Accomplished chef brings culinary talent to South Side

Corn tamales topped with cream, queso fresco and roasted tomatillo sauce. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

Corn tamales topped with cream, queso fresco and roasted tomatillo sauce. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

If you’re driving down Halsted Street and looking for a bite to eat stop by Del Sur Bar & Grill, 4559 S. Halsted Street. Del Sur, which opened in early Nov., is a family business, owned and operated by Jorge Hernandez and his wife Erica. Hernandez, formerly sous chef at The Gage, brings his culinary talent and over two decades of experience to the South Side.

Inspired by his mother and grandmother’s recipes, you’ll find Latin inspired dishes with a French twist and some South Side flair. Tomo Kamioka, a former colleague from The Gage who also spent some time working in Texas before coming to Chicago, recently joined Hernandez in the kitchen as sous chef, so be on the lookout for barbeque flavors too.

Hernandez’s menu contains fresh twists on Mexican staples and his presentation could rival that of any fine dining establishment elsewhere in the city. Corn Tamales happen to be one of the most prominent and popular dishes of Chiapas and one of my favorite Del Sur appetizers. Hernandez’ tamales are served out of the husk wrapper with sweet corn and topped with cream, queso fresco and roasted tomatillo sauce. He added ricotta cheese to his tamales to create a unique taste and spin on a traditional Mesoamerican dish.

The sopes de tinga and guacamole also are great appetizers not to be missed. And if you’re a mole fan, come try Hernandez’ longtime family recipe. While most moles cook for about seven to 10 hours, his family’s red and green mole each cook for 24 hours, creating exceptional flavor and quality.

“I have so many recipes from my mom, like mole rojo, like green mole, these are all recipes from my mom, family recipes, same thing with the sweet corn tamales.”

For dinner, Hernandez recommends the lomo, a grilled 12-ounce American ribeye served with potato cake, radish salad with morita sauce and chuleta de puerco, a grilled Berkshire pork chop served with green beans, baby carrots with a madeira sauce. Hernandez gets his meat from L&L Packing Co, a local South Side business known for its USDA prime and choice aged beef. The dinner menu will soon include daily fish specials like flavorful striped bass. For brunch, Hernandez recommends starting with the seasonal fruit, a lighter dish, the fruit is served with honey, yogurt, and granola. Popular brunch dishes so far have included carne asada, salmon, omelet, and french toast.

I can tell you that the two lunches I had at Del Sur left me wanting more. Hernandez and I both agree the Del Sur Sandwich is not to be missed. The sandwich is a grilled sirloin with roasted red pepper, grilled red onion, Swiss cheese, and horseradish aioli. All of Del Sur’s sandwiches come with fries, which are exceptional. Other lunch highlights include the shrimp po boy, burger, and torta cubana.

The Del Sur Sandwich. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

The Del Sur Sandwich. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

A self-taught chef with experience in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, Hernandez spent a decade working at Bistro 110, preparing French cuisine alongside Chef Dominique Tougne.

Most recently, Hernandez worked as a sous chef preparing American food with a global influence at The Gage. During his time there, Hernandez experimented with global flavors alongside Chef Dirk Flanigan. He also worked under the direction of Chef Bernie Laskowski, preparing all-American dishes at the Park Grill.

Hernandez grew up in Chiapas, a southern state in Mexico. He said he knew one day he would open a restaurant on the South Side of the Chicago. Naming the restaurant Del Sur just made sense to Hernandez.

“I am from the South Side of Mexico, so that’s why I put Del Sur on the South Side of Chicago,” he said.

And while it is a change from the traditional Mexican restaurants you’ll find in the Back of the Yards and Canaryville neighborhoods, Del Sur still has that welcoming, at-home feel. So if you’re looking for a new BYOB (Del Sur has applied for a liquor license, but until then they are BYOB) dining experience in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Del Sur.