Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: A Columbian Expedition on Columbus Day Weekend

La Parrilla
6427 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago
Yelp page

What I ate: Jugo en Leche with Passion Fruit (drink), Patacones (Tostones) Con Carne Asada,  Empanada, Churrasco, Brevas Con Queso

Just as much as being about eating, my Chicago Dining World Tour has been about exploring.

So where better to venture on the Saturday before Columbus Day--though it was actually more coincidental than acutely planned that way--than a Colombian steakhouse. 

Colombia was named for Christopher Columbus, not just due to his famed 1492 New World voyage, but a navigation deeper into the Caribbean in 1502. 

La Parrilla, located on Irving Park Road just west of Narragansett in Chicago's Portage Park neighborhood, has a Spanish name that--according to Google Translate--means the Grill. 

And while the Churrasco (grilled NY strip steak served with cassava, potato, sweet, plantains, and chimichurri sauce) both I and my frequent "Sethnic dining" companion Ken ordered was about one-fourth the thickness of a steak at Gibson's or Morton's, it was terrifically tender and thanks in no small part the chimichurri sauce, tremendously tasty.

In other words, it was a satisfying steak dinner that wasn't overly heavy, hedonistic or hard on the wallet.

Especially as Ken treated me for my birthday.

Waited on by a friendly, attractive waitress named Myra, we started with a pair of Jugos en Leche with Passion Fruit, which was something between a milkshake and a smoothie (the drink is available in a couple other flavors as well, and with a water base instead of milk).

Although I've had empanadas--or something closely akin--at other South/Central American and Caribbean ethnic dining excursions, I've never had one I didn't like. And having read stellar comments about La Parrilla's on Yelp, we ordered a couple which the menu here described as Colombian fried turnovers filled with meat and potatoes.


But the reason we only got one empanada each is because another appetizer caught my eye, both on the menu and as it passed by to another table.

Patacones (Tostones) Con Carne Asada (three flat pieces of fried green plantains topped with steak, thin slices of avocado, sauteed onions, & tomatoes) may well be the most attractive appetizer I've ever seen presented.

But even if it may have been too pretty to eat, we did. Rapturously. And it too was fantastic.

As was the Churrasco.

And Brevas Con Queso = figs with cheese, proved a tasty and unique way to end the meal (not that we didn't get some ice cream later, after some shopping at Rolling Stones Records nearby).

It has occurred to me that many of my ethnic dining recaps have sounded like rave reviews. But not only have I picked highly-rated places, I've really enjoyed not only the unique forays, but--as here--the food itself.

As I said to Ken, there's nothing wrong with frequenting tried and true places, but there has really been something enormously gratifying--on multiple levels--about my gastro-ethnic exploration.

And not just over Columbus Day weekend.

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