First I take the luscious, pint-size Mexican lime and squeeze it carefully over three perfectly fried eggs covered in spicy chile sauce the color of my bloodshot eyes. Two tiny wedges of lime coat the eggs, as well as the piles of smoky beans and fluffy rice, splendidly. Then I start in with the thick crema, smearing it over each and every mound on my plate. Coupled with a side of steaming corn tortillas, this masterfully executed dish of huevos rancheros is like a sonic blast to my tastebuds. There's nothing like Mexican for breakfast.
The weekends are ripe for excuses to go out for breakfast/brunch. Who can deal with cooking after a busy week of maddening deadlines? But if you're like me, the idea of standing in line at Victory's Banner, Bongo Room, The Original Mitchell's or Toast one more time in akin to suicide, so I've found a new way to enjoy my breakfast. And depending on what hour I arrive, there's usually not a soul around.
I can spread out with my copy of the New York Times, order up a big glass of horchata (a cold rice-based, cinnamon-flavored drink) and have a Mexican-style breakfast on my table in no time flat. All in utter peace and quiet.
My new find, Carmela's Taqueria, is positioned on a busy stretch of Clark Street (there is a sister location at 1206 W. Lawrence Ave.). I discovered it on one of my city walkabouts a few months ago. When I saw the crispy clean, wildly colorful interior, I had to stop in and check it out. Set up like a Mexican chop shop graced with the obvious touch of a woman's hand (bright paintings on the butter yellow walls, ocean blue button-top bar stools, paper menus attached to thin wooden backings), I knew something good was going on in the kitchen. When someone puts such care into a small taco joint, the food has to be a step above the norm. I was not disappointed.
Not only were my huevos rancheros a delicious find (I usually trek down to Pilsen's ever-popular and always packed Nuevo Leon to get my fix), the rest of the breakfast menu is delightful. Breakfast items (served all day) include huevos rancheros with steak, huevos con chorizo (three eggs scrambled with peppery sausage) and a killer huevos ala Mexicana. This incredibly simple pile of scrambled eggs is mixed with chopped tomatoes, tiny chunks of onion and green pepper and then splayed with bits of jalapeno. The flavors of this dish come very close to trumping my huevos rancheros, but not quite. My huevos are done so well, it would be easy to up that three-egg order to a half dozen.
And, in a city where you're only as good as the amount of tables you turn, this is one tiny pocket of morning bliss that keeps me lounging 'til I've read every section of the Times, with nary a soul staring at me, waiting to pounce on my table.
The Final Rave: If you want to skip the weekend, nursing-a-hangover breakfast crowds, go ethnic. Most serve some style of breakfast and you'll usually be paying about half price for a pile of eggs. Plus, you get to lounge a spell longer.
Keep It Going:
Read it: Over Easy Cafe
This menu at this new breakfast/lunch haunt has taken a more refined spin of ethnic food and offers up veggie favorite, tofu chilaquiles. (It also takes the egg decorating theme to a whole new level.)
Eat it: Turquoise Cafe
For $12 this Turkish restaurant whips out a lengthy stream of fantastic brunch items. Champagne included. Crowds not.
Drink it: Cafe Mariano
This speck of a shack on Milwaukee Avenue serves up breakfast Cuban-style: a cafe con leche and a toasty loaf of pan con mantequilla (divine buttered bread). The crowd can get thick here, though. Those Cubans love their caffeine.
Get crazy with it: Carnitas Uruapan
Pilsen is loaded with joints serving carnitas and you can live like a local at this one. Go for the pork "with everything" and you can make breakfast tacos galore with not a single egg in sight.
Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.