1535 West Hildebrand
(between I-10 and West Avenue)
|Last city inspection: October 2010|
I don't know why that is. All those people who grew up on the West Side and the South Side — before the people known locally as "Anglos," decades ago, discovered the Joy of Breakfast Tacos — now live on the north side, many outside the Loop; you'd think they would patronize places that make tacos como Abuelita hecha, yet those places seem not to have found their way successfully out to Loopland with the population. Maybe they eat at home?
Fortunately for me — and that is, of course, all that really matters — Hildebrand Avenue is close to home.
One of these many good Mexican restaurants is El Rafas. It's a little out of the main Hildebrand culinary cluster, being west of Interstate 10, but as it's right up there with the best of the best on that stretch of city street, it's worth the short extra drive. My friend Rick and I went there the other day for a late breakfast.
|Jardín Unión, Cd. Guanajuato|
photo by Gorgo
Anyway: when I need a dose of memory, El Rafas is the place I go. The food is food that I could get at any of the thirty or so restaurants I know in Guanajuato (even if I can never remember the names of them: the place in the jardín; the place on the road to Dolores Hidalgo; the place that looks like a church; the place down the street from some other place ... you get the idea). If I had an abuelita to make tacos for me growing up, this would be the food I'd've grown up with. It's delicious, it's familiar, it's good quality. It's like another home.
But there's something else I particularly like about El Rafas: the feel of the place. No matter what time of day I go there, it always feels like it's full of family. Not that I get involved in the conversations going on around me; it's just that the place is always full of unusually chatty people.
Go to most decent taco houses, and you'll find people talking sotto voce, consciously keeping their conversations among themselves. Or people sitting by themselves, reading books or newspapers, or sitting silently with companions. But at El Rafas, it seems somewhat de rigueur for people to speak, not loudly, but in their happy voices, and the conversations are distinctly animated. Everybody's talking cheerfully and sincerely, like a TV family around the dinner table on a show from before Seventies Angst took hold of our culture. It all makes you glad to be a part of it. Even I, the laconic curmudgeon, tend to talk more, and more cheerfully, at El Rafas. (This may or may not be a good thing, but it certainly feels good.)
Otherwise, the restaurant features reliably good service and good prices. I almost hate to say such nice things about it, because it's already a challenge to find a table there, some mornings.