Las Quecas Brings Cancun Quesadillas to Chicago

[Photographs: Titus Ruscitti]

I'd like to welcome Las Quecas to Chicago, which is the first outlet of the quesadilleria outside of Cancun. It has been open in Little Village since the beginning of the year, and Ambrocia Gonzalez and his partner Francisco Ugalde plan on using this location as a launching pad for more outlets. I stopped into try the specialty of the house, and also got the chance to talk to chef Ambrocia about what led to his decision to make this the first U.S. outpost, which I was lucky enough to try while in Puerto Vallarta a couple years back.

This isnt Ambrocia's first rodeo. Born and raised in Guadalajara, he and his mother opened his first restaurant there at the age of 16. After learning on the job, he came to Chicago and had a place on 26th St., before closing that and opening the beautiful La Cathedral Cafe a block north. His partner is the owner of the Cancun locations. After contemplating opening Las Quecas on the more traveled 26th St., the two decided to open in a space connected to the same building La Cathedral sits in. I was happy to hear that business is really starting to take off. While the locations in Mexico have sopes in addition to quesadillas, here they are focusing strictly on quesadillas.

Fresh masa is pressed and cooked upon ordering, and along with the cheese, you choose what goes inside. Most all of the fillings are made on-site, including a bunch that simmer for a long time to get nice and tender. You can see people peeling potatoes and chopping onions across the counter as you enter. It's all from scratch here including a handful of salsas sitting at an add them yourself station. To go along with those, they have fresh crema, pickled red onions, and other popular toppings. You're free to put whatever you want on yours. I decided to try a trio of quesadillas and each one was a winner.

The Cochinita Pibil, the pork specialty of the Yucatán Peninsula, was as good as any I've had at some higher end spots.

All that's needed as far as toppings for this option is a nice helping of the pickled red onions.

The lomo is shredded beef loin, which is covered in a paste of guajillo chilies and other special spices. After adding some salsa verde and a splash of fresh crema, it was easy to taste why this one was the owner's favorite.

I was told the popular neighborhood choice to date has been the chicharrón prensado en salsa roja, and it was definitely a deep fried delight. Chicharrones are made into prensado by pressing the rendered skins into a loaf of fried swine. Shaved bits are cooked in either red or green salsas, and stuffed into quesadillas.

I ended up taking the equivalent of a full quesadilla home because two was more than enough. One of the best $6 meals you can eat in these parts, and there's certainly no shortage of selection. Welcoming staff, fantastic food, great neighborhood place. I'll be back.

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