Saucy Porka fuses Asian, Latin American cuisines


Iván Beck

PRODUCT OF CHILDHOOD MEMORIES. The baco, shown above, is a fusion of a bao and a taco, which combines sweet with tangy. The contrasting flavors explode in one’s mouth and excite the senses. A Hyde Park location of Saucy Porka, the restaurant that offers this meal, was added at the beginning of August 2018. It is located close to both U-High and the University of Chicago Campus. Many of the meals were inspired by recipies passed down in the families of the creators.

Iván Beck, Features Editor

From the initial bite, the texture of the fluffy bao comes first, followed by the tangy eruption of flavor of pickled carrots and zesty onions, and capped off with the flavor of seasoned meats. How is such a unique combination of flavors accomplished? Simple: the bao taco, or “baco.”

The baco is the signature dish of Saucy Porka, a restaurant operating out of the South Loop and their new Hyde Park location. The Hyde Park location was added in the beginning of August.  Located at 1164 E. 55th St., just west of Woodlawn Avenue, Saucy Porka” is a cozy, rustic location tucked between a Starbucks and The Nile restaurant.

Inside, the restaurant is fairly small. Stylistic decor includes ropes hanging from the ceiling, painted murals and neon lights, all which give the space a rustic feel. Yet every surface is polished to perfection. Natural light floods in from one entire wall, giving a warm feeling to complement the succulents at every table. 

Customers have a few options for appetizers or smaller meals, as well as the baco, the main meal. Bacos are all very similar — several tangy vegetables mixed with a meat or tofu base, nestled within a light, airy bao. 

Ordering and payment take place efficiently at the counter, and food is delivered to the table within minutes. 

A single baco range from $2.90 to $3.70. The restaurant also serves banh mi sandwiches, rice bowls, soups, salads, fries and other side items.

The meal portions are small — a single baco is only slightly larger than the size of a fist — but are surprisingly filling. The bao is puffy and soft, giving way easily to the contents of the baco. The bao’s sweet flavor contrasts that of crunchy carrots, cilantro, and seasoned onions, which add a spicy zest. The meat or tofu take up most of the substance of a baco, and are dense, satisfying and filling.

According to Shakyra Barrett, a manager at Saucy Porka, the restaurant has served both the residents of Hyde Park and students of the University of Chicago about an equal amount, especially because University classes started just this week.

The addition of the Hyde Park location transformed Saucy Porka into a restaurant change, and one that serves both downtown and more residential community of Hyde Park.

 “I think Hyde Park’s diversity was a good fit,” Ms. Barrett explained, “the owner though it would be a nice place for us to call home.”

Amy Le and Rafael Lopez, the co-creators of “Saucy Porka”, were  food truck chefs when they met. The ideas behind several of the signature dishes of their restaurant came from recipes passed down through their families. 

The dishes inspired from their mothers and grandmothers include the pork carnitas pho soup and arrozo con edamame.

Saucy Porka is the perfect spot for a quick meal. The process of ordering takes only a few minutes, and food is prepared quicker than you can sit down at the table. The staff is kind and helpful, and the restaurant’s proximity to Lab and the University makes it an optimal  place to grab a bite.