morocho, La Casa del Pan Bakery

It’s probably about this time every winter that you grow weary of your usual early-morning on-the-way-to-work grab-and-go breakfast of tamales and champurrado, right? You begin looking for something novel to stave off the deathly freeze creeping into your bones as you wait for the bus or train. If you range through Albany Park you might have found an alternative at a newish Ecuadoran bakery called La Casa del Pan, where they serve up morocho, a warm, sweet, milky drink made with cracked hominy. Morocho has enough body to straddle the hotly contested thin yellow line separating beverages and puddings, which is part of the reason it can stand with champurrado and atole as an ideal early morning fortifier. A primary difference is that the corn element in morocho doesn’t rest in suspension in the milk like the masa does in the other drinks, sometimes necessitating a spoon to retrieve it from the bottom of the cup. It’s also useful in ferreting out the whole cloves and allspice berries used to season it.

La Casa del Pan serves it every day behind its steamed-up windows, where the staff also turn out some eight different Ecuadoran buns, ideal for dunking in the hot brew. There’s also a selection of Ecuadoran dry goods, soda and candies, and the cracked corn you’d need to make your own morocho. But the real action at La Casa del Pan starts on the weekend, when the proprietress cranks out a whole menu of Ecuadoran specialties, like cow-foot soup (caldo de patas), tripe-and-potato stew (guatita), hot dogs and french fries (salchipapas), fish stew (encebollado), and hornado and fritada, roast and fried pork, respectively. That’s also when you have a good shot at trying her espumillas, fruity meringues served in ice cream cones.

La Casa del Pan Bakery

La Casa del Pan Bakery, 4454 N. Kedzie, 773-654-3200