“Hey, let’s just make sauce,” said Quique.
That was 2006, on a third-grade field trip to Arecibo Observatory west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, “and that was the beginning of our culinary adventure,” says Alejandro Gonzalez. “We still make food like that to this day.”
But this is 2023, and Quique Ortiz and Gonzalez—aka the Boricuan superduo known as Moncho Moncheo—are making food like that for the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at Ludlow Liquors.
The two have been best friends ever since barbecue met sweet and sour, though six years ago Hurricane Maria blew them to opposite sides of the mainland; Ortiz to Orlando, Gonzalez to Chicago. They reunited early last year at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, where they’re both now culinary managers, and where the recipe for Ortiz’s mom’s stewed chicken—one day prepared for staff meal—stopped chef Josh Kulp in his tracks. “He kind of took me into a corner and was like, ‘We need to do something with this.’”
That was the genesis of Mama’s Chiki Jibarito, which debuted at the first Moncho Moncheo pop-up last fall at HBFC, and it’s on the menu this Monday too.
This ain’t the boys’ first Foodball. They held it down in the kitchen with Tameisha Brown when Be Irie popped up at Ludlow in February. But this time the jibarito headlines. A radical departure from the Chicago original plantain steak sandwich, the stew, made with scratch adobo, is mounted on crunchy, fried, round tostones with pickled avocado, and “borimayo,” MM’s upgrade on PR’s default condiment MayoKetchup, gussied up with garlic confit, adobo, chipotles, and honey.
They’ve got their queso frito fried cheese curds, a take on the classic Latin American farmer’s cheese and guava paste pairing, here breaded and fried queso blanco del pais, baptized with gochujang-guava sauce and culantro-spiked ranch dressing. Finally, they’ve reunited with Foodball vet Cam Waron of Tubers Donuts for the latest iteration of their coquito-glazed potato starch dunker, piped with rummy-coconut Puerto Rican eggnog, like it’s Christmas in May.
Meanwhile, Ludlow’s Joel Gitskin is working on a passionfruit mojito with Moncho Moncheo mint syrup.
But that ain’t all. Ortiz and Gonzalez have been working on a documentary about the Chicago restaurant industry through the lens of an aspiring pop-up. They’ve got hundreds of hours of footage which they’re currently editing into a series of shorts. “A lot of kitchen documentaries are about these really cool, tattooed dudes that wear bandanas,” says Gonzalez. “But at Honey Butter we have these 55-year-old Mexican ladies that come in every day at six in the morning and know how to make brioche and croissants and they don’t even brag about it, but they are there with a smile. We want to show that kitchens are not always about these tough dudes, but that it’s also just like a family sometimes.”
“We love making food,” says Ortiz. “But we also love making art and giving spotlights to people, giving them the time and appreciation that they deserve.
Swing by 2959 N. California, starting at 5 PM, Monday, May 10—walk-in-orders only, cash, Venmo, or PayPal—and you may end up in a piece of culinary Chicago cinematic history. Profits will benefit cancer treatments for Ortiz’s sister in San Juan.
Of course you can make history every week, by consulting and acting upon the full Monday Night Foodball schedule.