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Little Village paragon of the taco arts. No carryout; alcohol prohibited.

Our Review

In Mexico tripa doesn't refer to the lining from the first three chambers of a ruminant's stomach but to its small intestine, which, when washed and cleaned, serves as one of the preferred fillings for tacos de fritangas. For this specialty of Mexico City, muscles and organs are "fried" on the periphery of a circular grill with a dome in the middle for warming tortillas. This charola accommodates typical fillings like the pork sausage longaniza; the lean suadero, cut from the brisket; and the tripa. Their juices commingle with the cooking oil, creating a kind of braise, which flavors them and prevents them from drying out. There aren't too many charolas in town, but there's at least one master: Cesar Castillo, the taquero at La Chaparrita #1, who's been working the charola for six years at this grocery/taqueria on a quiet residential corner in Little Village. His tripa is really something special. You can order it extracrispy, or not crispy at all if you're gutsy, and he'll accommodate, selecting choice bits, deftly cleavering them into tiny pieces, bedding them on a warm tortilla, and dressing them with a sprinkle of chopped onion and cilantro. La Chaparrita's miracles aren't all born on the charola. Castillo also steams cabeza, lengua, sesos, and mollejas, grills carne asada over charcoal, and shaves a pineapple-y al pastor. Owner Angelina Mendez stuffs the sausages and seasons the meats according to a recipe brought to Chicago more than two decades ago by her mother (who owns the more family-style La Chaparrita #2 in Chicago Lawn). Add to that excellent handmade huaraches, grilled cebollitas, Mendez's creamy proprietary salsas, and her fresh-fruit licuados,, aguas frescas, and icy milk shakes (aka eskimos)—La Chaparrita is exceptional all-round.

Mike Sula

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