Holy ham, grandma: Joy & James Cafe | Bleader

Holy ham, grandma: Joy & James Cafe

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Yesterday, at the end of my Lawrence Avenue recon mission, I poked my head in the tiny Filipino market/steam-table take-out joint Joy & James Cafe, best known for fried chicken, and lost about a gallon of saliva when I spied a table laden with glistening glazed baked hams waiting to be picked up by their lucky owners.

Before I knew it, proprietress Iding Alonzo, a grandmotherly sprite of a woman, appeared out of the back and proceeded to sell me more stuff than I could comfortably carry, partly because it all looked so good, and partly because she was just so darn adorable.

Alonzo says she's filled about 100 holiday orders for those hams (she doubles that at Christmas), which go for $7.50 a pound. I'm already set for protein this Thanksgiving, so I bought a pound of it, presliced and drizzled with pineapple juice, for nine bucks. Holy Moses, this stuff was juicy, each thinly sliced piece with a goodly rind of succulent caramelized fat. No gaunt, underfed hams here--check out the picture above.

She also talked me into a jar of her achara, a sweet, gingery, vinegary, pickled papaya condiment (great on the ham), a tin of bibingka, a banana-leaf-lined coconut-rice dessert, a bag of rare Barako coffee beans, and a chicken sausage studded with peppers, peas, and raisins called embutido (otherwise known as Filipino meat loaf).

Joy & James Cafe, 4701 W. Lawrence, 773-736-2233

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