Beer and Loathing in Wrigleyville: DS Tequila Company, 3352 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: All-You-Can-Eat Tacos 

Price: $$$

http://www.dstequila.com/

I don’t hang out in Wrigleyville much, but when my friend Stefania from Pizza for Life asked if I wanted to check out DS Tequila Company’s all-you-can-eat taco night, you bet your taco eating a** I said yes. Just to make sure they weren’t trying to get me in the door with one or two crappy taco options, I checked the menu, and sure enough, there was a plethora of seemingly fancy tacos at my disposal. Our Father, who art in heaven, Taco be thy name.

Margarita slushy machines!

Margarita slushy machines!

When we walked in, a friendly host immediately checked my ID, so this is not really a place you can take the kiddos. After a little table switch we sat down and began to look at the menu. Our server gave us a spiel about all their specials that I could have sworn included jalepeño poppers and pizza shooters. It seemed to go on for days. That’s great and all, but I just want to get to stuffing my face hole with all-you-can-eat tacos!

I started off with three tacos: a coffee rubbed steak taco, a battered fish taco, and a crispy chicken taco. However, in tiny little letters on the menu under “Tacos” there is a disclaimer that says all of their tacos are served on handmade flour tortillas, with gluten free corn tortillas available upon request. Serving me a taco on a flour tortilla without telling me is like kicking a cancer kid in the balls on Christmas. I tried one anyway. After all, they were handmade. And you know what? Handmade or not, it was gummy and just reaffirmed my necessity for a taco to be served on a corn tortilla. It actually might have worked if the tortilla were toasted a little more. 

The tacos themselves were not as small as I was expecting, considering it was all you can eat. The meat in the steak taco looked like somebody accidentally dropped it in a can of Folgers. It actually tasted pretty good, but the steak was dry. The spicy aioli wasn’t bad, however it was not spicy at all. And the corn tortillas were a million times better than the flour tortillas, but they started to fall apart mid-taco. Unfortunately, it only goes downhill from here, folks. 

The battered fish taco was meh, in every sense of the word. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. I’m pretty sure if you went into your freezer and nuked up a fish fillet, dropped it in a tortilla and slapped some tartar sauce on, it would pretty much be what I ate. Also, for some reason the term battered fish reminds me of a goldfish that is in some kind of terrible domestic situation. 

The crispy chicken was seriously offensive to my taco sensibilities. I pretty much felt like I just took a bite out of a crispy chicken wrap from McDonald’s. I didn’t even want to finish it, but I felt like a douche ordering more all-you-can-eat tacos when I still had food on my plate. I will not even dignify this taco with any more insults. 

I ordered two more tacos, a shrimp taco and a chorizo taco. They were both actually not that bad. The shrimp, though rubbery, had a tasty pineapple pico de gallo topping. Rubbery shrimp doesn’t really bother me all that much. The chorizo taco was pretty good, but I can’t help but think that they just drowned it in a spicy Manwich sauce.  

DS Tequila Company Taco Review

The main offender

We also ordered chips, which came with three different salsas: tomatillo, spicy ranch, and red salsa. The tomatillo had avocado and ended up being creamy and gross, like they had babies barfing up peas and half & half into the salsa bowls in the kitchen. Their spicy ranch salsa tasted pretty good, but for some reason it felt wrong to be dipping my chips into ranch dressing. You just know someone’s Mexican grandmother disapproves. The red salsa was the best and most like a traditional salsa. A little chunky and smoky, it tasted all right.

Parking might be kind of tough since this is the Wrigleyville/Boystown area, but if you come during the week you should be okay. You will have to pay a meter, though. I do not like giving places bad reviews, so you should really come check it out for yourself. You might like it. My recommendation: If you are really hungover on a Thursday and feel like you can eat your weight in tacos, come to DS Tequila Company and eat them out of house and home. Despite the not-so-amazing tacos, it really is a pretty awesome deal. 

I give DS Tequila Company 2.5 out 5 chiles. 

DS Tequila Company can be found at 3352 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL (773) 697-9127

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Taco Review: Tio Luis Tacos, 3856 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Mexican Restaurant Tacos 

Price: $$ 

http://www.tioluistacos.com/

On their website it says that the Chicago Tribune gave them the title “Best Tacos in Chicago.” We shall see about that. Arriving at Tio Luis, we noticed a police car outside, which is usually a good sign. Cops drive around a lot and really enjoy eating, which i’m sure you know if you have ever seen a Chicago cop. The place is bright and friendly, and there are lots of tables. We were able to sit wherever we wanted, and they immediately brought out some chips and roasted red salsa.  They also had squeeze bottles of tomatillo salsa, red salsa, and a green creamy sauce I’ll call soylent green.

Tio Luis Carrots

Without pickled veggies, I just don’t carrot all.

The roasted salsa was tasty. It was chunky and garlicky, with lots of flavor. If this salsa were a rapper, it would be Flavor-Flavio. The red and green salsas were much milder and a little watery, but not terrible. However, the soylent green was the most offensive of the three. It tasted like nothing and everything at the same time. I actually think it was a kind of creamy cilantro concoction, but it just didn’t work for me. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo, so you will have to use your imagination or go and try it yourself. They also had a little box of pickled carrots, and pickled snacks are the best of all the snacks. In case you didn’t know, in heaven there are pickled vegetables everywhere.

So far what I’ve learned from eating tacos from all over Chicago is that different taquerias usually specialize in making one or two types tacos really well. I have yet to visit a place that knocks every single taco out of the park, but it’s better to be good at one thing than mediocre at everything, right? Tio Luis is no exception.

I ordered steak, al pastor, and chorizo tacos. Unfortunately they had run out of barbocoa, which I was keen to try. They did have tongue tacos, but I wasn’t really in the mood for tastebud on tastebud action. 

Tio Luis Tacos

What you tacoin’ about Willis?

I forgot to ask, but I’m pretty sure the tortillas were made in-house. They had that freshly matted feeling to them, like they were just pressed the same day. They also did not fall apart, which is a sign of a fresh tortilla. All the tacos automatically came with cilantro and onions, which scores bonus points in my book. Get that lettuce and tomato outta my face!

The chorizo taco was damn good. I gotta say, I feel like a lot of the time chorizo tacos are overpowered by the marinade. I think it’s because the pork is ground very finely, which allows for excess marinade to really saturate the meat and seep out when it’s cooked, drowning the taco in chorizo juice (somehow that sounds dirty). I’m not sure what kind of Santeria is being practiced here, but Tio Luis was somehow able to avoid that. The balance of marinade and meat was perfect. Maybe some more veggies or a little potato in the mix would have been nice, but really it held up on its own quite well and the pork was delicious. 

The steak taco was the most disappointing of the three. The chunks of steak were too large, which resulted in my taking a bite that caused a steak tug-o-war between my my mouth and the taco. Not cool, Tio. I also found the steak itself to be pretty bland and a little dry, but the delicious salsa and freshly made tortillas made up for it. A bad steak taco is a sin, and if I am starving, aka hangry, I might hulk out and flip tables over a bad steak taco. 

Tio Luis Taco Review

Movie stars getting fresh next to us in the window.

The staff was overly friendly and multiple people checked on us regularly. They were so nice, in fact, that it got a little weird and I was starting to wonder if there was some kind of hostage situation going on in back. We paid credit, and they had no problem splitting the bill. There is plenty of parking on Archer, but it’s all metered. Although their al pastor is nothing to scoff at (indeed it is quite good), I would not say this place is worthy of the title “Best Tacos in Chicago.” I’m not sure who’s being paid off at the Trib, but I will have to see about getting on that taco payroll. 

I give Tio Luis Tacos 3.5 out of 5 chiles. 

Tio Luis Tacos can be found at 3856 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL (773) 843-0098

Taco Review: Masa Azul, 2901 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Fine Dining Tacos

Price: $$$

http://www.masaazul.com/

I must say, proper signage is really the best way to get me inside any restaurant. So many times I have been duped by awesome looking signs and goofy mascots only to find mediocre food inside. But Masa Azul’s greenish-blue hue drew me in like a fly to a bug zapper. I was planning to review more tucked-away, secret hole-in-the-wall spots, like for some dumb reason I should be worried about my “taco cred.” I will get to them eventually, but honestly I don’t give two chips. If they have tacos, I will review it. 

Masa Azul Taco Review

Winner buys tacos.

Masa Azul is a dark room with a wooden motif. They have artwork on the wall that consists of pool sticks arranged in a fashion to look like an agave cactus, an idea I would have come up with if I were 21 and created my own tequila bar in the basement of my apartment. The cheesy DIY art really didn’t matter, though, because the ambiance of the room was great. It was dark but not too dark, the tables weren’t super close together, and there wasn’t any obnoxious music playing. I would call this place very date friendly. 

Masa Azul Taco Review

Heart of the Dead in the background, El Primero in the foreground.

I had forgotten my ID and wanted to drink on this taco excursion. Lo and behold, they did not card me! Obviously my Latin charm must have played some Hispanic Jedi Mind Trick on our server, or maybe the tequila gods were happy with me because I woke up today without a hangover. Let me start off by saying that the drinks here are freaking good. Made with care and precision, they weren’t heavy on imported spices or syrups, just straightforward and mixed perfectly. I recommend getting the “Heart of the Dead.” If you don’t finish it in less than 5 minutes, you have greater willpower than I. 

We ordered an appetizer. I only took a couple bites of it because I find my taco tongue is at it’s most discerning with a clean palate. They only have three tacos here: a fried shrimp taco, a fried avocado taco, and a carnitas taco. The tortillas are handmade. The menu online says they have a goat taco, but it was not on our menu. Lame-a-tronic. 

The shrimp taco was delicious. And what a shrimp, what a shrimp, what a shrimp, what a mighty good shrimp it was.* It was not rubbery, the seasoning in the batter was minimal, and they did not put too much chipotle mayo on it. I have to say, although I love a tasty sauce slathered on almost anything, it really tends to drown out the all the different subtle flavors that are happening, be it from the pickled veggies, the batter, or the actual shrimp. The seasoning in the batter of the fish taco at Antique Taco is more pronounced, but there is something to be said for the minimalist approach if done correctly. 

The avocado taco was exquisite. I have never eaten fried avocado in my life, and I am telling you, you will sell your first born for this goddamn taco. I am a card-carrying consumer of animal flesh, and this avocado taco was way better than many of the meat tacos I have eaten in this fine city. You don’t feel like you’re just taking a bite out of an avocado someone rolled around in their leftover calamari crumbs. They are very careful about how they construct their tacos at this place. It just goes to show, with a little love, you can have a taco you will trade in your 2001 Ford Escort for.

I like to save the worst for last, and I have to say, I was a little disappointed in the carnitas taco. The flavor was there, there was plenty of meat in the taco, and they stuck with the minimalist theme by adding just a smattering of pico de gallo on top. The main problem was that the taco was too oily. I don’t mean grease from the pork; it was more like they just cooked it in too much oil. Which is a shame from a place that clearly makes fantastic food. That said, it was still a good taco, and if you eat it you will enjoy it. I mean, we’re talking the low end of the super delicious spectrum here. 

Before I finish this taco review I want to touch on a few things. The service was great. Our server asked us questions to figure out what we liked, checked on us on a regular basis, knew a lot about the food and drinks, and made recommendations, which helped our decision-making process. Also, that appetizer I told you about was simply fantastic. I don’t want to go on about it too much because this is first and foremost a taco blog, but seriously it was awesome. 

Parking is easy on Diversey, and you don’t have to pay a meter, which is nice. If you live around Logan Square and are thinking about getting some Mexican, you should really come to this place before you go anywhere else. 

I give Masa Azul 4.0 out of 5 chiles. 

Masa Azul can be found at 2901 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago, IL (773) 687-0300

*The shrimp did not have a voice like Barry or a Denzel face

Taco Review: Bullhead Cantina, 1143 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Fancy Bar Tacos

Price: $$$

http://bullheadcantina.com/

When I walked into Bullhead Cantina it was pretty loud. Not with music, but tables filled with drunk, happy houring twenty somethings who had taken over the bar. My old man “Turn down the racket!” urge was beginning to bubble up, but then I thought it was a good thing there was a friendly bar in Humboldt Park that allowed people to simultaneously drink copious amounts of alcohol while stuffing their faces with 12 different kinds of tacos. 

Bullhead Cantina Wall

Jimmy John’s Cantina?

Our very friendly server came by, and we ordered some chips and salsa (not complimentary @ $4 a pop). The salsa she brought out was pretty much just blended tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños. But for it’s simplicity, it was surprisingly good. Friday night is $5 dollar craft cocktail night, so we decided to take full advantage and order as many drinks as our wallets and livers could handle. Bullhead “Cantina” (which serves mostly whiskey and bourbon) has a lot of knickknacks and dumb signs on the walls that do little more than fill up space and make it look like a Jimmy John’s. But this is not Chicago Interior Design Talk, it’s Chicago Taco Talk, so let me get back to the matter at hand here: Motherf*cking tacos.

I ordered four tacos: hanger steak, southern fried chicken, brisket, and al pastor. My taco partner ordered all vegetarian tacos: roasted beets, spicy avocado, sweet potato, and kale and grits. Let me start with the steak taco. The hanger steak was delicious, sliced long and thin, and seasoned well. It was tasty, but there wasn’t too much of it present in the taco. More meat please! There was also a good amount of sour cream, which tasted good but was not completely necessary. Whenever places add a ton of sour cream, I start to wonder “What are you hiding? Do your tacos suck?”

Bullhead Cantina Tacos

Meat tacos. Macos.

I should add that all tacos come with pickled cabbage, which had a vinegary taste to it and was kind of strange paired with sour cream. The southern fried chicken taco, as delicious as it was, had nothing southern about it. They were really just regular miniature fried chicken tenders. The Colonel would have been disappointed. They didn’t even try to figure out at least 5 of his 11 herbs and spices.

On the other hand, the brisket taco came with a ton of meat. It was dry rubbed and not smoked. It tasted alright, but when I think brisket, my expectations are raised. Maybe I am being too critical here, but it could have been spicier. And saltier. And smokier. It was still not a bad taco, so I devoured the whole thing. 

On to the al pastor. The best of the four, marinated nicely, though lacking a little salt for my taste. There were pineapple and veggies, but for some reason all of the flavors weren’t working together. There seemed to be a crucial component lacking. It was still a damn good taco and I have a feeling one the most popular ones there.

Bullhead Cantina Veggie Tacos

Veggie Tacos

As for the vegetarian tacos, I had a bite of the sweet potato, which was great. There wasn’t too much potato, and it was balanced nicely with the sour cream and vegetables. I also tried a slice of beet from the beet taco. Normally I hate beets; they taste like fresh garden soil to me. But this beet was beatific! Maybe it was the citrus marinade or the roasting, but I actually liked it. However the kale and grits taco was the clear winner. I was fully expecting it to taste like baby food mixed with lettuce, and it totally did, but it was great! The grits were buttery and delicious, and the kale really soaked up the flavor of the white wine and garlic, as well as adding a nice texture to the taco. I have a sneaking suspicion the veggie tacos here are much better than the meat tacos. 

They ran out of the pomegranate they were putting in my margarita as well as the smoked tequila we wanted to try, which was kind of a bummer. The drinks were kind of weak and our server was also super slow in bringing us the check, but it was Friday night and the cocktails were 5 bucks. It wasn’t her fault, and you get what you pay for. You might need to park at the meters on Division, but if you’re lucky you can get a free spot on California. This place is cash only, so remember to hit up your bank beforehand!

Bullhead Cantina Veggie Tacos

CASH ONLY

I give Bullhead Cantina 3.5 out of 5 chiles. 

Bullhead Cantina can be found at 1143 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL (773) 772-8895