Tasting notes by Laura Baginski
Having sold their namesake cookies and carnitas at the Green City Market for years, the owners of this unassuming Edgewater storefront opened in December with instant cred—and high expectations. For the most part, those expectations are met, sometimes exceeded, except, ironically, for the carnitas and a few of the cookies.
But let's start with the good stuff, like the exceptional Beefy Cheezy, a monster sandwich that's hearty yet tender like a good boyfriend, with a pile of juicy braised beef brisket slathered with onion jam and oozing Merkt's cheese. It's enough for two hungry people. The crispy portobello taco is by far the best taco on the menu (other varieties include a good pork belly version and a merely passable Amish chicken), with a delicately fried portobello laden with chihuahua and cotija cheeses, smoky beans, crema, and a nice pineapple salsa adding brightness and acidity. Cooking a grilled cheese in bacon fat is a stroke of genius, and it makes the enormous sandwich—gooey with cheddar, swiss and chihuahua cheeses, bacon and onion jam on sourdough—so decadent it's criminal.
So, okay, the carnitas: The chicken and pork shoulder versions I tried were too dry and underseasoned. That dryness was most obvious on the chicken carnitas sandwich, which lacks the salsa and crema that makes the chicken taco much more flavorful and complex. And the cookies: The Cowboy Cookie is a salty, chocolately revelation, but the chocolate chip lacked anything special—same with the one-note peanut butter. And the pizza (yes, there's pizza here, too): I might be the first Midwesterner to say there's too much cheese on a pizza, but even I have limits and this pie sat like a fat bomb in my gut for hours.
For people in the neighborhood, though, who are craving something—anything—decent in the area, this spot will blow all expectations out of the water. Judging by the crowds I see there every time I stop in or walk by, Cookies & Carnitas is just what Edgewater needed.