South Side Eats: Sizing Up El Solazo's Carne en su Jugo
You may remember today's stop from the South Side taco roundup published last month. As the weeks go by, I'll try and bring more individual attention to some of the spots featured, and this time around that place will be El Solazo at the corner of 56th and Pulaski. It's hip and up to date as far as presentation goes, making it feel like a step up compared to other Mexican spots on the block. Not important I know, but the place just has the look of a regional chain even though it's a family run place. It's obviously a popular neighborhood place, since it has been very busy on each of my visits.
Even though I put the cochinita pibil taco on the South Side taco roundup, I originally stopped by because I saw tacos dorados listed on the menu. Before the thought Taco Bell or Taco John's even enters your head, I'm going to have to slap it away. I'm not talking about the Glen Bell gentrified kind. Tacos Dorados are popular throughout Mexico, and in the end they're really just flautas that haven't been rolled. The best are made by frying the tortilla fresh in the shape of a taco with the meat already inside, which is what you'll find here. There's a choice of filling, but I recommend the carne deshebrada, a.k.a. shredded beef. The end bits get extra crisp, and the trio of tacos get topped off with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream.
The second time around, the aforementioned cochinita pibil tacos came with the standard red onions and were even better because of them. Many recipes for this Yucatan treat can vary, so I don't know their exact preparation for it, but the final product sure does taste good. They use just the right amount of spice to make your tongue tingle, before the citrusy pickled red onions put out the flames.
On my first visit I noticed they had carne en su jugo on the menu. If this is your first introduction to this glorious Mexican dish, I would say El Solazo is a good place for a beginner to try it. The meat is steak and it goes into beef broth with many other ingredients, including, but not limited to, bacon, beans, avocado, jalapeños, and onions. It's a product of the state of Jalisco in Mexico, and as many people from that region have moved here the soup has become pretty common in Chicagoland.
A well presented bowl should include a side plate of limes, grilled knob onions, chopped cilantro, diced raw onions, sliced radish, and whole chile de arbols. All of that goes into the bowl at your own will. At Solazo they did a good job with the presentation. They even added diced queso fresca—a not so common element that goes on top of everything else mentioned. The steak was where it needed to be as far as texture and taste, and the bacon was crispy. But it's the broth that can really make or break this dish. Even if every other element is met, bad bouillon-based broth can ruin it. This was average to above average—I may of tasted a little bit of beef flavor in cube form, but not as much as others around town. Also the bowl was fully consumed, so at the very least it can be considered a dish worth trying.
I'll always be on the hunt for a place to take the crown away from the bowl by which I judge all others. While El Solazo didn't conquer that kingdom, it is definitely above the average. Look out for more bowls of carne en su jugo as the weather gets cold.