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.
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.
Tamale Hut's owner, Jaime Flores, has been schooled in the delicate art of tamale construction by his uncle Tony and aunt Emma, ensuring an authentic experience for cornmeal connoisseurs. With each use of their punch cards, customers may choose one tamale from the menu, whose creations are bedecked with tasty fillings such as a hearty bean stuffing made with pintos and fresh green salsa, and a piquant crab-meat stuffing with jalapeño and red salsa. Sugar-seekers can also opt for a cordial dessert of pineapple or blueberry via Tamale Hut Café's sweet tamales, which are served without a drop of salsa or hint of sarcasm. Punch card feasts pair each maize-laden morsel with a side of chips, a can of pop or bottle of water, and a choice of side item: corn, rice, chili, or tinga—shredded chicken draped with chipotle sauce, topped with sour cream and cotija cheese, and served upon a crispy continental shelf of tortilla chips.
Meals can go in any number of directions at La Quinta De Los Reyes. From specialty margaritas in tropical flavors such as guava, pomegranate, and kiwi to table-side guacamole made according to each table's preferred spiciness, the menu offers myriad ways for personalizing the dining experience. Traditional entrees such as tacos and burritos share menu space with house specialties, including the parrilladas, a heaping plateful of meats, cheeses, peppers, and grilled onions. Fish, shrimp, veggie dishes, and traditional desserts round out the menu. Diners can chow down to the sweet overtures of mariachi bands on Fridays and Sundays, lend their own voices to the chorus on karaoke Thursdays, or head upstairs to cut rugs at the dance club on weekend nights.