The Passyunk Square location landed on the publication’s prestigious Restaurants List.
Juan Carlos Aparicio, the chef/owner of Passyunk Square-based El Chingon, 1524 S. 10th St., had a simple goal when he opened his 41-seat Passyunk Square-based eatery 11 months ago: “I just want to show the world something unique,” the 44-year-old said.
Less than a year after opening, the 41-seat restaurant earned a place on the New York Times third annual Restaurants List. The list honors the best restaurants across the country. Asked about this achievement, Aparicio reflected, “I’m happy that the people around here love our food, so anything beyond that, like with the New York Times, is a bonus.”
As the Times explains on its website, it dispatched staff across the country to create the list. When writer Nikita Richardson ventured to El Chingon, she had ample praise for what Aparicio considers his destination’s signature offerings—the eight cemitas that honor his upbringing in Puebla in south central Mexico.
“They’re a gigantic part of who we are,” the proprietor said of the sandwiches. Options include the Arrachera Tatemada Al Pastor—skirt steak marinated in recado negro, salsa macha, onions, and cilantro; the Birria—braised beef in adobo, house cheese, onion, cilantro, and consome; and the Pierna Adobada—adobe pork butt, ayocote beans, grilled pineapple, red onions, quesillo, and avocado. “At the same time, they’re part of a bigger goal I have to bring flavors from different regions of Mexico. Even though we use modern techniques to do so, we always keep the traditional flavors.”
Aparicio has been exposed to various culinary influences during his 25 years in Philadelphia kitchens. He spent time in French and Italian restaurants including Parc, Zavino, and Tredici. By 2018 he’d reached a point where working for others no longer brought him joy. So, in September 2019 he and his brother-in-law purchased a former barbershop at the corner of 10th and Cross streets to carve out a culinary home of his own in South Philly. El Chingon translates to “badass.”
“There were a few sad, frustrating times,” he said of what the 2020 pandemic did to his immediate plan. “I’m used to persevering, though, so everything that’s going on now feels good.”
While the cemitas are the standouts at El Chingon, the eight tacos on the current menu are worth shelling out $16-$18 for sets of three. There’s also seafood-centric aguachiles and drinks including an iced horchata latte and the hibiscus-and-guava-enhanced Jamaica Con Guayaba,
Aparacio has built a spot he feels appeals to Philadelphia as a whole because he has a desire to cater to everyone who considers Mexican food a must. “I will make some menu changes since my mind is always active, but everything will be for the best,” he said. “It’s good to have the recognition [from the New York Times], but even without it, I’d be devoting every day to making great food for the people who come here.”
1524 S. 10th St.
Tuesday – Thursday: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.— 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. — 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. —9 p.m.