Our recently-concluded The Hunt Club contest called upon Voracious readers to find 10 esoteric edibles somewhere in Seattle. This week, we'll look more closely at a few of the listed items - and tell you where our top scavenger hunter found them.
Cemitas are as commonplace in Puebla as cheese steaks are in Philadelphia, but Chicago cemitas czar Antonio Zurita owns a trademark on the Mexican sandwich. I asked Zurita how he could assert ownership of a standard street corner snack; isn't that like trademarking a burrito? "Someone should have trademarked the burrito," he told me.
Zurita and his son envision a coast-to-coast chain of cemitas® joints. Their confidence in the idea's revenue potential has billowed since their shop, Cemitas Puebla, was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that's been rebroadcast seven times.
"Everyone knows about cemitas now," says Zurita, who immigrated to Chicago 40 years ago. "You don't believe it, Guy Fieri is so powerful. We have people from South Africa, Belgium, Spain, because they watch the show there. We have people from all over the U.S. Sometimes they pay $45 for a taxi to come here."
The Zuritas make their sandwiches with herbs the elder Zurita grows in his garden and chipotles he fetches from Mexico City every five weeks. But what distinguishes the cemita from the better-known torta is the eggy, sesame-seed dusted bread that frames it. Homesick Texan blogger Lisa Fain has compared the signature bun (also called a cemita, and the source of the sandwich's name) to a cross between a brioche and challah.
"It's French bread with a seasoning on top," Zurita says. "You slice it, put plenty of avocado on it."
Customers at Cemitas Puebla have their choice of fillings: Milanesa, a breaded pork chop, is the most popular, but other options include cheese, cow foot, carne asada and al pastor. Fieri ordered the Atomica, an invented cemitas with three different meats.
"This is the most delicious sandwich in Chicago," Zurita says. "We have very, very famous people come here."
Two weeks ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by for a sandwich. Did he choose the Fieri-approved, triple-decker special of plain pork chop, marinated pork chop and ham?
"No, he's Jewish," Zurita says. "He had the carne asada."
Finding cemitas in Seattle
Don't tell the Zuritas, but there's a dedicated cemitas shop in
Seattle Everett. Cemitas Poblanas Cemitas Tepeaca serves the regional sandwich just south of White Center.