18th Street: The carnitas stop

A satiating subset in the sea of Mexican cuisine off the Pink Line.

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Photograph: Allison Williams

Carnitas Uruapan

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Photograph: Allison Williams

Sabas Vega

Chicago’s best Mexican food lives in Pilsen, and this stop puts you in the heart of the ’hood’s best carnitas: seasoned pork marinated and braised in its own juices and roasted to perfection. The mother lode is across from the El at Carnitas Uruapan(1725 W 18th St, 312-226-2654). There’s no menu; carnitas is it, ordered by the pound either straight up or mixtas (including crispy skin and ear) and served traditionally with corn tortillas, cilantro, onion, salsa and peppers. At $7 per pound, one pound is more than enough for one person. Two blocks east is Sabas Vega(1808 S Ashland Ave, 312-666-5180), a taqueria that has specialized in carnitas for more than 50 years. The platter for one person will easily serve a pair. No time for a sit-down meal? Get a quick carnitas fix directly next to the El at Luciano’s Carniceria y Licoreria(1714 W 18th St, 312-666-7544), a deceptively large convenience store sporting a full meat market. Take-away carnitas are available on weekends only.

Tracking history
Construction date
1896

Back then… Plentiful jobs at lumber mills, railroad yards, garment sweatshops, the Schoenhofen Brewery and McCormick Reaper Company attracted an influx of Bohemian immigrants to the German and Irish community.

Last renovation Original station demolished in 1991; new station opened in 1993

Notable artwork To celebrate the neighborhood’s Hispanic community, the National Museum of Mexican Art coordinated two installations with local artist Francisco Mendoza and area youth: a 1993 Venetian glass mural outside the station’s entrance and, in 1998, multiple platform and stairwell murals.

Unique features The station’s platform boasts an overhead canopy with an arched acrylic skylight to add natural illumination.—Julia Borcherts

Tasty nearby stop

Polk
Rooks Lounge
Thanks to the nearby U of I Medical Center bringing in an after-work crowd, this is the kind of place where bartenders know their regulars and treat them well. 625 S Ashland Ave (312-491-1234).

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