When you lived in Chicago all your life like me, you take for granted exploring in your own city until you have to play host to visitors. But what about something happening in your own backyard? I have lived in Pilsen for almost six years and have only eaten at two restaurants in the neighborhood. For the last three years, there is an incredible Molé de Mayo Festival organized by the 18th Street Development Corporation. Never been able to attend in years past, I decided to make it point to do so this year over the Memorial Day weekend. Entering its fourth year, this festival has grown in size, offering restaurants in Pilsen and outside the neighborhood to vie for the honor of best molé - judged and people’s choice competition.
The Main Course
Our city has plenty of spots to try molé, but if you have not truly experienced molé, you will not be short of options at the festival. Each vendor has their own take, offering a nice selection to sample your way through. Twenty dollars worth of tickets can get you an average of five tastings. My husband and I shared three kinds of molé, filled churros, and a refreshing agua fresca. Here are the highlights:
Mundial Cocina Mestiza
(2011 People’s Choice)
To start off, we tried a duo of pork and chicken molé empanandas accompanied with a side of pico de gallo and queso fresco.
(2009 Best Mole Winner)
Next up was the pork ribs with a chili molé, served with corn tortillas and a side of rice. My husband and I agreed that this was our favorite.
DeColores Galeria y Sabores
(2010 People’s Choice)
This next one was a close runner-up! Orange basil chicken with a coconut, orange, and cinnamon infused red molé, served with a delicious sticky butter garlic rice (I really could have had a second serving of that!). A refreshing cucumber lime-ade agua fresca was perfect on a warm day!
A Little Intermezzo ‘aka’ Entertainment
While we walked off the food we had just eaten, we strolled by several vendors selling items, an art gallery tent, as well as an opportunity to ride on a mechanical bull. (Which by the way, I decided to take a pass on, but was quite an amused spectator!) Live DJs and entertainment reflecting Pilsen’s Mexican influence, along with luche libre wrestling rounded out the entertainment!
There is Always Room for Dessert
To cleanse our palate, we indulged in some churros from Don Churro. I am surprised I have restrained myself from stopping by this little storefront, which is located behind our house. These are not your ordinary churros! They are filled with a variety of flavors - we sampled vanilla (a delightful custard!) and caramel.
I really enjoyed partaking in the festival right in my own backyard. I also have new restaurants to try that are just a few blocks away! If you get the opportunity, I encourage you to check out a festival in your neighborhood or better yet - experiencing one in another! You never know what little gems you may find!