Eat This Now: Excellent Carne Asada Pambazo at El Habanero


[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

El Habanero opened quietly in Logan Square a few weeks ago. In fact, until last week, the taqueria didn't even have an official sign, making do with a sidewalk chalkboard and a few handwritten posters taped to its windows. With so many taquerias in the area, I didn't initially give it much thought, but I became intrigued by one of those signs, which along with the usual assortment of tacos and burritos, mentioned the pambazo, a Mexican sandwich that is surprisingly hard to find around town.

It's easy to see how the pambazo stands apart from other Mexican sandwiches, like the torta or the cemita. The bread is dunked in a chile salsa, casting the whole thing red. After the bath, the bread is then griddled—a key step—which crisps up the exterior, and prevents it from collapsing mid-bite. This also sets it apart from the torta ahogada, a messier and, usually, far spicier creation. Though El Habanero's pambazo looks overwhelmingly spicy, the salsa is actually smokier and more complex than fiercely hot, which allows you to appreciate the juicy hunks of carne asada. Sure, it's messy, and there is essentially no way your fingers and half your face won't be dyed red by the end, but it's all worth it for one of the best examples of the sandwich in the city.