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When Carlos Payan opened his Northlake polleria nearly a decade ago, his menu was simple, with charcoal-grilled chicken in the style of "Durango y Chihuahua" as the draw. But over time he's supplemented this with a variety of burritos, tacos, and platillos, including specialties from his native Durango like deshebrada, shredded dried beef in tomatillo salsa, and his mom's guisado, a red beef-and-potato stew. He's also a stickler when it comes to extras, offering the handmade flour tortillas common in northern Mexico but hard to find here, in addition to handmade corn tortillas and gorditas. Most impressive of all, though, is his salsa bar, featuring 16 house-made varieties, six made fresh daily. The range is broad, but the differences between them can be minute: There's a simmered tomatillo-jalapeño and grilled tomatillo-jalapeño. There's raw, simmered, and grilled tomato, and one made from raw jalapeño that Payan smashes with a stone to maximize flavor and punch. His hottest is a brick orange habanero, jalapeño, and arbol combo. It's hard to resist ladling some of each and every one into a little paper cup, no matter what one's ordered or how much. —Mike Sula

Our Review

When Carlos Payan opened his Northlake polleria six years ago, his menu was simple, with charcoal-grilled chicken in the style of "Durango y Chihuahua" as the draw. But over time he's supplemented this with a variety of burritos, tacos, and platillos, including specialties from his native Durango like deshebrada, shredded dried beef in tomatillo salsa, and his mom's guisado, a red beef-and-potato stew. He's also a stickler when it comes to extras, offering the handmade flour tortillas common in northern Mexico but hard to find here in addition to handmade corn tortillas and gorditas. Most impressive of all, though, is his salsa bar, featuring 14 house-made varieties, four made fresh daily. The range is broad, but the differences between them can be minute: There’s simmered tomatillo-jalapeño and grilled tomatillo-jalapeño. There’s raw, simmered, and grilled tomato, and one made from raw jalapeño that Payan smashes with a stone to maximize flavor and punch. His hottest is a brick orange habanero, jalapeño, and arbol combo. And his latest starts with the dark red guajillo-like chile called the pulla. It’s hard to resist ladling some of each and every one into a little paper cup, no matter what one's ordered or how much.

Mike Sula

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Price: $
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