A documentary series launched earlier this year that explores tacos across America will air its Chicago episode on Tuesday on El Rey Network, the channel started by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Machete, Spy Kids). It’s a very carnitas-centric episode of United Tacos of America, where food journalists Mando Rayo (an Eater Austin contributor) and Jarod Neece question why Chicago’s tacos aren’t celebrated in the same way as the city’s iconic foods like pizza, Italian beef, and hot dogs.
The show spent the majority of its time in Pilsen, one of Chicago’s Mexican cultural hubs. Hosts stop by both locations of Carnitas Uruapan and chat with founder Incencio Carbajal and son Marcos. They talk about the Mexican immigrant experience, and how the younger Carbajal is keeping Michoacán culture alive in America through opening a second restaurant. The original’s been around for almost 50 years and is an essential Chicago restaurant.
While Chicago is known for its Michoacán cuisine, Oaxaca and other regions also star. That’s the point made by chef Atzimba Perez, who runs her own catering company. Perez was part of a dinner conversation at chef Daniel Espinoza’s (Cantina Laredo) Humboldt Park home. They noshed on a variety of pork products. Other guests include Back of the Yards Coffee’s Jesse Iñiguez and bartender Luis Estrada of Que Onda Mexican Restaurant in Edison Park.
The conversation also addresses gentrification, with Iñiguez warning that the displacement of Mexicans and their families has had a negative impact on Chicago’s cultural fabric. Rayo and Neece chatted with Pilsen Alderman (25th Ward) Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whom voters elected earlier this year. Eater Chicago also interviewed Sigcho-Lopez prior to the election.
The episode airs at 9 p.m. on taco Tuesday on El Rey. It’s also available via iTunes.