Type: Fancy Bar Tacos
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.
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?”
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.
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!
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