Caldillo de carne seca

For all the wealth and variety of regional Mexican food in Chicago there are relatively few restaurants specializing in the cuisine of the northern state of Durango. One notable example is the Northlake rosticeria Pollo Vagabundo, with its extensive salsa bar and giant, made-to-order flour tortillas. A lesser-known but still worthy example is Blue Island’s Taqueria Durango. And a little bit closer to home there’s a standard being set at Gage Park’s La Placita de Durango.

The colorful, bustling spot opened about five years ago in smaller, less spiffy digs, a bit further west on Kedzie. There they put out ice cream and a focused variety of delicious and uncommon northern specialties, many bound in blistered, house-made harina tortillas and gorditas. Flour, rather than masa, is the primary medium for bread in the norteño style, and the difference between factory-made flour tortillas and fresh, made-to-order ones is like the difference between Wonder Bread and a baguette from Floriole. At LPdD you’d find gorditas stuffed with roasted green poblanos and creamy fresh cheeses like requeson and cuajada, or small burritos bulging with carne deshebrada (shredded beef and potatoes).