Produce and goat
By Mike Leifheit, Columnist
Im starting to get used to the new Chicago International Produce Market. I hated to see the South Water Street Market disappear, with its 70 or so years of history. I start my market days now at the new market. It is south of the old market by 10 blocks or so. Then a half dozen blocks west on Cermak until you get to Blue Island. Shortly after you turn an easy left on Blue Island, you turn in right next to Golden Seafood.
The new market is all modern, all one level. No more antique elevators to operate. (It took me several years to get the leveling down on the Cornille elevator.) At Navilio, I kept in shape by schlepping the cases up the stairs from the basement, one or two at a time. The good news was it gave me exercise a couple of days a week. All that is gone now, there are no elevators, and the electric pallet jacks whiz by at high rates of speed.
The prices were supposed to increase once everyone moved to the new market, but that has not happened. Competition, or whatever other forces of nature, have held prices at bay. Asparagus has actually been cheaper. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are out of sight at $20 to $25 per case. Sometimes it makes about as much sense as gasoline prices.
When things are the most plentiful and best, they are the cheapest. When they are scarce and the quality is questionable, they are the most expensive. Thats why you go to the market. When zucchinis, normally $8 to $12 a case, are $20, you buy yellow squash. When there is nothing but distressed product, you buy two cases cheap and glean the good part so you wont be out.
The only supplier I have left in the old market is Cornille. Tom hasnt made a decision about what to do. I know it is affecting his business because he has started to close early. Twice now, I have been forced to return to the new market because he wasnt there to serve me. This was a great inconvenience, and I have begun to explore my options for buying all my produce at the new market.
This is being made easier since many of the larger operations that have moved into the new market are expanding their product lines. There is a new salesman at Navilio. His name is Martin (Mar-teen). He has been brought on to handle Hispanic produce, and pallets of mangos, chilies, avocados, and fresh garbanzo beans (among other things) line the walls. These are items I used to have to go to other houses to get.
The west half of the old South Water Market is still pretty much intact at this point. These stores are operated primarily by Mexican firms. I think Navilio is trying to establish trade with the Mexican people who come to the new market. Sort of cut them off at the pass. I asked Dean, one of the salesmen, and he said that is exactly what they are trying to do.
On my most recent market trip, I stop at the goat restaurant to eat. I have been watching it for some time. It is on Western Avenue, north of Grand. I have been passing it two times a week for the last couple of years, and it looks interesting, but I havent had time or whatever. This time I am presented a parking place right in front of the store, and it is too much to resist.
The name of the restaurant is Birrieras Estilo Jalisco, or roughly translated, Goat Jalisco style. Entering the store (2045 N. Western Ave.), I see a young woman standing behind a counter. I ask her if I should go to a table or order from her. She motions me over to the counter. I look up for a menu but see none. Do you have a menu? I ask. Goat,, she replies. Large, small, or tacos. Seeing a plate on one of the tables, I ask, Is that small or large? Small. Ill have a large, I say.
I get a large soup bowl full of braised goat. There is a steam table with the goat, and a large pot of the broth that they pour over the goat. The only choices here are if you want cilantro, onion, or lime. The corn tortillas come automatically. Thats it, no beans, no rice, no anything, just goat. And good goat it is. I am in goat heaven. Closer to beef than lamb, goat, unless it is very young, like the baby goat sold in the restaurants in Matamoros, is tough unless you cook it a lot. No problem here; this goat is steamed to perfection. My belly full of goat, I waddle out to the Villager and head back to the Irish Rose.
I am offering market trips to interested parties. I go two times a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I leave around seven a.m. from the Irish Rose. If you wish to accompany me, it would be necessary for you to contact me at RoseNorte@aol.com on the evening previous to the trip.
Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheits Hanging Out In Rockford reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.