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Dear Chicagoans,

I’m about to get a little bossy with you. Bear with me – I promise you’ll be glad you did.

If you get summoned to jury duty at Criminal Court (2650 S. California), do the following:

1) Eat a good breakfast before you hit the road.

2) Don’t panic about being a little late. Things don’t get going right away.

3) Bring a snack, and eat it sometime during the morning hours while you sit reading a good book in a huge, frigid room.

4) When you are released for the lunch break, skip the courthouse cafeteria and Popeye’s Chicken on the corner. Instead, walk a few blocks west on 26th, keeping your eyes out for a colorful mural on the side of a brick building. You’ll notice a few others walking with you who are probably also aware that this neighborhood has great Mexican food, and thus also did their food research when they got their jury summons.

5) Arrive at Taqueria El Miagro, which you know gets 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp. Don’t be intimidated by the line – you have an hour and a half. Relax.

6) While in line, enjoy the people watching. The colorful, ultra-casual restaurant has an incredibly diverse clientele.

7) Ignore the obnoxious lady screaming at the bewildered guy behind the counter for not getting her order right.

8 ) Step up to the counter. Breathe in the spicy smells coming from the cafeteria-style service line. Order whatever strikes your fancy. For me, this was:

◊ 1 taco dorado de papa ~ a small, fried tortilla filled with potatoes. Kinda like a very basic samosa, but perfectly flavorful and crispy.

◊ 1 taco de arroz y frijoles ~ an open-faced corn tortilla smothered with refried beans and rice. I requested the additional toppings of avocado, tomato (not really necessary due to the accompanying fresh salsa), peppery cabbage slaw (the clear choice over lettuce), and cheese (“American or fresh?” Um, queso fresco please!)

◊ A sweet Mexican beverage – I chose tamarind, which pretty much tasted like sugar water but was a nice foil to the two dishes above.

◊ And for dessert…1 tamale piña con nuez ~ Open the leaf wrapper to uncover a warm mound of corn masa, subtly sweetened with a honey flavor and studded with pineapple and pecans. This unusual dish may have been my favorite, but it was all so good it’s hard to say.

9) Try to refrain from murmuring “mmm” out loud as you are eating (I may or may not have done this). Revel in the knowledge that the tortillas you just ate were made at the tortilleria next door.

10) Return to the huge, frigid jury room with a full stomach – enough to get you through the grueling questioning by a hotshot lawyer working on a juicy case which will be in all the major newspapers…

Ok, ok…it’s also enough to get you through a few more hours of sitting around until you are dismissed at the end of the day without your panel number ever getting called.

Either way, you ate a really good taco.

Sincerely, Rachel

Photo courtesy of InfoUSA

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