Little Village corner grocery doubles as taqueria

August 12, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Blink and you might miss La Chaparrita. The little grocery store off the main drag of 26th Street is definitely more of a neighborhood joint than it is a tourist destination. But you'll feel like a tourist, visiting a taqueria in the heart of Mexico City thanks to the store's commitment to authenticity.

The site of tripe cooking on a grill and sliced cow's tongue might be better suited to an episode of "Bizarre Foods," but there's no denying the commitment to authentic, Mexico City-style cooking at the tiny La Chaparrita in Little Village, where a steaming, bubbling cauldron of meat and spices simmers throughout the day.

"With the steam, the big pan...that's what it really means and it's also using the smaller tortilla. Using only onions and cilantro on top of the meat," said Laura Alva, the daughter of the owners of La Chaparrita. "In the vapor, you have everything that's from the cow. The head, cabeza, sesos, molleja and the tongue is also in there."

So you decide which part of the cow you'd like, and they'll pull it from the vat, then crisp it up on the grill and finely-chop it for you before placing it into corn tortillas with the simplest garnish of chopped white onions and fresh cilantro. Not everything is an extremity here: there's also al pastor, or spit-roasted pork with bits of charred pineapple, as well as longaniza - a homemade sausage that's just excellent.

There's more than just tacos there. Huaraches are large, oval-shaped, open-faced meals that begin on a base of corn masa dough embedded with beans, then get custom-built depending on your taste: salsas, onions and cheese are at your disposal. It's a small, affordable taste of Mexico City, in a combination grocery store and taqueria that is truly a part of the neighborhood.

"We had our stuff brought in from Mexico just to keep it as authentic as possible," Alva said.

There are also some fun, imported grocery items at the store, including a wide range of Mexican candies and ice cream.

La Chaparrita
2500 S. Whipple

La Chaparrita #2
5958 S. Kedzie

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