De Pasada: Round 2 Review

#4. De Pasada
1108 N. Ashland
Torta de Milanesa
$3.75 (no extras)

Defeated #13 Mr. Taco's Restaurant in Round 1 [review]

When my parents were in town a couple weeks ago and they wanted to check out one of the taquerias from Burrito Bracket, the place I took them to was De Pasada. That does not necessarily mean that De Pasada is my favorite -- if I knew which one was my favorite, I would never have started Burrito Bracket in the first place. But it does mean that I wanted them to come away with a good experience -- and De Pasada was the choice for its exceptional consistency.

The Food:
Standard operating procedure when you order a milanesa torta -- and if you're new to the torta world, this is the kind of torta that you want to be ordering -- is to be presented with a large, amoeba-shaped piece of steak, brutally beaten down until it's thinner than Calista Flockhart, and coated with a light breading. Oftentimes, as in the case of this otherwise very good torta from Arturo's, the shape of the meat will not particuarly match the shape of the bread, leading to a sort of overbite effect.

At De Pasada, this is not a problem, because rather than giving you one big slab of meat, they instead give you a series of individual slices, all of which are breaded individually. This undoubtedly requires more preparation time than the common method, but careful preparation is what De Pasada is all about. And it really shows up in terms of the results: you can actually taste the steak and not just the breading, and you don't run into any tough or stringy portions like you might elsewhere.

De Pasada also has what might be the best salsa in Chicago, rating plenty high on the Scoville scale without blowing out its character. All the veggies and toppings are very fresh, particuarly the guacamole, which is a nice perk to have on a $3.75 torta. I wasn't in love with the bread, which was also very fresh but could have been somewhat toastier, but nevertheless this was an outstanding torta.

The Experience: De Pasada truly is a family affair -- I actually have a little bit of an inside scoop on this, which I'll present at a later time -- and that's reflected in most every aspect of the experience there. The service is warm, inviting, and for lack of a better term, motherly -- on a previous visit, I was commended when I returned by plate to the counter before I left, and told that my mom must have raised me well. Yes, you might have to put up with the fact that the 9-year-old son of the owner has decided to commandeer the TV and hook his XBOX up to it. But for this kind of quality, it's a small price to pay.

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