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Beating the Heat at Cocina Cocula

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 8, 2007 3:30PM

2007_10_cocula_chilaquiles.jpgThere are three Cocina Cocula locations in Chicago. The closest one to us is a short — and, for yesterday, hot — bike ride away where Pilsen blends into Little Village. We've often passed Cocula on our way to our favorite haunts in La Villita, but with the sound of sirens in the air all around yesterday, we figured it would be as good a place as any to cool down and have a nosh.

Upon entering, we were immediately taken aback at the size of the restaurant. Cocula is located on the southwest corner of 22nd and California, so it's easy to dismiss it as simply a small corner taqueria based on the visible seating from outside. What we found instead was a deep and vast section of trellised booths that we would never have guessed existed had we not entered. The restaurant was buzzing with customers seeking sustenance for the body after having their thirsty souls slaked in church.

2007_10_cocula_tacos.jpgWe took a seat and started off our meal with two chicken tacos ($2.15 each). They came to us literally within a minute of ordering on hot, steaming corn tortillas, overloaded with iceberg lettuce and one tomato slice. While the tacos were tasty and made for a nice start to the meal, we're not the biggest fans of iceberg lettuce. At least, so much of it. It's recommended that you order your tacos here without lettuce, or muy poco lechuga and add hot sauce accordingly.

We're huge fans of chilaquiles here at Chicagoist, and when we saw the dish on the menu at Cocula, we couldn't resist. It's available with either red or green sauce ($5.95); we opted for the green, as its spice has a more immediate kick. The dish came to us with sides of refried beans, Mexican rice, and loads of vegetables. The customary egg that tops the chilaquiles was scrambled into the mix. No additional seasoning was necessary. This dish had enough heat to stoke us the rest of the day. The entire meal was washed down with a gigantic glass (a 24-ounce beer mug) of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Cocula has a well-stocked bar, with a wide array of tequilas priced across the board for $6.95 a serving. Beers run $4.95 and come with frosted mugs. You have all the spices needed at the table to make a chelada. Overall, we're glad we beat the heat at this hidden gem of a Mexican restaurant. Cocina Cocula is located at 2801 W. Cermak Road. Their hours of operation are 8 a.m. - midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. - 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Their phone number is 773-847-2780.