Taco Review: Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Fancy-white-people tacos 

Price: $$$$

http://antiquetaco.com/

My friend and colleague had been bugging me about reviewing Antique Taco in Wicker Park, so I finally caved and took him up on it. I had been wanting to review and discover more secret hidden gems, but it really does not take very much to get me to eat tacos with anyone, so of course I said yes. You won this round stomach. Actually, you win every round.

Antique Taco review

One taco over the line…

I am going to start with the bad. First off, during weekend dinner hours, this place is packed. I was there with a couple of friends, and we could only find a two-person table to seat the three of us. You order up front, and they give you an empty paper towel roll with a number on it and bring the tacos out to you. There also seems to be a family-style seating thing going on, so it’s possible you might need to share your table with some Wicker Parkians. Second, these tacos come two per purchase, and you cannot pick and choose. I wanted to try at least two different kinds, so naturally I ended up ordering four tacos, which cost me $18. And unless they are filled with unicorn meat and the tears of our Lady of Guadalupe, four tacos should not cost you $18. Luckily, my amigos were kind enough to trade a couple tacos with me so I could try all four. I would recommend doing the same. 

After trying them I understood the line and exorbitant prices; holy guacamole these tacos are good! This place makes Big Star taste like Taco Bell. And I really enjoy Big Star (and Taco Bell for that matter). I had steak, chicken, fish, and shrimp tacos. The balance of ingredients and proteins in all of these tacos was just right. The steak, a ribeye, was adorned with avocado, cilantro, pickled onions, and cotija cheese. Seriously, it was salsa your pants good. (Note: the current menu online is not accurate.) It had that grilled flavor to it, and, as we all know, grilled is the most delicious of flavors.

The fish taco might have been the best fish taco I’ve ever had. They clearly put awesomeness spices in the batter, which meant it really didn’t need to be drowning in sauce to taste good. It had a Sriracha tartar sauce, chives, and cabbage (which was apparently smoked, but I couldn’t tell). I’m not really sure what kind of fish it was, but after the first bite I didn’t care and just wanted it in my stomach.    

Antique Taco Review

Holy Guacamole

The shrimp taco tasted good but wasn’t anything special. It got cold pretty fast, probably due to the corn relish. They were marinated or cooked in some kind of chipotle deal, which was noticeable but maybe got a little bit lost with the flavors of the relish. Really, the shrimp just didn’t hold a candle to the steak and fish tacos. 

The chicken taco was tasty and going for an Indian vibe. It was slathered in turmeric/curry and a ton of other spices, and topped with cucumber, pickled jalapeños, onions, and yogurt sauce, definitely on the mark but not the best of the four. However, you will not be disappointed. 

The staff is very friendly. Our server/food-bringer-outter told us he would keep an eye out for an open table, but we told him we were cool where we were. People were nice and mostly filled with smiles. The register guy seemed a little annoyed, but we all have our bad days, and seriously who enjoys working at a register. (Well, I actually did.)

My only question was what the heck do antiques have to do with tacos? Clearly nothing, but one of my friends explained to me that one of the owners enjoyed antiquing and the other owner enjoyed tacos, and voilà, a nonsensically named taco joint was born. Parking can be tough and expensive because it’s in the heart of Wicker Park. I recommend public transportation, especially since they have margaritas and canned beer available for consumption. Yum. I added a poll below! 

I give Antique Taco 4.0 out of 5 chiles. 

Antique Taco can be found at 1360 N. Milwuakee Ave., Chicago IL (773) 687-8697

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Taco Review: Perez Restaurant, 853 W. Randolph St., Chicago IL

Standard

Type: Mexican spaceship tacos

Price: $$$

I decided to give the West Loop another shot and visit this little Mexican restaurant called Perez. I remember having a couple tacos from there once before, but my memory is fuzzy once again, this time due to the fact I quickly scarfed them down in my car before attending a paid market research session up the street for Budweiser

Perez Wall

Take me to your taco leader

What immediately struck me about this place was the room. The walls are shiny and metallic, and you feel like you are about to dine inside a Mexican spaceship. There is some cool art, but it doesn’t really hide the fact it looks like a giant meat locker. I really didn’t mind; I actually thought it was kind of cool. They really should have played up the spaceship thing. Estos tacos son de Mars, amigo! 

When I finally looked at the menu, I was excited to see they had goat tacos, in addition to the standard taco fare (steak, al pastor, chicken, and chorizo). So what did I do? I ordered all of them except the chicken. Looking back now, I probably should have just ordered the chicken and not angered the taco gods, but at the risk of over-ordering (and overeating), I stuck with the four.

Perez salsa

The Satan salsa is on the left.

I am getting a little ahead of myself here, because I forgot to mention the salsas. They put out a basket of chips and two bowls, one with pico de gallo that was tasty and surprisingly spicy, the other was a roasted salsa that was so black and delicious I think it might have been made by Satan himself. I even ordered an extra bowl of it after we ran out.

After some lively discussion, our server brought out our food. My tacos came out four in a row, with cilantro and onion, on a plate with some lime slices. Let’s start with the goat. It was tender and delicious, albeit incredibly fatty. Not just, like, fatty pieces of meat, but a good part of it was actual large chunks of animal fat. You know, I can appreciate a fatty piece of meat; if done right it really bolsters the flavor. But this was just too much. At times I was wondering if there was Jell-o in my taco. No bueno, Perez.

The steak taco wasn’t any better. Even though it was filled with actual meat, it really lacked any kind of seasoning or flavor altogether. What exactly was the cook doing back there? Clearly navigating the Mexican spaceship and not seasoning my tacos. I’m not sure what cut of meat they used; it actually wasn’t bad, but the taco could have been way better if properly made.

Their al pastor taco was okay. It seemed like they got the flavors right but did not marinate it long enough. It didn’t really have that strong of a flavor, did not seem spit roasted, and lacked pineapple. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed, but I won’t praise it either.

I started wondering if they actually had other salsas, so I asked the server, who informed me that they have red and green salsas. Why didn’t they bring these out initially? After ordering the green, I had come to find out why. Too sweet and viscous and missing an important component (possibly garlic), the tomatillo salsa was a swing and a miss. I didn’t even bother to ask for the red because I had already annoyed our server enough.

The chorizo taco was probably the best one. My tortilllas (two to a taco) started dissolving, and I found it best to pick up a fork and get to shoveling. I did not eat them consecutively, which might have been my downfall, and I admit my palate might have gotten lost along the way. The chorizo had a good flavor and wasn’t too greasy, which is not easy to accomplish with chorizo. It tasted great but lacked an accompaniment, such as potato or another vegetable.

I hate to say it, but the best thing about this place was that dark salsa. If they could fill one of those beer helmets with that salsa in it, I probably would have ordered it. The service was friendly and timely, but for $3 and $3.25 a pop, the tacos were nothing to write home about. If you want throw down that kind of money I suggest walking up the street to De Cero.

I give Perez Restaurant 2.5 out of 5 chiles.

Perez Restaurant can be found at 853 W. Randolph St., Chicago IL (312) 421-2488

Taco Review: La Cocina, 2901 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago

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Type: Vegan-Friendly Taco Spot

Price: $$

http://lacocinachicago.com/

There comes a time in every meat-eating taco reviewer’s life when he will have to review meat substitute tacos. I really love veggie tacos; however, meat substitutes would not be my go-to if I wanted to have a meatless taco. But my love for tacos is strong, and I would not dare snub any taco without really giving it a fair shake. Or bite. Or several bites. So I wandered on over to La Cocina in Avondale to see what their vegan tacos were all about.

Upon arriving at La Cocina I noticed two things: One, that it was almost completely empty, and two, that there was no visible menu. We walked up to the front, and my taco partner Jessica handed me a to-go menu, from which I guess you are supposed to order. The guy taking my order was really nice. He was incredibly friendly and seemed like he was in an awesome mood. He also seemed really stoned, which might have explained things. He wore one of those funny little paper cook hats, and he wasn’t even cooking, which is pretty great in itself. I ordered chips and salsa and he was all like, “Nah, dude. Don’t worry about it. I’ll totally bring those out for free!” So that was cool. We ordered our tacos and took a seat by the wall.

Hail Seitan! Also, my mustache can tickle the person next to me.

Hail Seitan! Also, my mustache can tickle the person next to me.

Speaking of the wall, there was a pretty incredible mural on it. I really do appreciate it when taco places have cool art, it just makes the experience that much more enjoyable. There were also some paintings that I assume were by local artists. I noticed that there was a little sign with a mustachioed guy explaining what seitan is and they that use Upton’s (which is produced here in Chicago).

I’ve only had salsa served two ways: either in little bowls or squeeze bottles. At La Cocina, they do the latter. I am by no means a chips and salsa snob, so I have no problem squirting that saucey saucerton onto a chip and chowing down. Tomatillo salsa is usually my favorite, but this time it was the other way around. The red salsa was spicy and delectable and almost tasted like a Mexican Sriracha. The salsa verde was lacking, and it was definitely not as spicy.

Stoner dude brought out our tacos, which were wrapped, in baskets. I ordered two vegan tacos, chorizo and chicken, and two meat tacos, steak and al pastor. I first attacked the vegan tacos. The chorizo taco was delicious, it actually tasted more like steak than chorizo, which I was okay with because it still tasted good. And it didn’t really feel like I was eating a meat substitute. If I were drunk and closed my eyes, I probably would have been none the wiser. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the chicken tacos. They tasted good, don’t get me wrong. Seasoned nicely, though maybe lacking in salt a bit. I think it might have had to do with the size. There were huge chunks of seitan, and when chunks of anything are that big, you can’t help but taste mostly what it’s made out of. If you dig the taste of seitan, then you would probably love these tacos. I mean, they were huge.

Cocina tacosThe meat tacos, if I were to make a fair comparison, were probably not as good as the vegan tacos. I mean, I liked them more just because I like meat tacos more, but if you wanna get into semantics, the vegan ones were probably made with more care. The al pastor was delicious but tasted nothing like al pastor. It actually tasted like steak, which was weird. No pineapple, mind you. And the asada, well, was pretty good. They were made with skirt steak, which does give them bonus points. But I think there is something fundamentally wrong when your al pastor tastes more like steak than your steak tacos. Regardless of this grave error, I still made those tacos my bitch.

The last thing I would like to add is that it was freezing in there. So if you take a trip to La Cocina, I recommend wearing your ugliest christmas sweater and maybe those gloves with the fingertips missing so you can eat your tacos. We got parking right away, but I can see it being a little tough in that neighborhood. You can probably find metered parking on Kedzie, unless you’re lucky enough to get a free spot on a side street. They close early, at, like, 10, which is too bad, because I think these tacos would be better enjoyed on a late drunk night. And there is no delivery for lazy folks (like me).

I give La Cocina 3 out of 5 chiles.

La Cocina can be found at 2901 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago (773) 588-5799

Taco Review: Taqueria El Chorrito, 6404 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

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Type: Hole-in-the-wall tacos

Price: $ 

http://www.elchorrito.com/

At the end of a long strip of Mexican joints on Clark Street in Rogers Park, kitty-corner from Deluxe Diner, is Taqueria El Chorrito. I have been to this hole-in-the-wall taco joint before, but I was under the influence and was not able to properly take note of how decent the tacos actually are. So I decided today to revisit this tiny place and see how it fared. I would like to stress that this is a very small restaurant, maybe only a hair larger than the old La Pasadita (RIP) on the east side of Ashland. There is a television in the corner with the Spanish channel on and an actual pay phone.

After sitting at the bar, I ordered three tacos and a glass of water. You have to specify cilantro and onions or lettuce and tomato.They have a fairly large menu for such a small place. I ordered a steak taco, an al pastor taco, and a taco with chorizo and potato. A few minutes after sitting down, my server gave me a tiny bowl of chicken soup with rice that had jalepeños, corn, and cilantro in it. I must say, it was pretty damn good, not exquisite, but for a complimentary bowl of soup it wasn’t bad. I’m sure high school cafeterias around the country are serving much worse. I wasn’t expecting it from such a small operation. 

On to the tacos. They didn’t take long, maybe five minutes tops. First I tried the steak taco. Now here is a perfect example of a restaurant using less than top-quality meat but marinating and cooking it perfectly so that it didn’t really matter. It was incredibly flavorful and juicy without being too greasy, heavy on the spices, but boy did it taste good. The tortillas (they give you two per taco) seemed like they might have been a little on the stale side, but the steak tasted so good I didn’t even care. 

The al pastor taco was almost as good as the steak taco, albeit a little overcooked. Now I don’t mean overcooked as in dry, I mean overcooked as in a little too crispy. Sure, some people may like this crispiness (I’m looking at you Big Star), but you’re really cheating yourself and not eating the best taco you could possibly be eating. You really lose a lot of flavor of the pork. In spite of this, their al pastor was super delicious, made with traditional marinade, and just as juicy as the steak taco. No pineapple, but still pretty impressive. 

Their chorizo and potato taco was good but fell short of the other two. “Why?” you ask. Because the pieces of potato were too goddamned big. I don’t just want a mouthful of potato, it should be a well-crafted ensemble of different flavors, textures, and ingredients. The chorizo was little more than a mere stowaway on the good ship taco, when really it should have been first mate. The marinade pervaded the taco and really overcame any other flavors that might have been inside the damned thing. All I really tasted was the chorizo marinade and a whole lot of potato, which is too bad because a potato and chorizo taco can be a beautiful thing. 

I’ll admit that I should not have been hungry because the tacos were pretty huge, but I’m a classic overeater and was about to order another taco when I found out they have a $5 credit card minimum and I had no cash on me. This was clearly a sign from the good lord to chill the @#% out, thus sparing another contribution to the thick veneer of fat that covers this slammin’ beach bod I have underneath.

To sum it up, this place is good, definitely on the higher end of the taco spectrum. It is open super late for all of your North Side drunk taco needs: 2 a.m. most nights, 24 hours on weekends, and for some reason until 5 a.m. on Wednesdays. You’ll have an easy time finding parking on Devon west of Clark. 

I give Taqueria El Chorrito 4 out of 5 chiles. 

Taqueria El Chorrito can be found at 6404 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL (773) 381-0902

Taco Review: Cosina Grill, 1706 W. Foster Ave., Chicago, IL

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Type: Lonely Mexican Restaurant Tacos

Price: $$$, BYO

http://co-si-na.com/

I have been driving by this place for what seems like forever, and finally on a whim I decided to check out their tacos. It always seemed empty and a little depressing to me. Maybe because it’s off the beaten path and not too close to the Andersonville strip. Or maybe it’s because the whole storefront is windows, and if you’re going to have your whole storefront be windows, it’s probably a good idea to have people in your restaurant.

We walk in and get seated by our server. I don’t remember what his name was but let’s call him Gary. There is a painting of an angry Mexican lady holding her pissed-off kid that gave us the stink eye our entire lunch. After a few minutes Gary brings out our complimentary chips and salsa. It consisted of a roasted tomatillo salsa, a milder roasted red salsa, and what I would call a tomato sauce with some onions in it. The tomatillo was chunky and delicious, and also quite spicy. The red salsa was tasty but diminished in flavor after eating the tomatillo, and I’m pretty sure they just emptied a jar of Pace for the mild salsa. Also, the water glasses appeared to be made of a very heavy crystal probably carved out of a geode. I was doing bicep curls every time I drank my water. 

They didn’t have any a la carte tacos on the menu. Did that stop me from ordering tacos? You bet your chalupa it didn’t. I ordered the taco plate that comes with two tacos and rice and beans. I opted for steak and chicken, though they do have a third option of chorizo if that’s your thing. There were no vegetarian tacos, but they did have a good amount of vegetarian plates available. I would also like to add I believe a true taco plate should come with 3 tacos, but that’s a whole other blog post. I asked Gary if the tortillas were made in-house and he said no. After we had some lively discussion regarding the creepy painting and did a few bicep curls, Gary brought out our food. 

Cosina Grill Taco Review

Taco Taco

The steak taco was good. Not knock your chancletas off good, but a solid taco. The steak tasted great and was cooked perfectly, and the pieces were large but not too large. I don’t like it when there are tiny little pieces of steak in my taco. I must say, I do feel it was lacking in the onion department, but I happen to like a lot of onions on my tacos so maybe it would have been fine for the lay-taco person.  

The chicken taco, I wasn’t so crazy about. It was adobe seasoned but not grilled. I have a feeling they used the same chicken they use for their enchiladas. If you want to have a good chicken taco, grill that @#$%. A little seasoning and a turn on the grill, and you’ll have yourself a tasty chicken taco. If you don’t want to offend grandma, then maybe this steamed or whatever chicken taco is the one for you. 

Cosina Grill Taco Review

Horchata!

The rice came preformed in the shape of a hockey puck. The beans were okay, but the rice was seriously lacking flavor. Garlic and salt, it’s not that hard people. 

All in all, I wouldn’t order tacos again, but I have a feeling the rest of the food is very good, and I will be returning for some enchiladas or what have you. Also, it’s BYO, which totally rules if you like to booze it up a little during dinner. Parking is easy, right on Foster, no meters.  

I give Cosina 3.5 out of 5 chiles.  

Cosina Grill can be found at 1706 W Foster Ave Chicago, IL. (773) 271-7103