeed, I took the opportunity to revel in the consuming of flesh and so ordered la carne charra, which from the menu I expected to be a steak served with ‘charro’ style black beans, which should involve pork in the preparation. My meaty expectations were vastly exceeded by the dish actually served, for whereas I expected either chorizo or bacon with the beans, they came instead with both lots of chorizo and several large pieces of bacon and an ample amount of chopped ham to boot!
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Here is the whole handsome platter, with good rice, a bit of salad and an orange slice, and a large piece of first class carne asada that is wholly obscured by the gargantuan portion of the tasty pork-n-beans:
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Amata ordered a huarache with cecina and also a quesadilla filled with requesón. I sampled both and thought the huarache was fine and the cecina flavourful. The quesadilla struck me, however, as really special, even more satisfying than the tlacoyos de requesón at Nuevo Kappy’s (link) of which we are so fond. This quesadilla had a little more of the cheese and thus a -- to my mind -- perfect balance of masa to filling.
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The tortillas are house-made and very good and the chips offered when one arrives are clearly made from those tortillas and are quite good, so too the roasted vegetable salsa served in a molcajete along with those chips.

La Cecina is a very pleasant family restaurant with very good Mexican food and some Guerrerense specialties. There are a number of daily specials throughout the week and both birria and barbacoa are offered as well.

Antonius

P.S. Not recommended for the carne en su jugo by Pigmon, though!
http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=65882#65882

La Cecina
1934 West 47th Street (by Winchester)
773.927.9444
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Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
- aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
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#2
Posted April 25th 2006, 1:14pm
I also really enjoyed our lunch at La Cecina, and as Antonius said, the quesadilla with requeson was outstanding.

Also, I loved the beverage I had along with my lunch: licuado de mamey. I don't think I'd ever had mamey in any form before, and it was delicious, giving the "milkshake" a creamy orange color.

Here is a picture of mamey fruits:
http://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/esp ... ameyes.jpg

I found that picture through google images, of course; but skimming the accompanying article I learned that the Iguala/Rio Balsas area of Guerrero state is famous for its mamey orchards. So perhaps offering a mamey option for the licuados is a particularly Guerrerense touch.

As we sat by the window of La Cecina, enjoying our late lunch, I was struck by how many good options there are in Chicago for Mexican food -- and how many are completely invisible to the Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville/De Cero, etc. market. If those folks only knew what they are missing! cecina, tortillas hechas a mano, mamey...!
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#3
Posted April 25th 2006, 1:24pm
A,

I have not had cesina very often, and have only recently learned how to eat it (I bought it once or twice at groceries and ate it like jerky, which was okay, but did not show the stuff to advantage -- and was probably not the way it should be consumed). At the "other" Nuevo Leon (3657 West 26th Street), I had a very tasty machacado con huevo which was basically just scrambled egg with cesina in a taco -- I thought the egg was an excellently personality-less platform for the cesina. Also at this little joint, I had a very fine beverage: a michelada, which was an extraordinarlly powerful blend of Worchester, Tabasco, black pepper, fresh lemon, salt and beer -- over ice. I really dug it, and intend to mix some up at home this summer.

Nice looking charros.

Hammond
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“We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
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#4
Posted April 25th 2006, 3:02pm
David Hammond wrote:A,

I have not had cesina very often, and have only recently learned how to eat it (I bought it once or twice at groceries and ate it like jerky, which was okay, but did not show the stuff to advantage -- and was probably not the way it should be consumed). At the "other" Nuevo Leon (3657 West 26th Street), I had a very tasty machacado con huevo which was basically just scrambled egg with cesina in a taco -- I thought the egg was an excellently personality-less platform for the cesina. Also at this little joint, I had a very fine beverage: a michelada, which was an extraordinarlly powerful blend of Worchester, Tabasco, black pepper, fresh lemon, salt and beer -- over ice. I really dug it, and intend to mix some up at home this summer.

Nice looking charros.

Hammond


David,

Funny you should mention that place which otherwise seems to go unmentioned: I posted a picture of a platter from there earlier today in the sopa de fideos thread and in doing that I uploaded the one photo along with some others from Nuevo Leon-West in order to compose a short write up. That will appear in this forum in a few moments...

A...
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Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
- aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
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Na sir is na seachain an cath.
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#5
Posted April 25th 2006, 5:46pm
And an amazingly prescient choice of t-shirt for young Lucantonio as well, blending, chameleon-like, into the color scheme. As much as I would like to not see our youth "branded" as it were (to use the current parlance), the vision of Lucantonio perched behind the wheel of a 944, racing hat and sunglasses donned, sitting on a copy or two of the Schwaebische Gelbe Seiten, makes me chuckle. At least let me balance the scales and get him into a "Trabant - Zwickau" or "Skoda - Praha" shirt (or, to be even edgier in these nefariously corporate times, "GM - Guadalajara" Ooooohh.....). Certainly the Santa Fe shirt one can espy on Amata, with some sort of benign nature imagery, was meant to be less inflammatory, suggesting cross-cultural understanding (the capitol city of "New" Mexico, indeed...). Leaving, of course, the question: what was the photographer wearing, hmmm?? "Viva Zapata?" A Kahlo self-portrait? A timeline of Maximilian? A Mike Bossy replica? Indeed...
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#6
Posted April 25th 2006, 6:09pm
hungryrabbi wrote: Leaving, of course, the question: what was the photographer wearing, hmmm??


good question... I don't recall. Probably something hockey-ish.

My shirt says Bobcat Bite, Santa Fe. A chowish choice, indeed!
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#7
Posted April 25th 2006, 8:30pm
hungryrabbi wrote:A Mike Bossy replica? Indeed...


Very entertaining musings, Rebchen. A Bossy replica would have been an excellent choice but it was more in the Satanic vein.

:wink:

A
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Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
- aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
________
Na sir is na seachain an cath.
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#8
Posted April 25th 2006, 11:01pm
Amata wrote:So perhaps offering a mamey option for the licuados is a particularly Guerrerense touch.
There is a Guerreran restauarant near my house that also offers licuados de mamey. I have not tried one (I am currently fixated on their horchata). I will try a licuado de mamey tommorrow. To be honest, I had no idea what a mamey actually was until I saw the picture you linked. Now I remember seeing them at the supermercado.
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#9
Posted April 26th 2006, 8:07am
Mamey is a popular ice cream flavor in the Caribbean for the reasons mentioned above. The late, misunderstood, Miami flavors had a great mamey cone.
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#10
Posted April 26th 2006, 8:21am
Amata wrote:Also, I loved the beverage I had along with my lunch: licuado de mamey. I don't think I'd ever had mamey in any form before, and it was delicious, giving the "milkshake" a creamy orange color.

Here is a picture of mamey fruits:
http://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/esp ... ameyes.jpg


There are actually two Latin American fruits called "mamey," Mammea americana and Pouteria sapota. The latter (in the picture you linked to) may be better known as sapote.
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LAZ
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#11
Posted April 26th 2006, 9:26am
Depends on where in Latin America you are.
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#12
Posted July 14th 2006, 4:42pm
Stopped into La Cecina last night and had a number of items, including some very nice smelts -- can't say they seemed distinctively Mexican (they were simply lightly breaded and fried, with some lime and cucumber and crema squirted on top), but they were very tasty (I had them cold for breakfast, and they held up).

Chicken soup (supposedly Guerrero-style) was also good, very perky with guajillo and fresh veggies.

Hammond
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“We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
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#13
Posted July 15th 2006, 2:52am
Note to Hammond: normally the michelada contains clamato. Are you sure yours didn't? It's actually one of my all time favorite summer drinks. And (sadly) I'm not a huge fan of beer.
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#14
Posted July 15th 2006, 3:54am
bryan wrote:Note to Hammond: normally the michelada contains clamato. Are you sure yours didn't? It's actually one of my all time favorite summer drinks. And (sadly) I'm not a huge fan of beer.


Bryan,

Mine didn't have Clamato in it, though that sounds like a worthy variation.

I Googled "michelada," and the first half-dozen receipes that came up did not contain Clamato (I did get some hits for "michelada" + "Clamato"). Were you served the drink with Clamato in Chicago?

Hammond
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“We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
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#15
Posted July 15th 2006, 10:10am
David Hammond wrote:Stopped into La Cecina last night and had a number of items, including some very nice smelts -- can't say they seemed distinctively Mexican (they were simply lightly breaded and fried, with some lime and cucumber and crema squirted on top), but they were very tasty (I had them cold for breakfast, and they held up).


Hey David,

glad to hear that you enjoyed La Cecina. What strikes you as un-Mexican about the smelts? The charales at La Casa de Samuel are prepared even more simply: there, the smelts are served just fried, with lime and hot sauce on the side.

Here's a picture of charales from a Mexican government website (Lake Chapala tourism):

http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/regiones/cha ... chap47.gif

Amata
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#16
Posted July 15th 2006, 11:55am
Amata wrote:What strikes you as un-Mexican about the smelts? The charales at La Casa de Samuel are prepared even more simply: there, the smelts are served just fried, with lime and hot sauce on the side.


Amata, thanks for keeping me in line (no, really, I mean it :) ).

What I meant to suggest was that these fishies were prepared in pretty much the same way as smelts I've had at many other places. Side-by-smelty-side with any of those, you (or, rather, I) wouldn't be able to pick out the "Mexican" ones on any basis other than the condiments of lime and crema. So, I wasn't really saying that they were un-Mexican -- just not obviously, identifiably, or distinctively Mexican.

David "Starting to quibble, and so stopping" Hammond

PS. I also had the mamey milkshake which I understand you also liked -- so did I, but I should have had it for dessert rather than as a dinner beverage. Carolyn had the jugo 7 vidas: a much better choice with dinner.
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“We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
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#17
Posted July 16th 2006, 7:31pm
David: I've only had it made w/ clamato by a friend, so I was under the impression that that was the recipe. It's how I make it now. But most Mexican places I've been to do have Clamato there, usually the caliente version, so I'm sure you could request it made w/ clamato.
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