Though there may be more than one way to skin a cat, there’s only one way to roast a goat—learn from a master. According the Chicago Reader, once John Zaragoza became interested in making birria, he sought out Miguel Segura, a renowned birriero in La Barca, Jalisco, Mexico who roasts his meat in backyard brick ovens. Two weeks studying with Segura taught him the varying cuts of birria and how to cultivate trust at the counter by chopping the meat in full view instead of pinkie swearing to each customer that the knives are clean.
Today, John and his family have their own recipe down pat. Kosher salt seasons the goat, which they seal in a steamer for up to six hours before covering it in an ancho-based mole sauce and transferring it to the oven. The cuts also yield a clean consommé broth that doubles as a garnish, which can be sprinkled on top alongside onions, cilantro, lime, and peppers. Handmade corn tortillas add the finishing touch to a birria meal at both Birrieria Zaragoza locations.
The goat can be ordered bone in or out, on a plate or in a taco—Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine ranks the restaurant No. 2 in the Midwest on a list of The 64 Best Tacos in the Country. For a spicy side, John's son Jonathan brews a signature fire-roasted salsa from scratch. Imported Mexican sodas wash down savory bites, whose popularity causes the Zaragozas to go through as many as 22 goats in a single weekend—more than the average caged T-Rex eats in a month.
Since 1976, La Majada Express has been serving Mexican cuisine that goes beyond the usual burritos and tacos (though they do those pretty well). Diners looking to try something new might start their meal with an order of guacamelon?guacamole with a shot of watermelon?or dig into Mexican chicken wings fried in cornmeal and covered in arbol salsa. For dinner, the house-specialty upside down pizza covers chorizo or adobo pork with cilantro, chihuahua cheese, green peppers, and oregano, while smokey Mexican-style ribs come smothered in a choice of spicy sauces in place of the traditional barbecue. Even the dessert menu offers up some unique offerings, including a fluffy mango mousse and a margarita pie made with tequila and triple sec and served on the rocks.
Most of the steak, chicken, and seafood morsels that star in La Majada Restaurant's hearty dinners spend quality time with the grill before taking on equally fiery accents of chorizo, peppers, and chile sauce. Along with dizzying combinations of burritos, tacos, and tostadas, the enormous menu also finds room for less common specialties of Mexican smoked ribs and Pollo Cancun: chicken baked in a paper bag and covered in a blend of spices and tequila. Vibrant paintings peer across the expanse of the brick-walled eatery toward a fireplace whose crackling logs occasionally spook nervous piñatas.
Although Oak Park Avenue may have changed around Margaritas since Rene Roman opened the original restaurant in 1988, the eatery's dedication to classic, home-style Mexican cooking never wavered. The chefs continue to use family recipes as they prepare hearty renditions of time-honored classics. This dedication to tradition is evident both in the presentation?they prepare tableside guacamole?and in the flavors of dishes such as shredded beef flautas, sizzling shrimp fajitas, and chicken simmered in rich mole sauce. Fittingly, Margaritas takes pride in its featured cocktail, which the staff prepares in traditional style or with flavors such as strawberry, guava, and pomegranate.
The decor similarly reflects the eatery's commitment to its deeply entrenched roots. Earthenware tiles line the floors, glowing lanterns hang from the ceiling, and potted plants speckle the space. Sunlight spills through the entryway's floor-to-ceiling windows, causing the dining room's yellow walls to glow even brighter during the day, much like a firefly who is a "morning firefly."