Holy Frijoles! Wholly Frijoles 3908 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, IL

Standard

Type: Classy Mexican Restaurant Tacos 

Price: $$

http://www.whollyfrijoles.net/

Wholly Frijoles is a family owned Mexican Restaurant in Lincolnwood opened by former Lettuce Entertain You veteran chef Carmen J Villegas. If you’ve ever been to Wholly Frijoles, you know this dude has been saving the good stuff for himself, because the Mexican food at WF is a million times better than any LEY establishment I’ve partronized. However, if I’ve learned anything from this ridiculous and delicious taco blog, it’s that high scale Mexican restaurants do not always make tacos a priority on their menu. Will the tacos at Wholly Frijoles live up to the high standards of Señor Villegas? We shall soon find out. 

Wholly Frijoles Taco Review

Abuelita making some holy frijoles

Much of WF is decorated in fine Mexican art, that I must say is quite impressive. I was seated in a corner near a painting of a ghostly woman making stew. In the very back of the restaurant there is a painting of a Native American that appears to be mourning a woman laid out on some boulders in the shadow of snow peaked mountains. Let’s hope she didn’t buy the farm from eating the tacos at Wholly Frijoles. 

Upon being seated my server informed me her name was Duvy, wrote it and underlined it on my table. So I guess there will be no mistakes about who my server is. I ordered the taco dinner which comes with soup or salad, so of course my fat ass opted for both. She brought out chips and salsa, and I have to say, the salsa was so good I was ready to hold someone hostage for more. Red and chunky with onions and garlic, they loaded that salsa with everything under the Mexican sun.

Wholly Frijoles Taco Review

Duvy keepin’ it real on my table

The salad was also quite delicious, a nice departure from a typical house salad, with finely chopped iceburg lettuce coated in a light, viscous sour cream dressing. The salad also was generously adorned with chopped tomato, onion, and little tortilla strips, adding a lovely texture that made it fun to eat. Face it, we all want Doritos in our salads, we just don’t know it yet. The tortilla soup was also fantastic. Drizzled with sour cream and a light touch of cilantro, the soup also had some of those delicious tortilla strips. I have to say, I love a chef that knows the awesomeness of crunchy food. 

Alright, the real reason I came here: the tacos. My tacos came out with a small bowl of beans (no rice), each on two handmade tortillas. Since there was a rainbow of delicious animals at my disposal, I ordered chicken, steak, and al pastor for my taco dinner. One thing WF did that was hella splendid is they put the toppings under the meat. That way things don’t go falling all over the place and you are sure to get a mouthful of both the meat and toppings in each savory bite. No more scooping stuff back into my taco, that’s clearly for losers.  I would also like to mention the fact that there was a substantial amount of meat in each taco, making them a tad difficult to eat. This is not a terrible thing. 

Wholly Frijoles Taco Review

Marinated in crack

Clearly, they marinate the chicken in crack here and throw it on the grill before serving it, because that sh*t tasted so good I wanted to move into the back room to keep up my habit. Taco meat tastes so much better when it’s grilled vs cooked on a burner. One taco in and I was ready to have J Carmen Villages cater my Big Fat Mexican Wedding, and I’m not even Mexican. The chicken taco sat upon a bed of lettuce and tomato, and had a nice drizzle of sour cream on top. I used the salsa they brought out with the chips to dress my taco properly. 

The carne asada taco was just as exquisite, offering a delicious grilled flavor to a fine cut of skirt steak, cut into rather large slices. The steak was tender and was not at all difficult to eat, except for maybe just fitting the damn thing into your pie-hole. This taco also sat upon a bed of lettuce and tomato, which for some reason was not offensive to me at all, and worked perfectly to balance out the taco. I prefer cilantro and onions on my steak tacos, but everything worked so well together you could have put twigs and berries in that sh*t and I probably would have scarfed it down like it was Thanksgiving.

Wholly Frijoles Taco Review

Al Pastor

The al pastor taco was the only real, sort of disappointing taco of the bunch. And it wasn’t even that disappointing, it was actually pretty good. It just had that ‘reheated in burnt oil on the griddle’ flavor, which I am not a huge fan of. Look, I totally understand it’s not always easy to have meat cooked to order, especially when it’s supposed to come fresh off a revolving spit, without having it completely dry out. Sometimes these things can’t be avoided, but special attention should be paid to the method of reheating, a lot of times oil burns and taco lovers no likey. 

Reheating methods aside, this place is extraordinary. They manage to avoid the fine dining taco curse, and it makes me happy I can eat awesome tacos and not be price-gouged by places like Antique Taco and Cookies and Carnitas. With the soup and salad, the whole thing cost me 13 dollars. If you’re stuck anywhere on the north side near Lincolnwood, I recommend you stop here for lunch or dinner and melt your Mexican loving faces off with this amazing food. If you live up here, I’m sure you already know about it. Parking can be a little tough, but if you’re lucky you can find a (free) spot on the side or behind the building. Whatever you do just don’t let yourself get sucked into going to the Long John Silver’s across the street. 

I give Wholly Frijoles 4.25 chiles.

Wholly Frijoles can be found at 3908 W. Touhy Ave Lincolnwood, IL

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Cookies and Carnitas and Beers, Oh My!: Cookies and Carnitas 5757 N Broadway, Chicago IL

Standard

Type: Cookies and Tacos 

Price: $$$$$, BYOB

As soon as I heard about a place that specializes in cookies and tacos, I knew I had to get on that ASAP. I came hungry, because when you have to cram numerous tacos in your face for the sake of posterity, you have to have the eye (and stomach) of the tiger. Just outside of Loyola in Edgewater, Cookies and Carnitas is off the beaten path, but is a nice oasis in the otherwise mostly dry landscape of North Broadway. The red walls and wooden tables provide a warm and homey feel. There is art on the wall from local artists, it is good to see the art and restaurant community supporting each other. 

Cookies and Carnitas Taco Review

Sucka! You just paid 20 dollars for a few tacos!

Cookies and Carnitas does not have a website, but let me tell you folks, the tacos aren’t cheap. Antique Taco managed to win me over in spite of their inflated prices, so I wanted to give Cookies and Carnitas a fair shake. In turn, they gave me a fair shake and shook all the money out of my pockets! If that old adage – you get what you pay for – was true, I would have gotten four tacos made of solid gold. Not to sound like a cheap-o or anything, but when 4 tacos costs me over 20 dollars, I expect maybe a table side mariachi band or a bag of cheap magnets to come with it. 

All their tacos come out on El Milagro tortillas (two per taco) and are served with ‘smokey’ beans, chihuaha and cotija cheese, pineapple, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, and shredded cabbage. Holy extra toppings Batman! Look… I enjoy all of the above ingredients in tacos, but more does not always equal better. It’s like when you’re a kid and you decide to mix all the different soda available at the fountain, and then you try it and you realize it tastes like complete shit. The salsa verde was wonderful and tasted genuinely homemade. The smattering of charred pineapple was a nice touch that had some brilliant moments. But Cookies and Carnitas has a heavy hand that would make Guy Fieri look like Giada DeLaurentis. The subtle flavors were drowned out by the amalgam of all the toppings. 

Cookies and Carnitas Taco Review

Art for sale!

Of course, you can always ask to have your tacos served the way you want. I ordered an aged skirt steak taco, a pork shoulder taco, a goat taco, and a fried portabella mushroom taco. I have a confession I should probably make here: If there are two tortillas per taco, I try to eat my taco with just one tortilla. For me, two is unnecessary, unless it begins to fall apart, which I assume is why they do it in the first place. Cookies and Carnitas doubles up their tortillas, and right on cue, the first layer fell apart into the safety net of my second tortilla. 

On to the meats! The pork shoulder was excellent. It took me a little while to warm up to it, but mid-taco I realized these guys know what they are doing when it comes to pork. Hence the name Cookies and Carnitas. The pork was juicy, flavorful, and tender. Well done, boys. 

The goat taco was similar to the pork shoulder: moist, soft, braised in beer and their own special blend of herbs. It did not taste gamey, but tasted like goat, if that makes any sense. Not a home run, but good nonetheless.

Cookies and Carnitas Taco Review

Steak Taco close up!

The aged skirt steak taco was…..interesting.This is not meant to be a dis, but whatever seasoning they used on the steak reminded me of those little taco seasoning packets you buy at the grocery store. It tasted exactly like that! Take that information and do with it what you will. Some people might really like those taco packets. Also, the texture and flavor of the steak seemed to be a little off for skirt. I was thinking maybe they braise the steak a little, which obviously would change the texture as well as the flavor profile. Maybe the aging has something to do with it. I can only assume I will get softer as I get older. That said, the steak was tender and delicious, despite the McCormick Taco Seasoning packet they maybe didn’t use.

Now to address the fried portabello taco. I knew this moment was going to come. You know, even when I feel it is justified for me to completely rip apart a taco or a restaurant, I feel bad because it is still somebody’s livelyhood. The purpose of my blog is not to keep people away, but to encourage them to go and find out for themselves. What I might think is a terrible taco might be the perfect taco for somebody else.That being said, this was the worst taco I have ever eaten in my entire life and any past lives I might have lived. I would not wish this taco upon my worst enemy. I’m fairly certain these tacos were served at Guantanamo Bay. I don’t know what they did to those poor portabella mushrooms, but I can make a taco out of the sole of my shoe taste better. It’s amazing how just the wrong seasoning in a batter can turn something beautiful into a horror show. Suffice to say, the taco went unfinished.

Cookies and Carnitas Taco Review

Kooky

That’s pretty much it. Ease up on the toppings, make your own tortillas, and maybe experiment with some different recipes for the steak and portabella mushrooms, and you guys at C&C will have tacos worthy of the prices. Not that you will listen to me, I’m just a guy who writes about tacos. What the hell do I know. Parking is fairly easy on Broadway, and if you’re lucky enough to get a spot right in front, you won’t have to pay a meter. The place was fairly empty when I went, but it was early on a Tuesday, so it might get busier on the weekends. I should mention that the guys that worked there seemed like pretty nice and cool dudes. It’s also BYOB, which helps take some of the sting off the prices. Don’t forget to take the poll below!

I give Cookies and Carnitas 3.5 out of 5 chiles. 

Cookies and Carnitas can be found at 5757 N Broadway, Chicago IL (773) 769-2900