The Food Guy: Chicago Area Restaurants Show Unique Takes on the ‘Pambazo'

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There are all kinds of sandwiches, but there is one in particular from Mexico that has caught the attention of NBC 5’s Food Guy Steve Dolinsky.

That sandwich is called a Pambazo, and while it may be messy, local chefs are interpreting the classic street snack in several ways.

The sandwich was born of poverty and necessity in Mexico, with cooks making due with stale bread, soaking it in pureed chiles, and then filling it with familiar ingredients like chorizo, potatoes and cheese.

Even with that basis, not all chefs in Chicago take the same approach.

Bertha Montes Garcia spends most of the day transforming blue corn masa, stuffed with beans, into torpedo-shaped Tlayudas, which are open-faced sandwiches.

The other item she’s known for at Xocome Antojeria, the restaurant that occupies the corner of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mall just north of Midway Airport, is the Pambazo.

“It’s definitely a messy thing, a two-handed affair,” Garcia’s son David Rodriguez said. “And if you’re gonna pick it up you can’t put it back down. So you gotta go knife and fork if you plan to take a break. It’s basically submerged in a red guajillo sauce and then pan-fried.”

In a traditional Pambazo, a filling made of chorizo, sausage and potatoes is grilled on a flat top, and then added to the guajillo-soaked bread. They are then topped with shredded lettuce, cream and queso fresco.

“It’s gotta have a little bit of spice, more smoky than anything I would say,” Rodriguez said.

At Con Todo in Logan Square, the torta talera rolls are submerged in guajillo chile puree and fried up, but this new restaurant straddles the border of authenticity and reinvention.

“(We’re) blending what is Chicago and the Mexican-American experience with the experience they had growing up in Mexico City,” said Chef Jonathan Zaragoza.

There are also examples of straight-forward Mexican fare on their menu, like their Baja-inspired taco.

“So the taco portion of the menu is very Mexican,” he said.

But when it comes to the Pambazo, rather than a filling of chorizo and potatoes, it’s a double cheeseburger, and thus, a “pamburguesa.” After the bread has been soaked-and-fried, it gets topped with a unique variety of ingredients.

“Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup-based salsa and it has pickled jalapeño, bread and butter pickles,” Zaragoza said.

Then two patties are smashed thin and topped with onions and American cheese.

The traditional filling of a Pambazo, potatoes and chorizo, are referenced with the fries.

“And that’s the inspiration behind the fries that are served with it, is the chorizo and potato.  We do a chorizo spice,” said Zaragoza. “People seem to be enjoying it, which is great. It’s very emblematic of the experience we’re trying to give people here.”

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