La Esquina Del Sabor
In Los Angeles, gourmet food served in trailers is becoming the rage of the city, as diners text and tweet their favorite roving locations every lunch hour. Chicagoans in the Humboldt Park area have been going to a trailer located in the middle of a service drive in the park itself, La Esquina Del Sabor, for years. Although the establishment serves Puerto Rican bistec, pollo, arroz con gandules and other dishes, their mainstay is Lechon. Like Pierogies are for the Polish or roast lamb is for Greeks, Lechon is more than just a food in the Puerto Rican community, it is a cause for celebration and ethnic identity. A roasted pork whose method of cooking originated in the Philippines and was brought to Puerto Rico when both were United States colonies, Lechon is pork, pork and pure pork. It is so flavorful there is no need for smoking, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, hoisin, or any other flavoring. But new diners be warned. Lechon tastes like pig. In recent years meats such as lamb, pork and even catfish have been altered so that their true flavors are masked. Much of the pork you buy now is learner but also bland—“the new white meat”—they say. As a result, new lamb “tastes like roast beef” and catfish “tastes like chicken.” Like the old lamb and catfish, Lechon is a bit greasy, fatty and has a slightly gamey taste to it. But it is for this taste that so many line up in front of a trailer in Humboldt Park in the heat, rain and snow. Besides, a seven-dollar platter can easily fill up two human “pigs,” with some left over.
California and Luis Munoz Marin Drive
Best of Chicago 2009