Don Churro

(Sabina Bremner)

At two in the afternoon, my companion and I bike down South Blue Island Avenue in Pilsen, heads pounding from dehydration and bodies drenched in sweat from the early summer heat.

We have to pause to check the exact location of our destination–Don Churro doesn’t stand out. Like many of its neighbors, it advertises itself by way of a small sign protruding above its entrance, encircled by a neon arrow. The sign itself is crowded with cramped lettering, complete with an English translation of “Autenticos Churros Mexicanos,” legible only from a close distance. The interior is similarly nondescript. There are no tables, no chairs, just a counter topped with a glass case showcasing buñuelos and churros in five varieties: strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and plain. A refrigerator features various drinks, including watermelon and mango sodas imported from Mexico. Visible through an open doorway in the back of the restaurant, someone lounges in the prep room’s plastic chair. The spare milieu draws the customer’s eye to the churros, which–ensconced in glass like relics–cement Don Churro’s status as a fried-dough sanctuary.

The concept of a filled churro is new to us, so we order one strawberry, one chocolate, one vanilla, one caramel, and a buñuelo to top it all off. The woman sitting at the counter waits patiently as we deliberate, and then, with machine-like efficiency, rolls each churro in sugar and plops it into the brown paper bag she’s holding in her other hand. The food comes cheap (both churros and buñuelos cost $1 each) and fast–once we decide what to order, the whole transaction takes less than a minute.

Don Churro isn’t really a place to linger: you order, you pay, you grab the sugar-strewn paper bag, and transport yourself out the door. We realize we can’t eat the churros inside, and consider finding a park somewhere, before finally deciding to nibble them surreptitiously at Taqueria El Milagro, a few streets down. Between tacos and tamales, we sneak our hands into the crinkly bag, trying to minimize the reverberations of its rustling. Since the shape of the snack is too long and cumbersome to enjoy discreetly, we sample the churros in torn-off bits. At the end of this messy endeavor, my hands and arms are coated in sugar, and the table is constellated with the lustrous granules.

It must be said that Don Churro’s savory options paled in comparison to the sweet. Plain churros by themselves, little logs of fried and sugared dough, can tend more toward disgustingly dry than delicious, which is why they’re usually paired with chocolate sauce for dipping. Filled churros, however, do away with the urge to dip: the filling offsets the dryness, its liquid consistency counterbalancing the crunch. Don Churro’s specimens are crunchy on the outside, yet soft on the inside. The fillings are sweet, gooey, and semi-fluid, served at room temperature. Of the flavors that we sampled, I’d have to say that vanilla was my favorite. The chocolate–actually quite similar to the chocolate sauce–and caramel flavors, while both good, taste too similar to each other. The vanilla bared the tang of the extract with which it was flavored, and the strawberry, the only flavor to convey some measure of fruitiness, lived up the promise of its name (though it was also almost cloyingly sweet). We were unable to consume all of the fried goods at once, so we carried them home with us. Hours later, they held up nicely, tasting nearly as fresh as they had that afternoon.

Don Churro satisfies sweet-cravings. Unlike other takes on the churro, however, their product’s fried, sweet nature isn’t overpowering. These churros do fill you up fast though; the two of us together could only put away a couple before our limited appetites forced us to surrender. So go with an empty stomach and choose wisely–you probably won’t be able to try everything on offer, at least not at once. Luckily, the affordable prices certainly won’t keep you from taking a few home.

1626 S. Blue Island Ave. Monday-Sunday, 6am-7pm. Delivery Monday-Sunday, 6am-6pm. Credit cards accepted. (312)733-3173. donchurrochicago.net