Once again someone from the national media cannot resist the adjective "gritty" when saying the word "Southside." Anthony Bourdain braved our mean streets in a rented caddie for last week's episode of No Reservations. Apparently he made is back North with all his hubcaps in tact. But nobody told him he was parked in the dead guy's spot.
On the episode he visited Calumet Fisheries. I wrote about this place back in November, and last Saturday I had the chance to spend most of the day there taking pictures, talking to the people who work there and observing first hand the power of cable TV.
"I have no idea how they picked us, but this is great." That's Mark Kotlick, one of the owners of Calumet Fisheries. He spent the day gladly talking to inquisitive new customers, discussing the history of the place and showing off the fish that are smoked right outside. "We smoked a week's worth of fish and we might run out today."
Thank you Tony.
Oh yeah about the dead guy: The manager, Carlos, (who has worked there on and off since 1995, and has a Culinary Certificate from CHIC) told me his story: "I come in one morning and there's a car parked out front, there's usually no cars here, and I notice there's a guy in there. Sleeping. After a few minutes I decide it's time for him to move along and I tap on the window. Nothing. I beat on the window, and I yell and still nothing. Now I'm starting to get a bad feeling. I call 911. A cop shows up, I don't know his name but I recognize him, he opens the door, put his fingers on the guy's neck, then closes the door. The cop says "Yep he's dead. You got any smoked chubs?"
To the guys at Calumet, thanks for letting me spend the day with you, I'll get the photos to you soon.
A different kind of Southside, Pilsen.
If Tony had been a really lucky travelling TV personality, he would have ended up where I was on Sunday, Pilsen. This quarter at Kendall I have Cuisine of Mexico class, and Chef took us on a field trip.
We visited World Wide Produce at the Chicago International Produce Market Then we went to Cermak Produce Which is a beautiful store, not gritty at all.
Then Chef led us to El Milagro for fresh masa. We all got a turn feeding the masa machine.
Masa is used for making corn tortillas or tamales. El Milagro also offeres Chicharrones, chips and tortillas, It(1923 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago) was a fun stop.
But what Tony really missed out on was Carnerceria Don Pedro. As the name implies, they sell carnitas either to eat in or to go.
You don't really need a menu because all they serve is carnitas, or if you are not feeling porcine, barbacoa of goat.
We were served family style with sides chicharrones and jalapenoes escabeche. Chef showed us the proper taco: Some carnitas, crushed chicharrones, onion, cilantro, a squirt of sauce and a squeeze of lime. After lunch Don Pedro showed us the kitchen.
We saw huge kettles where they cook the pork in lard. That right, carnitas are pork confit. Recently I have been reading a lot about chefs getting whole hogs and breaking them down themselves, and making a menu of "nose to tail" dishes. Don Pedro said he goes though fifty whole hogs in a weekend.
He also makes head cheese and long ropes of sausage. It's nose to tail eating on the cheap. The business there is swift on the weekends with the carryout crowd jamming the front of the room, A man in behind the counter chops at the carnitas in a digit removing fashion, and packs to go orders by the pound. There are maybe ten tables for eating in. And don't show up late, at least not on Sunday. We got there at 1:15 and we got the last of the barbacoa, and they were down to their last tray of carnitas.
Carnerceria Don Pedro
1113 W 18th ST
Small parking lot just west of the building.
So come visit the Southside. We got more than just grit.