I wasn't excited. It was early afternoon, the temperature was already 100, I was hungover and I was hungry. My invitation arrived by text: "Want to get elotes with us in 30 mins? There's a place up on Maple."
I'd seen a version of this snack back in DC. Street vendors skewered whole ears of corn on a stick before slathering them in mayo and cheese. A trendy taco joint offered a similar version, also served on a cob. I'd watched people with mayo-covered faces apparently enjoy the dish, but I still had doubts.
The local version, as described to me, had me even more concerned. I was told they shave the corn from the cob before mixing it in a cup with mayo, sour cream and cheese. I envisioned a warm cup of mayonnaise and cream studded sparsely with corn kernels. I imagined the hot summer sun baking these ingredients from above. I visualized all the things I drank the night before. I became very afraid.
Turns out the elotes we got from a small stand outside a Mexican grocery in Oak Lawn were nothing like the dish of my nightmares. I watched the cart-worker as she shaved corn from the cob, topped it with a little mayo, sour cream and grated cheese. She handed it over for 3 bucks and let me garnish the cup myself, with hot sauce and a freshly squeezed lime. It turned out to be a pretty decent hangover cure, paired with the cucumber-infused agua fresca I purchased inside.
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Having put down this classic version, it's hard not to imagine tricked-out renditions of the dish, like the one served at Alma in fancy baskets made from corn husks. The variations are endless and the dish seems ripe for upscale riffing. What about fresh vinegary chili sauces, some real butter instead of squeeze-bottle Parkay and large-kernel heirloom corn, blackened on a grill?