Lamb is perhaps not the first meat that many associate with Mexican food, which seems to feature pork, chicken and even beef more prominently (at least at local restaurants). Lamb, however, is commonly found in Mexico, though as in the United States, its appeal is not as wide as that of the other three meats.
Given that some people find lamb too “strong” tasting, and thus objectionable, I thought it bold of this little Mexican restaurant to call itself “The Golden Lamb.” When I went there for lunch, I had the lamb barbacoa.
Barbacoa is a technique for slow cooking meat, traditionally in a pit dug into the ground, more commonly steamed in an oven (the Oak Park health inspectors would probably have a big problem with food actually prepared in an earthen pit).
The slices of meat served at The Golden Lamb are thick and full of lamb flavor, which is not always a guaranteed attribute of lamb meat. A few weeks ago, I was talking to Wes Jarrell, one of the owners of Prairie Fruits Farm, which keeps sheep for milk (attention city slickers: lamb are sheep that are less than one year old). Jarrell explained that because of the general lack of market demand for wool, it’s actually not very profitable to farm sheep for wool. It is, however, profitable to farm sheep for meat, but the sheep that are used for meat are usually non-wool bearing. These hair sheep don’t produce as much lanolin, which Jarrell feels may result in milder-tasting lamb.
I’ve read on Yelp and elsewhere that the meat used at The Golden Lamb is mutton (or sheep), which translates into older and more flavorful meat. Fine by me. The burrito I had there last week had good flavor and not a lot of lettuce (which is good: I feel lettuce, in a burrito or on a burger, actually dilutes the flavor, though a little vegetal crunch is nice).
Lamb is also at the center of the plate in other selections, including, predictably, tacos, but also in a soup and mixotes, another pit-barbecuced dish rubbed with chilies.
I doubt that Rick Bayless has to worry about the competition, but for a lunch under $5, The Golden Lamb delivers worthy chow.
The Golden Lamb