Two interesting tidbits we came across while putting some new menus online for you:
1) The mother-in-law is an ostensibly South Side (also, Mississippian) concoction involving tamales, chili and hot dog buns, and often all three. The gut-buster got some coverage recently because of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s tour of Chicago in May, which was written about in the Sun-Times and Reader. One of the points made in the Sun-Times article is that mothers-in-law are all but impossible to find on the North Side:
[Chicago food historian Peter] Engler is convinced the mother-in-law is a South Side phenomenon, just like bad bad Leroy Brown.
“I made a concerted effort spending a couple of days going all over the North Side asking about mother-in-laws,” said Engler, who worked in mouse genetics at the University of Chicago between 1988 and 2007. “Nobody knew. It’s not on any menu.”
Well, through no concerted effort on our own, we found a mother-in-law on the menu of Clark Street Dog in Wrigleyville. They sell tamales for $1.35, tamales with chili for $2.50, and tamales in a blanket for $1.99. We know a mother-in-law when we see one, and this is most certainly a mother-in-law. So they exist on the North Side after all, QED.
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2) The menu for La Baguette, a Mexican restaurant on 43rd and Ashland, contains several heretofore mysterious epitaphs in the tortas section. Tortas are delicious Mexican sandwiches, of course, but the category is inscruitably subtitled with “Las Guapachosas,” and sub-subtitled with “Estilo D.F.”
So we consulted with Carolina of MP:South Florida, who translated the latter as “in the style of Mexico City,” where D.F. = Distrito Federal. While tortas are served all over Mexico, they’re especially popular in Mexico City as street food. The menu lists a specific Mexico City torta called the Chilanga. It has milanesa (breaded steak), chorizo, ham and queso fresco, plus the standard beans, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onions and mayo; a classic torta.
The explanation for “Las Guapachosas” comes from another torta on the list, “La Guapachoza,” or the Groovy Torta. This differs from the Chilanga in that it has pork shoulder instead of ham or chorizo…clearly a groovier ingredient, right? Lest we have to explain why the Russian Torta includes hot dog and pineapple!
These tortas are all $4.25, so you can’t really go wrong in any case.