Keeping our Mercado Experience Authentic with a “Feel” to it, from Chicago with Love, Passion, & Inspiration

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This weekend getaway was an injection of creativity, admiration, and if possible, an increased passion for continual strive towards offering la Experiencia Mexicana at El Burrito Mercado.   The hubby and I went to Chicago this past Valentines weekend, it was a great, I think it’s simply getting away from responsibilities of the house, kids, and business’ that allow us to relax and enjoy each other making anywhere we go ‘romantic’.  Romantic getaways don’t have to be to the ocean, though if we could have we would have.

In addition to our ‘romantic’ adventures, we mixed pleasure with business.  We visited several Mexican markets, restaurants, and panaderias (bakeries).  As we drove in from the airport I became very nostalgic remembering the trips to Chicago with my dad in the little van when we use to pick up our merchandise from the vendors and brought it back to stock our shelves in our little 800sq ft store (back in the 80’s).

Tomas from Chicago
Tomas from Chicago

(Before our trips in a van to Chicago, my father used to go in a little station wagon to bring tortillas and other items.)  I had forgotten that Chicago was one of my earliest Mexican ‘cultural’ memories aside from our family Mexico trips.  I loved this panaderia- they didn’t have anywhere to sit and enjoy our pan dulce so we sat in our car rental and sipped on coffee and made a couple trips back in for refills!

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Our first visit last week was to El Milagro tortilleria and their taqueria, the aroma of the tortilleria imitates 100% the tortillerias of the pueblos (towns) in Mexico! Awww, nostalgia.  El Milagro is one of the most established tortillerias in Chicago, I have had the privilege of previously meeting and doing business with one of the owners, Jessi. Ironically, after meeting with his production Manager and as we head out of their taqueria, we had a pleasant encounter with Jess, I’m always taken by his noble personality.  El Milagro has now grown into several other states in the country, so proud of the Lopez family and their successful business growth, so encouraging!.  http://www.el-milagro.com/history_1.html

After our visit to El Milagro, we stopped at several markets and panaderias in the ‘barrio’.  I like to go back once in a while to see what’s new and what’s the same in the Mexican mercados.  For the most part, it was ‘same ol’ same ol’,  based on my brief observations, as far as Mexican grocery, produce, and meats, considering our volume and demographic comparison in Hispanic population to the Chicago market, El Burrito Mercado is equal in variety.   Regarding quality and merchandising, in my opinion, we surpass in this area, our approach to creating a unique ambiance with our tasteful decor of imported artesania from Mexico were most notable to my visits,  I missed this aspect in the stores I visited.

Our exclusive approach to our market and restaurant seems to appeal to the diverse Latino consumer (by varying levels of generation and assimilation) as well as the non-Latino consumer. I attribute this appeal to the ever sought ‘experiences and interactions’ that consumers enjoy.

“They are looking for products that are not necessarily big brands anymore,” says Michael Bellas, chairman of the Beverage Marketing Corporation. “They like brands that have character. They are looking for authenticity and purity, but they are also looking for new experiences.” http://www.twincities.com/nation/ci_24328113/changing-demographics-is-changing-our-taste-buds

Some of the experiences are just that, keeping it “same ol’, same ol'” (traditional, authentic flavors) and at the same time keeping it fresh & updated with a ‘feel’.

We also called on a few restaurants, but the most anticipated visit was to La Frontera Grill by Rick Bayless, I finally got to visit his famous restaurant! http://www.rickbayless.com/about/meetrick.html   We could only get in for a lunch reservation, I was curious to see his setup of all three restaurants in one (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Xoco), very quaint and smaller than I expected, I liked that and enjoyed the ambiance.  Presentation of the platillos were beautiful, staff extremely friendly, and the dishes were delightful.  Loved the Mashed Michoacan avocados, roasted poblanos & garlic, tomatillo, pepitas, grilled onion, aneja cheese and the ceviche tacos.

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We also visited several other restaurants like Nacional 27 and Mi Tierra, but my favorite of all, what seems like a Chicago hidden gem, Estrella Negra! I love restaurants/markets with a unique feeling and decor! Tiny hole in the wall decked from the decor of calaveras and dia de los muerto decor and to the exquisite menu with Loteria(Mexican bingo) names like La Dama, El Catrin,etc, I loved it!! (I could tell the tortillas were from El Milagro and I loved that too!)  Our favorite: their Pozole Borracho (Drunk Pozole) Pozole is a chicken and/or pork, hominy soup in a flavorful broth with blended guajillo peppers, spicy soups like Menudo & Pozole are known as hangover cures- hence the name Pozole Borracho!  And our other favorite, the chorizo, corn, & jalapeno empanadas garnished with pico de gallo and sour cream! Image

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A must visit restaurant in Chicago, plus they offered something I noticed a lot in Chicago restaurants- BYOB! Yes, BYOB and they only charge the a corkage fee! http://estrellanegra.com/#

Every winter/new year I review our menus at El Burrito Mercado and tweak a bit, I’ve been working on them for a couple months and kinda got stuck, this visit to Chicago was inspiring and influential I”m certain.

What do you look for in a restaurant or ethnic market? Do you hope to have an experience or are you typically seeking a specific ingredient? What has been some of your most memorable restaurant and market experiences?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Everything from the nostalgia, aromas, mercado visits, and delicious unique Mexican eats, thank you Chicago, I missed you, we had an incredible weekend! The hubby and I had a blast shopping, eating, sleeping, dancing, and singing… did I mention my husband sings(enjoy these videos)? Looking for a great mariachi experience in Chicago visit Mi Tierra restaurant.

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