Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cemitas Puebla

The challenge: having more to say than the Mensa-certified, (food) heavyweight, MacArthur Fellow, Mr. Guy Fieri himself. You see, he beat me to the punch, having already visited Cemitas Puebla on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives".

Cemitas Puebla is - surprisingly - all about cemitas, which are Mexican sandwiches not unlike tortas. I would even say that a true cemita is a type of torta except it must use sesame seed bread instead of a bolillo (crusty white roll) and it has a more fixed list of ingredients. The traditional cemita from Puebla, the place in Mexico from which it originates, always contains avocado, a type of meat, adobo-ed chipotles, and shredded queso oaxaca (oaxaca cheese). The reason that I left papalo leaves out is because when they ain't in season, they ain't used (duh).

Guy and I had slightly different experiences. To start, my visit wasn't quite as glamorous; I used a bus and my feet to transport me from home to Cemitas Puebla instead of a red '69 Chevy Camaro Super Sport. Also, my cemita didn't have the aforementioned papalo leaves, which must've lessened the complexity (and maybe the deliciousness) of the cemita. Thanks a lot, Mother Nature, you robbed me of my "summer cilantro".

Yet, even without the papalo, the sandwich slamdunked my taste buds and turned my mouth into a flavor fiesta. The tender breaded pork had a nice garlicky and peppery taste, the fresh avocado paste worked as a smooth spread, the sesame seed bun was a tasty cushion, and the adobo-ed chipotles shined as the true flavor mitochondria. The oaxaca cheese tasted a bit funky though; the soft texture was alright, but the aftertaste brought bizarre bitterness.

When you sit down to a table at Cemitas Puebla, there are three squeeze bottles of sauces. Referring to the above picture, the one on the right is a green tomatillo (mildest), the one in the middle is the adobo (medium), and the one on the left is chile del arbol (hottest). A combination of all three was ideal for the cemita that I ordered (the milanesa) and I think the strongest standalone sauce was the adobo, which is like a very smoky BBQ sauce with just a touch of sweetness.

Oh, and I can't leave out the excellent horchata - "traditional Mexican rice water" - that cost me only a dollar. To me, it tasted like a cold melted root beer float, only thinner. It was like liquid dessert with its sweet and nutty, vanilla and cinnamon notes. Wow. Talk about hitting the spot.

When people talk about Cemitas Puebla, they often use the word "authentic". And, without ever having been to Puebla, I can agree, only because I know they actually use ingredients from there. They're committed to quality and the effort really pays off. The decor may be a bit depressing what with all the faded posters and cheap furniture, but who cares, the food and the experience are not to be missed.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Cemitas Puebla - Humboldt Park - (773)772-8245 - 3619 W. North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 - Public transportation: bus 72.

cemita milanesa - $6
agua de horchata - $1

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