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The cornbread arrives in a cast-iron pan, is firm enough to slice neatly and eat in-hand, yet sports a texture so delightfully loose and crumbly that you may worry — needlessly — that it will fall apart.Barrio offers a selection of tacos both traditional and “deconstructed” (that means you get to build them yourself). Sadly, you have to have the same filling in all three.The fries, seasoned with togarashi and sprinkled with cotija cheese, are sturdy and crisp.On the sweet side, the cocoa taco () is a cute waffle-cone-like crisp shaped into a taco and filled with chocolate ice cream and brownie cubes, among other sweet things, but what wowed me were the three churros (), doughnutlike circles dusted in cinnamon sugar.As we walked out, back into the stark, cold street, something Jack Kerouac wrote in “The Dharma Bums” came to mind: “I think it’s all lovely hallucination but I love it sorta.”Chicago abounds with tamales.You can grab them at grocery stores, order them at an untold number of Mexican restaurants and pick them up by the dozen from vendors on select street corners.Ashland Ave.), they are a fascinating addition to the scene.They make for a fine snack on their own, but where things really get interesting is when you get the tamales loaded.

While I'd never trade these for one of the gorgeously fragrant tamales served at places like Bombon Cafe (138 S.They’re big — you may want to share — but are wonderfully light and airy.Served alongside are small pots of salty caramel sauce, rich chocolate and a vanilla crema.They differ from ubiquitous Mexican tamales in that they are constructed from cornmeal instead of masa (nixtamalized corn), and cooked in a liquid instead of being steamed.The regular red hot tamales () come three to an order and are astoundingly tender, all without a trace of grittiness.The octopus, he says, is getting a lot of attention from diners.

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