Recipes are written in a language all their own, leading amateur cooks to confuse a pinch for a dash or forget that the chef’s word for “water” is “salt.” Trust a native speaker with today’s Groupon to Cemitas Puebla in Humboldt Park. Choose between the following options:
- For $9, you get a Mexican meal for two (a $20 value). The meal includes:
- One chalupa (a $4 value)
- Two cemitas (a $6.50 value each)
Two 12-ounce soft drinks (a $1.50 value each)<p>
- For $19, you get a Mexican meal for four (a $40 value). The meal includes:
- Two chalupas (a $4 value each)
- Four cemitas (a $6.50 value each)
- Four 12-ounce soft drinks (a $1.50 value each)<p>
Cemitas Puebla’s signature namesake cemita sandwich, whose roots stretch from the central Mexican city of Puebla, has spawned an adoring flock of fans who number among Guy Fieri of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, WTTW’s Check, Please!, and ABC 7’s Hungry Hound. The cemita smothers locally baked sesame-seed bread with avocado, a choice of meat, adobe chipotle peppers, fresh oaxacan cheese, and papalo leaves. With owner Tony Anteliz importing fresh ingredients and adhering to a menu of his grandmothers’ authentic poblano recipes, the cemita seems destined to join Chicago’s iconic culinary ranks already occupied by hot dogs, italian beef, and 100-ton stainless steel beans.
Diners choose which meat to meddle into their cemita, with succulent options such as breaded butterfly pork chop, carne asada, or a spicy al pastor. Shreds of fresh oaxaca cheese and slatherings of house-marinated chipotles further bolster each of these sandwiches made for two hands or plate-to-mouth conveyor belts. Cemitas Puebla’s traditional Chicago storefront sets a narrow but long dining space from which diners can watch sidewalk traffic or slip against a collage of photos that dapple the walls. Sandwich savorers can also choose to carry out their bounty, choosing to patiently wait until getting home to sip accompanying soft drinks and rip into chalupas, wherein a foundation of five corn tortillas supports onions, cheese, and house-made salsas.
Every four–six weeks, Cemitas Puebla's owner and chef, Tony Anteliz, sends a family member to Mexico to gather ingredients such as chipotle peppers and giant cinnamon sticks. He relies on time-tested family recipes honed in Puebla, Mexico to assemble these imported ingredients into sandwiches, tacos, and salsas that have been praised in the Chicago Tribune and on WTTW 11’s Check, Please!. Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives highlighted the restaurant’s signature cemita sandwich: sesame-seed-bread laden with fresh oaxaca cheese, papalo—a fragrant herb grown in Tony's mother's garden—house-stewed chipotles, and a choice of meats such as breaded pork and carne asada. Inspired by Lebanese shawarmas, tacos arabes begin with layers of pork shoulder and onion skewered on a rotisserie. The stack of meat rotates as slowly as a ferris wheel being ridden by a herd of elephants before a member of the open-air-kitchen staff shaves off tender meat and tucks it into pita-like tortillas.