Tacos and a laugh…
If you don’t get humor or good food, we can’t be friends. We can be friendly acquaintances, polite even, but probably not friends. I don’t know that I could truly connect with someone disconnected from two of life’s great indulgences. It just feels fundamentally off to me to not love a good laugh or a good meal. But if you can appreciate a sense of humor and wonderful food, then you have my undivided attention.
It is also my belief that great food can come in all forms, even humble ones, and that food can have a sense of humor as well. Like a street taco. I don’t know that food can get more humble than a street taco. There is something very self-deprecating about a beautifully cooked piece of carne asada, accompanied by nothing more than a little salsa and wrapped in a hand-made corn tortilla. To eat something that gives so much pleasure, for less than three dollars, makes street tacos somehow both mouth-watering and a little ironic.
Also, ironically, some of the best street tacos in town are not on the street, but rather in the corner of the lobby of the renovated Clarendon Hotel at a restaurant called Gallo Blanco. If ever there was a restaurant that has a sense of humor, it’s this one. Maybe that is why I love it.
Gallo Blanco’s street tacos are the real deal. They instantly transport Sean back to fond memories of trips taken to Mexico long ago. Served with thick, freshly made tortillas and filled with whatever tickles you… shrimp, pork, halibut, seasonal veggies, they are small enough, and reasonable enough, that you can order several of your favorite or a few of everything. On a recent night we were lucky enough to go when they were featuring a special of pork belly tacos. Pork bellies from The Meat Shop no less. When you see The Meat Shop pork bellies on a menu look no further. You will not find a more tender, flavorful, or decadent cut of pork anywhere. And if a chef is wise enough to have them on the menu, then there is a pretty good chance that there is something spectacular planned. Chefs that buy them know quality and know what they are doing. I have had pork bellies from The Meat Shop at a variety of restaurants around town and they are always amazing, no matter how they are prepared. This was the first time I have had them in a taco and Gallo Blanco did them proud.
We did not stop with the tacos though. I am also a little obsessed with their Pollo Asado. It is sublime. Marinated in citrus, garlic and spices until it is so tender and juicy you want to cry with tears of joy. It is to chicken what The Meat Shop’s pork bellies are to pork. In other words, I have no words. I have been so fixated on their Pollo Asado, that I even hunted down the recipe for and found it online, here. (I respect a chef that is willing to share and doesn’t get all proprietary and secretive.) That said, if you really want to enjoy it they way it should be enjoyed, go to Gallo Blanco and order the Pollo Asado for yourself. We also rounded out the meal with some of their guacamole, that comes with plenty of citrus in it and fat ripe tomatoes, a few margaritas, and the Ensalada Cortada that had chopped fresh kale, red and white cabbage, a little egg, some avacado and, get this, corn nuts. Told you they have a sense of humor.
While you are there, you need to go enjoy the roof top bar on the top of the Clarendon. There is no better place in town to enjoy the city lights, and this time of year the Christmas lights make it even better. We missed out on our most recent trip due to rain, but trust me, it is worth the elevator ride up. Get a margarita or cocktail while you are there, and enjoy the view, and maybe a laugh.
401 W. Clarendon
The Meat Shop
202 East Buckeye Road
**The family that owns The Meat Shop are some of the truly nicest and most sincere people you could meet. They are as passionate and exacting about their pigs as we are about our produce. Look for them on menus, or better still, visit their shop for yourself.