Long loved by Chicago's fanatical food fringe, Cemitas Puebla (formerly Puebla Taqueria) hit the big time with an appearance on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. But the attention is well deserved: proprietor Tony Anteliz Jr. is scratch cooking granny recipes from Puebla. The chipotle en adobo that dresses these sandwiches is the linchpin, smoky with a slow burn, made in-house with morita peppers, a smaller fruitier chipotle, and Grandma Esperanza's pineapple vinegar. The cemita Milanesa is one of the draws: a crisp, light sesame-seed bun made to order at a local bakery, a layer of avocado, a schmear of chipotle en adobo, a crisp-fried butterflied pork chop topped with a shower of Oaxacan cheese, and, in summer months, papalo—like cilantro on steroids—which Tony's mother grows for the restaurant. Swoon-worthy as this may be, go with an Atomica, a belly-bursting combo of Milanesa, carne enchilada, and ham finished with Oaxacan cheese and avocado. Or a cemita pata, made with long-simmered cow's foot mixed with vinegar and carrot, then chilled and sliced in the fashion of headcheese. Along with the cemita, tacos Arabes are a signature of Puebla: juicy strips of marinated, spit-roasted pork shoulder sheared off a rotating spit, given a healthy dose of chipotle en adobo, griddled, and wrapped in a thick pitalike flour tortilla reflecting the Lebanese influence on Puebla. Orientales are the same succulent spit-roasted pork sans chipotle sauce wrapped in a pair of corn tortillas. And God knows one needs an appetizer or two before downing an Atomica coupled with a taco Arabes. Chalupas fit the bill, crispy masa disks with multiple choices of meat and salsa—I like the salsa roja with cecina and salsa verde with chorizo. Or try a chicharron quesadilla, a heady mix of fried pork skin, cheese, and peppers, served blisteringly hot.
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