Chicharron de queso, El Metro

Did you know there’s a breed of magic pig in Mexico that’s made out of cheese? When you fry the skin you get cheese cracklings or, as they say in Español, “chicharrones de queso.” I’ve never seen such a thing north of the border, but at El Metro, the bright, modern West Town taqueria from the sisters behind Gaudi Cafe, they have one on the menu. Well, they make theirs from Monterey Jack, not pig cheese (just like Rick Bayless). It’s supposed to be lacy and cylindrical, like a dosa, but the one I was served sort of collapsed in on itself. Nevertheless, the portions that had doubled up and fused together had a crumbly Cheez-It texture that contrasted nicely with the more elastic parts. It’s served with guacamole, and a fiery, thick, almost spreadable carrot-habanero salsa. I was advised that another perfectly acceptable mode of ingestion is to crumble it over your taco.

El Metro is just the latest in a long line of taquerias playing around with basic taco formulas. Mostly that’s expressed in the toppings. The taco de alambre de pollo, with bacon, chicken, turkey, ham, and cheese is covered in vibrantly colored bits of crunchy, shredded, and fried carrots and beets. The taco de chicharron—made with real pigskin—is sprinkled with a similarly grated, shredded, and fried potato. Both of these toppings are likably akin to canned French’s fried onions in terms of texture. As for the tacos themselves, they’re a mixed bag. All of them are generously stuffed in basic commercial corn tortillas, but the aforementioned alambre, while compelling in concept, was dry and lifeless. Same goes for the carne asada, with gristly beef that tasted as if it had been sitting on the grill a while. The cochinita pibil was underseasoned, and had an overworked texture that reminded me of canned tuna fish.

  • Mike Sula
  • Tacos de alambre de pollo, El Metro

The (real) chicharron taco was great, its gelatinous pigskin melding seamlessly in a tart tomatillo-based salsa verde. And the fish taco? The real deal. Big chunks of crispy fried tilapia topped with pico de gallo and raw purple cabbage. You can’t quibble with the value of these tacos. They’re $3 apiece but they’re big.

There are a handful of snacks to round out the brief menu: a cochinita pibil tacodilla, mushroom and potato tostadas, soy chorizo flautas, guac and chips, a couple of milkshakes, and a pambazo that in my case was served burnt.

El Metro, 1959 W. Chicago, 312-666-5941