Birrieria Zaragoza – Goat & Fresh Tortillas.

April 11 2012 - 11:59 AM

I’ve read about this place a few times before, and I wanted to follow the herd to great food without the long lines, overexposed media hype, and high prices.   I read about this place a couple times on LTH Forum and Chicago Reader, and having some free time I wanted to make the long journey of discovery to the temple of goat meat on the Southwest Side.

I took the Orange Line down to Pulaski and Archer, an interesting mix of Mexican, East European, and old-school Chicagoans.    The area wasn’t entirely an unfamiliar sight, having made numerous trips to Midway, but it’s always been dark and I haven’t had a chance to take in the scenery.   Archer Heights, the surrounding neighborhood, is in the bungalow belt of pre- and post-WWII middle class homes, and on Pulaski and Archer, a mix of sidewalk storefronts, strip malls, and even a Red Lobster.

A short walk up Pulaski, and I crossed 49th street, spotting the restaurant.  Walking right in I was staring at the menu trying to see what I needed to order, and a man kindly offered up his seat to me so I could talk to the people behind the counter.   Not knowing what I’m doing and being the only güero at the time I felt a bit awkward, but John and Norma, the owners, put me quickly to ease and recommended that I start with a quesadilla with a fantastic fire roasted salsa with smoky, nuanced flavors.  The menu was limited to quesadillas and goat:  focus is the key to success here as in many other places that don’t extend their menu to the point where quality diminishes.

John suggested that I get a small plate of birria, and he served me parts from the shank and the spine with some home-cooked corn tortillas, the dough of which, Norma explained, is brought in daily from a neighboring tortilla factory.   They used a wooden tortilla press and cooked fresh to order tortillas.    Norma showed me you can take a freshly-cooked tortilla, put salt on it, squish it into a small piece and have it taste like a pretzel.

Putting it in a tortilla with cilantro and onions on top and a squeeze of lime, along with a tomato consommé, chile arbol picante, and roasted arbol peppers was heaven.  The flavors were moist, subtle, not fatty, and not overly salty.   The goat meet relaxes you, John said, due to the presence of tryptophan, found in turkey meat.

I chose a delicious bottle of Sidral Mundet with which to wash the meet down.  John suggested next time that I try the shoulder, though I’d happily try any part of the goat.   I’ll be back sometime for sure.

Birrieria Zaragoza
4852 S. Pulaski Rd.
(773) 523-3700

–Josh Brusin