Type: Fine Dining Tacos
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 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.
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