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Restaurant Review: Azteca

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 28, 2008 6:05PM

2008_01_azteca_front.jpgTo say that it isn't hard to stumble into a taqueria in Pilsen is an understatement. Focus on the Blue Island corridor, however. and the question becomes trying to avoid one. We took advantage of yesterday's thaw to walk around, enjoy the weather buy some pirated movies (you should see our copy of "Untraceable"). Then, after we worked up an appetite, we headed into the first taqueria we saw for a quick bite, which wound up being an old favorite.

Azteca is a longtime Pilsen mainstay. Like most taco joints in the neighborhood, it's no-frills. Ten booths line the sides of the dining room, with three sets of banquet seating in the middle. The jukebox has been replaced with an internet version, so you can play a premium for that rare Thrill Jockey track (the venerable record label is headquartered nearby) along Vicente Fernandez. Azteca specializes in quick, good quality comfort food. We ordered two chicken tostadas ($2 each), a steak burrito ($5.50) and a Negra Modelo ($3.50, when in Rome) with which we made a chelada.

The tostadas (as seen in the photo) are mini-mountains of lettuce, avocado, sour cream and tomato topping a foundation of tostada and chicken breast. Add a drizzle of salsa verde and they're amazing appetizers. That is, if you order one. Order two, like we did and your appetite is spoiled for the burrito. Which is shameful, really. Azteca's burrito has so much filling it can last for two meals. The steak is sublimely marinated and grilled, chopped thin, and rolled in more iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and beans. Azteca also offers a wide array of fish and seafood dishes, including an enormous shrimp cocktail for $10.50.

In addition to standard beers (Corona, Tecate, et al) Azteca has a handful of tequilas available for margaritas or shots. The clientele here is mostly local, a mix of Mexican immigrants and folks recently located the neighborhood for what remains of the cheap rents. You can debate whether to buy a copy of "Rambo" on your own, but the food at Azteca is non-negotiable.

Azteca is located at 1836 S. Blue Island Ave. Phone is 312-733-0219.