Lansing has many options—from markets to sit-down eateries
by Carrie Steinweg
Note: This is the first of a two-part series highlighting Hispanic food establishments in Lansing, Illinois.
LANSING, Ill. (January 31, 2019) – In recent years Lansing has seen a sharp increase in its Hispanic population, and that is reflected in the dining options within the village. Whether you want a simple taco, some freshly-made tamales, or a container of guacamole, you don’t have to look far. Better yet, these businesses are serving authentic cuisine, made from scratch the way you’d enjoy it if you were sitting at a grandmother’s kitchen table in Mexico. Pazole, carnitas, menudo, tortas, chili rellenos, carne asada, and huevos rancheros are just a few of the Mexican dishes you can try out at Lansing eateries.
There are also several markets that specialize in Mexican products, offer fresh meat, and even sell some hot ready-to-eat homemade meals. They also have a large selection of fresh produce—from common items like potatoes, cabbage, and carrots to more exotic items like papaya, plantains, and prickly pear cactus. For locals who find themselves missing Jansma’s Farm Stand, a variety of other nearby options are available for a quick fresh-fruits-and-veggies run.
La Rosita, a Mexican market located at 3315 Ridge Road, opened about 18 months ago. One in a chain of family-owned markets with more than a dozen locations—from Harvey to Palatine, Chicago Heights to Crystal Lake—the Lansing location is owned by Mauricio Murguia and his wife, Josefina Perez.
Murguia said he hadn’t been to Lansing before purchasing the store, but he is very happy to be part of the Lansing community. “It’s really nice, and I enjoy it,” he said. The stores are downsized supermarkets where you can buy essential staples and much more, often at lower prices than the big supermarkets, said Murguia.
His store is known for having fresh, high-quality meats, and they supply meat to several area restaurants. On weekends, shoppers can buy carnitas, tamales, and menudo. Freshly made guacamole and elotes are available every day.
Taqueria La Soga
Taqueria La Soga opened two years ago at 19267 Burnham Avenue, the former Lynnie Ques location. Open daily starting at 8:30am, the store offers a a choice of breakfast meals—huevos rancheros, huevos con chorizo, huevos con jamon, huevos a la Mexicana, a breakfast burrito, or chiliquilles. And breakfast is served all day long, so if you find yourself craving eggs at 6:00pm, they’ve got you covered.
Later in the day you can get everything from quesadillas to burritos to tortas to enchiladas. Other specialties include chiles rellenos, flautas, fajitas, gorditas, sopes, and tamales. For less adventurous eaters, Taqueria La Soga offers cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, and french fries.
The best-selling menu items are the tacos, according to Gilberto Muñoz, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Martha. Among the choices are carne asada (steak), al pastor (marinated pork), pollo asada (grilled chicken), chorizo (Mexican sausage), carnitas (pork), veggie, and shrimp. Tacos can be made Mexican-style with onions and cilantro, or American-style with lettuce, cheese, and tomato. A taco dinner is $9.65 for three tacos (your choice of meat), rice, and beans. Tacos are also available a la carte.
Each order comes with a small bag of tortilla chips and pico de gallo or salsa verde. They also have three other varieties of salsa—a mild version, a medium salsa roja, and a spicy habanero salsa.
The Muñoz family has lived in Lansing for five years. They have a teenager and a preschooler. The couple is originally from Mexico and most recently lived in California, where Gilberto worked in his family’s restaurant. When he started his own restaurant in Lansing, he continued with the special family recipes he grew up on. Menudo, an authentic Mexican soup, is served on Saturdays, and a different special soup is offered on Wednesdays.
Complete your meal with with a glass of Horchata, Jamaica, Jarritos soda, or a glass bottle of Coca-Cola bottled in Tijuana and made with cane sugar. Save room for dessert—the flan is made from scratch in the kitchen there.
Diana’s Mexican Bakery
You can also satisfy your sweet tooth at Diana’s Mexican Bakery, formerly La Rosa de Guadalupe Bakery, at 19124 Burnham Ave. Diana’s makes a plethora of tasty treats, whether you want a traditional American-style doughnut or a flaky Mexican pastry.
A big part of their business, according to employee Elizabeth Mendez, comes from baking bread that goes out to stores and restaurants. If you order a torta at Taqueria La Soga it will be made on bread baked at Diana’s. Their chili jalapeño bread is made with peppers and cheese and is very popular.
Shelves and cases are lined with cookies, muffins, brownies, cakes, and other treats. Mendez said that the pumpkin empanadas are her favorites, along with the tres leche cake slices. Prices are reasonable, with cookies at about 60¢ and a slice of tres leche cake just $2.50.
Other goodies include a lightly sweet pastry called el mojo de vaca or “eye of the cow,” a traditional bread called sema de acambaro, and conchas.
Jackie Terrazas moved to Lansing as a teenager 24 years ago. She’s a second-generation American with parents who were from Guadalajara, Mexico. For many years, her family had to go to other towns to visit a Mexican grocery. Up until recently, she did much of her shopping in Hammond or Calumet City.
Since Diana’s opened up down the street from her, Terrazas visits three or four times a week. She loves a sugary horn pastry they carry that is filled with strawberry jelly; her kids love the chocolate chip cookies.
If you’re stopping in to the bakery, be aware that they take cash only.
Terrazas has also become a frequent shopper at Cerro Grande, Lansing’s newest Mexican business. It opened just three months ago at 19064 Burnham Avenue, a building that had sat vacant since La Balanza closed several years ago. “They have good food and good service,” said Terrazas. “I buy a lot of food there and at Three Roosters.”
Cerro Grande is a combination market/taqueria where you can buy groceries, produce, and fresh meats as well as order hot freshly-made food to enjoy at one of the cafe tables. Owner Yenni Prado said that so far business has been going well, and they’ve gotten a good response from customers.
The store is open 10:00am–9:00pm daily, and customers can order hot, made-from-scratch food from 7:00am–9:00pm daily, including tortas, burritos, chimichangas, sopes, gorditas, and more. On weekends, they have carnitas, barbacoa, menudo, and tamales. You can also pick up hand-made tortillas for $2.99 a dozen.
Hispanic food in Lansing, Illinois
Hispanic markets, grocery stores, and restaurants in Lansing include:
- Burrito Express—17400 Burnham Avenue
- Cerro Grande—19064 Burnham Avenue
- Diana’s Mexican Bakery—19124 Burnham Avenue
- El Mariachi II—18331 Torrence Avenue
- La Rosita—3315 Ridge Road
- Murillo’s Produce—19261 Burnham Avenue
- Tacos & Burritos Rancho Grande—3444 Ridge Road
- Taqueria La Soga—19267 Burnham Avenue
- Three Roosters—3224 171st Street
A Gringo Glossary
There are common Hispanic foods that most people are familiar with—tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas—but other dishes may be less familiar. Before you head to one of Lansing’s Hispanic stores or restaurants, here’s a little guide to some of the food terms:
- Al Pastor: Meat (any type) cooked over a spit Middle Eastern-style
- Barbacoa: Meat cooked in an underground pit, usually wrapped in banana or agave leaves
- Cajeta: A specialty of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi, a confection of goat’s milk simmered with sugar. Cajeta is a type of dulce de leche, which means “candy made of milk”
- Carne Asada: Meat, beef or pork, broiled
- Carnitas: A Mexican food specialty of Michoacán—pork simmered in fruit juices and used in tacos and burritos
- Chilaquiles: Fried tortilla pieces topped with mild red sauce and cheese. Served as an appetizer or for breakfast
- Chile Rellenos: Ancho or Anaheim chiles, with skins removed, dipped in batter, stuffed with cheese or meat, and covered with lightly spiced red sauce
- Chorizo: Fresh, highly seasoned sausage flavored with chiles and spices
- Flauta: Long corn or flour tortilla filled with beef or chicken and deep fried.
- Frijoles: Beans (usually kidney, bayo, pinto or black)
- Horchata: Soft drink made by blending ground rice with water or juice and melon seeds
- Huevo: Egg
- Menudo: Robust, medium-spicy soup with tripe, hominy, onions, and spices
- Mole: Complex dark sauce with chiles, nuts, spices, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, and seasonings.
- Pazole: Robust, medium-spicy soup with pork or chicken, hominy, onions, and spices
- Poblano: Dark green, rounded fresh chile used for chile rellenos
- Taqueria: A restaurant specializing in tacos and burritos
- Torta: Mexican food-style sandwich on a bolillo
Writer’s note: Thank you to Lilly Maciel for accompanying me to several locations and serving as a translator when needed.