It seems as though people in this city tend to stay in their areas of town. Workplaces notwithstanding, we often shop, eat and play near where we live. My home is on the Bench and my job and playground are downtown—and I spend nearly equal amounts of time in both—so I consider myself bi-quadrant. I have, however, lately confined myself to just those two locales. In a quest to sate a teeny bit of wanderlust, I snagged the IT Guy and ventured to Parrilla Fusion Grill in Hyde Park for lunch.
We crunched through ice-covered snow to the terra cotta building and sunburst-shaped, primary-colored sign over the door. Stepping inside, the cool concrete and corrugated metal bar area was empty, ghosts of summertime revelers who spill out of the restaurant and on to the street huddled invisibly, awaiting the return of hot weather.
Worried we might be too early for lunch, smells of the grill pushed the chill out of our noses. Parrilla opens at 7 a.m. with a surprisingly large menu of breakfast eats (which come with sides of seasonal fruit) served until noon. Offerings of tri-tip sirloin, andouille sausage, peppered bacon, gravy and Panko tofu with wasabi dressing nearly sidetracked our plans, but with lunch on our brains, we turned to the more traditional midday meal items. No one in line behind us, I stared at the menu for far longer than was comfortable for the solicitous young woman who was helping us. I was not to be blamed. Featured fusion wraps with a choice of chicken, shrimp, steak, salmon or sans meat lined up against a wasabi salmon, buffalo gypsy or fiery shrimp with Szechwan salad, which struggled to pull my attention away from classic burritos and tacos filled with Asian-style marinated buffalo or shredded pork. All at prices that would have made ordering two for myself not financially unreasonable. Did I want the jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, sausage and cilantro lime rice? Yes. Did the mere idea of the Parrilla Mama Mia wrap of fettuccine and alfredo sauce make my mouth water? Uh huh. Could I have put away the Bombay Bomburrito full of ginger banana chutney, green chili curry and bamboo shoots? Probably. Briefly lost in a world of corn salsa, blackened salmon, sun-dried tomato spread and soy-shallot vinaigrette, I shook my head, recovered my reason and ordered the Melvin Graves wrap ($6.75) long after the IT Guy had picked the buffalo steak burrito ($7.50).
From the bottom of a bag of tortilla chips, we pulled out our lunches, each the size of an NBA player's shoe. The IT Guy had eschewed the fattening but moistening properties of added guacamole and sour cream, and the piquant, chewy Asian marinated buffalo and tangy cilantro lime rice bounced across my tastebuds, but were a bit dry. The smear of mild salsa and mote of melted cheese in my bites helped.
The Melvin Graves was not just a wrap; it was a party in my mouth. Parmesan cheese-smothered chicken, spinach, purple cabbage, balsamic vinaigrette, alfredo sauce and Thai peanut sauce lay like an exotic tapestry on a fluffy king-sized bed of cilantro lime rice. Due to a new diet and workout regime, I ate half that day and saved the other for the next when, after the flavors had settled together overnight, it was almost even better. It was a hell of a lot of wrap for under $7 and if I could give up the joy of leftovers, would be a perfect lunch to split with a pal.
I'm anticipating visits to Parrilla becoming habitual. I guess now I'll be tri-quadrant.
—Amy Atkins appreciates creamy sauces now more than ever.