Following the Pilsen Gourmet preview night, all the colorful and diverse flavors of Pilsen’s renowned culinary scene will be on full display for an extended period at the 1st Annual Pilsen Restaurant Week. Over 20 participating restaurants are planning special pre-fixe menus showcasing traditional and contemporary dishes for seven consecutive days. Unlike Chicago Restaurant Week, the Pilsen Restaurant Week concept focuses on hyperlocal cuisine of the neighborhood only. Intended for either the Pilsen dining newbie or the experienced regular, guests are encouraged to return often throughout the week and taste their way through one of the city’s most heralded food destinations. Pilsen Restaurant Week lunch and dinner options will be available daily for a set price (determined by individual restaurant, no advance purchase/tickets necessary however reservations are strongly recommended).
PARTICIPATING RESTAURANTS coming soon
Cinco Rabanitos Chef Alfonso Sotelo
It should come as no surprise that chef Alfonso Sotelo enjoys radishes. After all, the name of his Pilsen restaurant, 5 Rabanitos, translates to “five radishes” in English. “I like the flavor and color,” he said, “and they are also very crunchy.” Growing up in Guerrero, Mexico, his family grew radishes, and once a week he and his four brothers would head to the market with a basket full of them for sale. “When the people in the small town would see us, they’d say, ‘Here comes the five rabanitos,’” said Sotelo. “I was thinking about my family with this restaurant.” Since those market days, Sotelo immigrated to the United States, and in 1996 he began working with Rick Bayless. That’s where he remained for the next 19 years, working in the kitchens of both Topolobampo and Xoco. Sotelo admits he’s proud of his Guerrero-style mole, and he should be. With its glossy black sheen, it coats the golden carnitas tamal ($8.50) like some kind of edible lacquer. The mole adds a savory base and gentle heat to everything it touches. Of course, it helps that the tamal yields gently to your fork, revealing an interior of crisped, fat-streaked fried pork. With all the intriguing options on the menu, it feels unfair to spend any time on the tacos. After all, they occupy only a single line on the very large menu. But why deny what could be one of the best carne asada tacos in town? Aggressively seasoned and grilled until nearly jet-black in spots, the chopped meat is wrapped in two thin homemade tortillas and topped with finely chopped onion and cilantro and, you guessed, more radishes. The tacos are about as subtle as a punch in the face, except you’ll actually want a couple of these. — Nick Kindelsperger, Chicago Tribune