This is my last post as a resident of Chicago. As I write this, I am on a train with all of the clothes I own (and some of Empanada Boy’s) to New York City. I’ll arrive in time for the orientation for the M.A. program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. EB will join me in a couple weeks. We have spent the past week or so trying to say goodbye to our friends and relatives in Chicago. We’ve even said goodbye to some of our favorite restaurants, like Tanoshii, the sushi place where we had our first date (which I didn’t know was a date). But I decided my last post in Chicago would be devoted to a restaurant that EB and I had never visited until last weekend. Though we had never eaten there, we were intimately familiar with it. We know this restaurant almost as well as we know our own kitchen because we live above it. And after two years of smelling the sausage frying every morning, we decided to stop in for breakfast at Ravenswood Restaurant. My friend Berry Jamb, who lives in the neighborhood and couldn’t believe we hadn’t tried it, came along.
You may be wondering why it took us so long to try a restaurant that was just sitting there below us. There are a number of reasons. First, it isn’t open very late for dinner, so we usually turn to Erick’s Tacos across the street. Secondly, I almost always prefer to make food in my house if I’m not going out for a special meal. We never order in, and when we do pick up food nearby, we almost always bring it home. Finally, I always assumed that Ravenswood Restaurant was a dive-y diner, serving greasy home fries and mediocre omelets, which is how it looks from the outside. In fact, Ravenswood Restaurant probably does have these items on its rather encyclopedic diner menu. What I didn’t know is that it also has a fantastic section devoted to Mexican and Latin American breakfast specialties, obviously the foods the cooks and servers actually eat at home. Needless to say, we ordered from that section.
Berry Jamb had raved about the Guatemalan breakfast (second picture from the top), which he ordered again and let us sample. It comes with scrambled eggs, black beans, fried plantains, chorizo or longaniza links and warm corn tortillas. The longaniza that Berry ordered was definitely the highlight of the dish— full of spice and juicy flavor. EB struck gold with the Guatemalan chilaquiles (pictured on top). These were thin layers of fried corn tortillas spread with a smoky chili-infused sauce and stretchy cheese. Rice and refried beans came with it. My dish— Huevos Mexicanos— was eggs scrambled with tomato and green pepper with sides of beans, rice and corn tortillas. It was a little less enlightening than my compatriots’ meals, but it could beat a standard diner breakfast any day.
Perhaps the most delightful part of the meal was the two homemade salsas served alongside the food. The red was hot and dusty from smoked peppers. The green one was even hotter, burning our mouths and making our eyes water. Our waitress came by to ask about our meals: “Is the salsa too hot for you?” “No way,” we replied. And she smiled. It’s the little things, like the extra heat in the salsa that let you know you’re eating something approaching authentic. And to think, it was waiting just two floors below us all along.
1968 W. Lawrence Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640