As if perfectly times to coincide with our pique over Chicago’s draconian food vendor laws, Gourmet has published the Chicago entry in their series on American cities’ great street food choices. Compiled by a moonlighting David Tamarkin (who just yesterday introduced us to the wonders of Three J’s, which shows up again on today’s list), the list goes far in proving that “there are still some soulful dishes being served on the city’s sidewalks” — and parks and street markets.
Topping the roundup, unsurprisingly, is Pilsen’s Tamale Lady — as much an icon for her civilly-disobedient disregard for being ticketed as she is for the lush pork tamales she sells from her cart. The city’s park vendors get notice as well: Lincoln Park’s fruit “gazpacho” dude, Montrose Field’s soccer fan dollar pupusa sellers, and Jessie Oloroso, who wheels her Black Dog Gelato cart out into Wicker Park on sunny days. Two nods to Maxwell Street Market — Tacos D.F. and Rico’s Huaraches — and the Thunderbird Truck and (yes) Three J’s for the downtown suit-wearers.
While the list helps dispell the myth that Chicago’s got absolutely no street food at all, it also highlights the fact that the folks mentioned here — all good, don’t get us wrong — aren’t street food, in a pure sense of things. On purely philosophical grounds, we’re not entirely sure we’d count the Maxwell Street vendors, who operate from fairly concretely fixed locations, or even the storefront-offshoots of Three J’s or the gelato cart. But who are we to complain — we’re just grateful for what we’ve got.