Type: Vegan-Friendly Taco Spot
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.
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.
The 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