by Julia Thiel
Another brother, Ernesto, is a Topolobampo alum—but that's not the type of cooking they're doing here, says Raul. It's the food they grew up with, what they make at home: "This is none of Rick Bayless's doing." Though according to Raul, while Ernesto was at Topolobampo he made salsa from a family recipe to eat with his breakfast, and Bayless tasted it and liked it so much that he put it on the menu.
At L'Patron they're serving a rotating selection of house-made salsas to accompany the tacos, tortas, burritos, and assorted sides (guacamole, elotes, rice and beans, etc) on the menu. Also rotating is a vegetarian filling for the aforementioned tacos, etc, which changes each week; it's offered in addition to the excellent poblano rajas (roasted poblano peppers, caramelized onions, cheese, and roasted tomato sauce), which is always available.
The steak in a carne asada burrito was nicely pink on the inside and lightly charred on the outside, and little touches like the bright green lettuce—no iceberg here—and the light grilling of the tortilla were also nice. From a strong lineup, the house special stood out: the Gringa is a sort of cross between a quesadilla and a taco, with flavorful al pastor (marinated pork with caramelized onions and pineapple) and Chihuahua cheese sandwiched between two thick handmade tortillas. (You can also get it with skirt steak, in which case it's called the Gringo.) This may be simple food, but all the ingredients are fresh and top-notch; there's no need for fancifying here.
The downside? The tiny place only has 16 counter seats, and it's already so popular that on a sleety Sunday night when ice covered the ground, nearly all of them were full. It's pretty much always busy, said the friendly woman behind the counter, up until 4 AM when they close. Located next to the highway, this isn't exactly a likely spot for a picnic, but camping out on a nearby bus-stop bench with a burrito on a warm day doesn't sound so bad.
L'Patron Tacos, 2815 W. Diversey, 773-252-6335