Eric L. Kirkes

Enter the Cemita

Cemitas Puebla serves meaty sandwiches in Edwardo’s old spot

For more than thirty years prior to its departure, Edwardo’s served a lot of spinach and pesto deep dish pizzas in its spot on 57th Street. Then Packed: Dumplings Reimagined rolled in with much fanfare, but evaporated in less time than it takes to steam a dumpling stuffed with locally sourced, in-season produce and humanely raised proteins.

Enter Cemitas Puebla, a small, family-owned chain that got its start in Humboldt Park and has since opened locations in the West Loop, Logan Square, and now Hyde Park. It specializes in the cemita, a sandwich from Puebla, Mexico that the LA Weekly has dubbed the “King of Mexican Sandwiches.”It’s a regal sandwich served on a brioche-like roll made with egg and sesame seeds. The bread, baked on-site with a family recipe from the old country, is so fresh and so good you’d be hard-pressed not to pick off some pieces to savor its flavor in isolation. Cemitas Puebla also has more on the menu—guacamole, ceviche, chalupas, and various tacos—but the cemitas are the focus, star, and draw of the hip, fast-casual restaurant.

The interior is contemporary and chic—a sleek, minimalist splash of wood and blank white walls. A sign with graphic-novel-worthy typography explains that it’s “a testament to the spirit of community that binds together those from Puebla.” Images of highly stylized Day of the Dead skulls adorn its sign and door.

You walk up to the counter to place your order—maybe a cemita with jamon, arabe, al pastor or milanesa. If you can’t choose between them, the Atomica is a good option that piles high ham, grilled pork loin, and breaded pork loin, offering a decent sampling of the various meats.

The sandwiches come in oh-so-trendy metal baking pans with mild peppers standing in for pickles. They’re topped with avocado spread, papalo greens (seasonally), adobo chipotle sauce, and a thick blanket of melty Oaxaca cheese. Like the bread rolls, the cheese is so rapturous you might want to eat it by itself.

Wash your meal down with a horchata iced coffee. Sit by the window and watch the parade of students and passersby on the 57th Street commercial corridor. Wonder if you should have ordered less food. Regret nothing.

Will Cemitas Puebla suffer the curse of Edwardo’s, which caused the demise of the restaurants within a single year? Hard to say, but people have written articles with headlines like “How I Fell Hard for the Cemita in All Its Forms” and the restaurant is often—forgive me—packed.

Cemitas Puebla, 1321 E. 57th St. Daily, 7am-11pm. (773) 420-3631.

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