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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On searching for good Mexican food north of the border, why racial profiling should NOT be a part of making new friends and guacamole recipes from El Paso

Who am I to review restaurants? My palette is not so developed that I can decipher the unique flavorings that make up a mole sauce. I am not well versed in the culinary arts and magic of what goes on in a kitchen. And by no means have I eaten at a 5-star establishment more than once. So do I really know food? Or am I just another Yelpie yapping about customer services issues and the font on a menu?

I’ll own it, I’m just another yapper on Yelp joining the great food conversation exploding on the World Wide Web and today I’m writing about guacamole one of the best inventions to come out of Mexico. And specifically, I’d like to talk about the guacamole at Little Mexican Café on Church Street in Evanston. I really like the guacamole there and I’m going to spend this blog post writing about it.

Let’s start with the definition according to Wikipedia, Guacamole: is an avocado-based sauce that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. In addition to its use in modern Mexican cuisine it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) with sea salt. Some recipes call for tomato, onion, lime juice, chili, yogurt and/or additional seasonings.

Now we’re all on the same page, right? Not really. Guacamole is like queso (another fabulous invention from Mexico that varies per household) in that it can be made many, many, many different ways. And thanks to a 10+ year stint living in El Paso (a city that shares a border and much of the population with Mexico) I was introduced to many different types of guacamole. The strangest? Three avocadoes, ½ cup milk, and lime juice in a blender. Strange but delicious!

When my family left El Paso for Evanston, we were all concerned about the pending lack of awesome Mexican food in our futures despite the fact that tons of Mexican Nationals live in Chicagoland. It’s not enough to just go to a Mexican restaurant and buy a dish. For us we would need home cooked Mexican food to fill the gap and for that we would need to make friends from Mexico! That would be hard because racial profiling should not be part of making friends. Not only is it disingenuous but using someone for their cooking potential is wrong and too complicated. What if all that time hanging out and getting to know one another, they finally invite you over for dinner and A. their cooking stinks or B. they cook you Chinese food? It’s too risky!

We would need to shelve looking for new friends from Mexico and we’d just have to eat out at Mexican food restaurants! Oh white people problems!

I would be remiss here not to throw a bone to our good friend Rick Bayless, who needs a bone thrown from Evanston Newbie like Lake Michigan needs water. But Rick has been good to us and we’ve eaten numerous, delicious, authentic Mexican meals at XOCO and we’re grateful. But as you know, I need a place I can walk to and I’m not walking to XOCO from Evanston!

You can imagine my happiness when I discovered Little Mexican Café on Church Street which is NOT very little but is VERY Mexican. The menu is traditional, the food has just the right amount of lard, and everyone who works there is speaking Spanish. The trifecta is working in favor of good Mexican food at Little Mexican Café and we can all walk there.

So besides the margaritas, the main item that I enjoy the most on the menu is the guacamole because it’s made to order in front of you from woman with a cart holding all kinds of ingredients. I can add anything I want to the recipe allowing me to revisit some of the homes of friends in El Paso all the way from Evanston. Granted there’s no blender or milk, I can make it extra spicy with lot of jalapenos or just with limes and tomatoes or really chunky with tons of onions. The avocadoes are always fresh and the serving size is huge. It’s a great deal and with a margarita can actually work as a meal. It’s so yummy that I’ve even eaten it out of the container with a spoon when I’ve run out of chips.

In honor of my old El Paso chums, I collected a few guacamole recipes on Facebook and will continue to update this post with them as they come in, see below.

So far, Little Mexican Café has done a great job filling the Mexican food gap in our lives and we’ve really only just started exploring. My older son loves the tamales from the Tamales Spaceship food truck and my husband liked the tacos from Taco Diablo. I’ll keep you posted of all the places we try but only if they are yummy – I only spread the good word on this blog.

If you’ve got a hankering for some guacamole, take your best recipe over to Little Mexican Café and have it made to order while you sip a margarita. I highly recommend it. And who am I? Just some Yelper yapping about food on the World Wide Web! Buen provecho!

Guacamole recipes from some El Paso friends:
Zac - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, salt, and pepper
Marina - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeno, salt, and pepper
Heriberto - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper
David - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeno, cottage cheese, salt, and pepper
Katie - Avocados, lime, salt, and pepper
Barry - 3 avocados, 2 roma tomatoes, juice from 1 lime, cilantro, salt, onion and one recipe called for cayenne pepper (this guy is a very new friend and he is NOT from El Paso, but I felt compelled to include him).


Thank you for reading my blog "Evanston Newbie", a project that I am using to chronicle my new life in Evanston since moving my family here from El Paso, TX, in 2011. Do you have favorite Evanston bakeries, bike shops, events that you can recommend? Send me an email at and I will post my review on this blog. -Lisa Degliantoni

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