CHICAGO (CBS) — Special menus, multi-course meals, big discounts – the delectable deals during Chicago Restaurant Week don’t disappoint.
As CBS 2’s Lauren Victory reported, one organization is channeling that finger-licking model into an opportunity to fill your bellies and wallets at a specific type of eatery this Hispanic Heritage Month.
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Birrieria Ocotlan’s location at 4007 E. 106th St. sits so close to the Illinois-Indiana state line that Hoosiers can probably hear the incessant sizzling and non-stop chopping of Chef Tony Medina.
“Do you get tired of making the same thing over and over?” CBS 2 asked.
He said no, because he enjoys the conversation with frequently returning customers. They often stop by for one dish in particular: birria tacos.
“This right here is lengua,” or tongue, said owner Andres Reyes, showing us around inside the kitchen at the 106th Street location.
The meat was boiling in a massive pot with goat, the main ingredient for the tacos.
Reyes’ great-grandfather concocted the recipe in Mexico almost 100 years ago. His father brought it to Chicago years later, establishing his first restaurant here in the 1970’s.
“If you go to the town where my dad is from [in Mexico] and your last name is Reyes, you automatically are associated to selling birria,” said Reyes.
The hope is to get that reputation in Chicago, too. A new initiative called “Chicago Latin Restaurant Week” could help.
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“We found a Costa Rican [restaurant]. Then we found a Guatemalan, Puerta Rican, Cuban, Mexican,” said Karrin Chavarria, naming some of the cuisines represented.
She founded Latin Restaurant Weeks in 2019, successfully hosting events in Houston and Miami. This is her first time testing the model in Chicago.
A total of 12 restaurants are currently offering dining deals through Oct. 18, including 20 percent off BryAnna’s at 5695 N. Lincoln Ave. in Arcadia Terrace, specially-crafted cocktails at Osito’s Tap at 2553 S. Ridgeway Ave. in Little Village, and a $55 feast for two at Irazu, at 1865 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park.
“We oftentimes find that Latin-owned businesses might not have the marketing vehicle that their counterparts may have,” said Chavarria, explaining the reason for a specific focus on Latin restaurants.
Many are family-owned.
“The parents are often the ones who are the business owners but they’re often running front of the house, back of the house so they need that extra leg of support,” Chavarria said.
Extra exposure could yield a slice a business from more popular foodie destinations.
“When you think of Restaurant Week, I mean, you think of Alinea and these restaurants on Randolph,” said Reyes. “And kind of, we get forgotten.”
Not anymore. Regulars are going to have to share their delicious hole-in-the-wall with visitors coming to take advantage of Birrieria Ocotlan’s deal: $5 for two Birria tacos and consume. Normally, that’d be $7.50.
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“Even if there’s an influx of 10 percent, that’s still, you know amazing,” Reyes said.