Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mexican confusion and a wish and a hope in Chicago, El Faro, Chicago, Il

I wonder what the cop thought the fourth time I drove by his parked cruiser.  It was night, it wasn't the best of neighborhoods, and I couldn't for the life of me find the restaurant, Jerusalem's Finest, that I started out looking for.  It was a toss up between that one and El Faro and my reasoning was that El Faro was closer to the airport and I might need that as a fallback when I had less time on a quick stopover.

Before I forget let me share this incredible colorful sunset from the next night's flight down to Wilmington NC.

The world on a clear night from 38,000 feet.  The rainbow of the sunset was magnificent.
So I double back to look for El Faro and I feel like I'm driving in another land.  I have no objection to people using their native tongue and think it's kind of neat actually, to find myself in an ethnic neighborhood, but it's just that I can either write this blog or spend time with Rosetta Stone.  So I have to really read the signs and on my second pass saw not "El Faro" but something like "vegetariano" with a parking space in front of the door.  I hate when I use up my life's luck on a parking space and always think I should have played the lottery instead.

I'm looking at what is essentially a diner type restaurant.  It very bright with formica tables and the strange thing is it's so quiet.  There's no music.  Conversations seem to be very easily heard.  Interesting.  So I get the menu and say in my broken, grammatically incorrect Spanish that I'm a vegetarian and don't eat meat, fish, chicken, broth or dairy products.  For all I know I might have just said I enjoy walking in the rain with a lace parasol.  I really try and stick with the Spanish.  I keep thinking this is vegetarian and not vegan.  I wish my guys who spoke fluent Spanish, uh, cause they are from Chile and Cuba, were with me.  I think both would have really liked this place.

I order 2 appetizers and a sandwich.  I can't find smoothies on the menu so settle for a diet coke.  ugh.

My waitress brings my soda and a few condiments.  I love the pickled carrots and jalapenos and cauliflower and onions.  I'm eating the hot carrots like chips.  The salsa is nice with a heat just north of medium.
Chomp, chomp, chomp.

Is this like a Mexican version of pickles on the table?
I start with a Gordita.

Homemade thick corn tortillas with beans, lettuce and tomato.  I got the Nopalitas, a dried cactus seasoned with onions and dried pasilla peppers.

Soy chorizo taco on the left and Gordita on the right.
and a "Taco de Soya Chorizo" a Soya texturada, adobado con especies naturales y aceite de uva, preparado con cebolla y cilantro.  I'd never had Nopalitas before and these had a consistency of sauteed peppers and a wonderful flavor.  The soy tasted like soyrizo with fresh cilantro.  Mmmm good.  Wish they had some daiya cheese.

My eyes are sort of glazing over the menu.

I want a Cuban sandwich.  I remember one I had in Key West to this day.  It was early in the morning and a cup of Cuban coffee.

So I order what I thought was the "Torta Veggie Cubana"  Chorizo, Pollo y Tocino estrilo soya en telera con mayonesa, frijoles, huevo organico, queso amarillo de soya, cebolla, tomate y chile chipotle.

My waitress was very careful to verify no mayonesa et no queso, (they do NOT have soy cheese apparently), but got the sandwich wrong.  Well, I'm sure she got it right but I forged valiantly ahead in Spanish and got the "Sandwich Vegetariano" Soy chicken style served on a toasty wheat bread with mayonnaise, romain lettuce, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, mozarella style tofu, onions and tomatoes, served wtih diced potatoes and fruit.
Nicely laid out plate, the potatoes were perfect instead of overcooked/raw french fries.  The cucumber was perhaps a bit misplaced.

You can see the slices of soy chicken ... they were round like they came off a loaf.
It was a good sandwich, a little overpowered by the sprouts and a good medium for the salsa.  The potatoes were the bomb, man, and not one was left on the plate.  The fruit was all good and fresh and the grapes burst with flavor as I popped one with each bite of sandwich.  Not what I had in mind when I ordered but good non the less.

I asked the waitress for a Cuban Sandwich to go.

When it came I opened it and saw ... another Vegetarian Sandwich.  Ground Hog Day?  So I grabbed the menu and resorted to what travelers in a foreign land have done for eons ... I pointed.  And ordered a Cuban Sandwich to go.

Well, the next day I opened my sandwich and started to chow down and just knew there was something amiss.  I peeled back the bread and lo and behold ... egg.  Now I see it on the menu, huevo organico, but missed it the night before.  I tossed the egg, poured on some hot sauce and ate what remained of my delicious Cuban Sandwich.

I loved this sandwich.  Now I wonder if the bread was made with milk and eggs.
Can anyone who speaks fluent Spanish find out?  Thanks!

Here's a place that is trying.  They totally succeed with their vegetarian fare and I would pick this place over any other Mexican restaurant if I was an ovo lacto vegetarian but for me, I need to be more careful and slow down for my meal here to be successful as a vegan.  I applaud the use of soy vegetarian products and truthfully have no way to know if they're made with egg whites or not.  I also think that unfortunately, I need to come back here with someone who does speak Spanish as I can't really drill down into the ingredient list of the individual foods as far as I'd like with my level of Spanish.

El Faro Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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