Try mole from scratch and 'the beverage of the Gods' at La Pulqueria in Little Village

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are dozens of Mexican restaurants in and around Pilsen and Little Village, but few are taking the time to make something as complex as mole from scratch.

It's one of several items on an extensive menu our Hungry Hound recently discovered, where the real star of the menu is an ancient fermented beverage.

The first thing to know about La Pulqueria in Little Village is that they take the pulque very seriously. This mildly alcoholic beverage, distilled from the agave plant, is added to more than a dozen flavors here, all served in giant 25-ounce glasses.

"This is a unique beverage, has proteins, vitamins and natural sugars," said Ricardo Zurita, whose family owns the restaurant. "Basically they call in Mexico the beverage of the Gods."

EXTRA COURSE: Steve checks out some of the pulque flavors offered at La Pulqueria
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A closer look at some of the pulque flavors at La Pulqueria in Chicago's Little Village.

Even if you don't feel like trying it, you should stay for the food. Tortilla soup begins with, well, tortillas, lightly fried, topped with fresh cheese and a few ladlefuls of rich chicken stock, which perfumes the entire bowl. A bit of crema adds some richness, as does the addition of a few creamy avocados. Cubes of panela cheese can also be added, but the broth is the real star.

Still more chickens are boiled for one of the restaurant's signature dishes, mole negro. The skin is removed, then the bird is blanketed in a rich, intense, slightly bitter and sweet mole, containing more than 25 ingredients, among them, guajillo and ancho chiles, oregano, cloves and cinnamon; even some chocolate to balance the spiciness.

"It's sophisticated to specify which states has the most delicious mole because they have different kinds tasting - sweet, sour, hot flavor," said Zurita. "It's combined with chicken or it's combined with chilaquiles or with enchiladas."

The carne asada is another dish the kitchen excels at. Grilled arrachera, or thinly sliced skirt, is plated next to knob onions, nopales (that's cactus paddle) and a jalapeno, all of which have been fried and griddled. There's rice, beans and guacamole as well, plus a small cheese enchilada on the side.

Zurita said his family is particularly proud of their house-made salsas.

"All salsas we make here," he said. "It's a recipe from my mom."

You can find mole around Chicago but very few places are taking the time to make it from scratch. And when you find a place like La Pulqueria that is doing things the old fashioned way, you'v got to make sure to try some.

La Pulqueria
2501 S. Western Ave.
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