Earlier this spring Rob Lopata, Peter Engler, and I led food writer John T. Edge on a barnstorming tour of southwest-side Mexican joints while he was in town for the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Camp Chicago. We were headed for birria at some point, but on a whim our very first stop was Birrieria Zaragoza, which was new to all of us (though Engler had spotted it earlier, of course). It was one of those magical moments in exploratory eating, when a glint of something new and shiny catches your eye and leads to a pot of gold. Being unfamiliar with the term tatemada, touted on the window, we pulled off to investigate and discovered Juan Zaragoza’s wonderful roasted goat prepared by a painstaking process he learned on visits back to his hometown La Barca, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Needless to say, we were all were blown away, both by the goat–securely in my top ten new eats of the year–and by the genuine warmth that radiates from the place.
Peter, Rob, and I each duly filed our own reports, but this month Edge has weighed in in his regular dispatch for U.S. Airways Magazine, a paean to all things chivo, but ultimately a huge shout-out to the Zaragozas. Like most national reports on Mexican food in Chicago it first establishes the Bayless context–featuring his birria recipe from Authentic Mexican–but finishes over a plate of Juan’s birria because “nothing comes close.”