Authentically Taco – Authentaco 1141 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL

Standard

 

Type: Hole-in-the-Wall Patio Tacos

Price $$$

facebooksmall yelp-icon-small zagat_icon

http://authentaco.com/

In the space of the old La Pasadita (the one on the east side of Ashland RIP) opened up Authentaco, breathing life back into the old hole-in-the-wall that fed many of Chicago’s late night eaters for so many years. With a name like Authentaco filling in the shoes of La Pasadita, these guys really set the bar pretty high. They could have called it “Shitty Taco”, served mediocre tacos and called it a day. But anyone from around here knows that’s not how we do things in Chicago. If you open a new restaurant it has to be fucking awesome, and if it’s not it will fade into the background like so many Greenville Taverns before it.  

Upon arriving, I park across the street at La Pasadita, and then risked my life running across Ashland. I could have walked up to Divison, but that would have involved walking 90 extra feet, and I needed to save my energy for eating those tacos. On the awning outside it says “Tortillas Hechas a Mano”, which translates to “We don’t have crappy tacos”. In the window I could see someone actually making the tortillas, so at this point I started to get a little excited. The space was small, and unlike La Pasadita, has no inside seating, save for a small counter to stand and eat your tacos. A hanging menu offered me a miriad of options, including cow tongue, chicharron (pig skin), al pastor, chicken, and several vegetarian tacos. These included rajas (poblanos), nopales (cacti), and a seasonal veggies taco. If you want more than tacos, Authentaco also offers quesadillas and platillos, which come with tortillas on the side.

Surprisingly, I was the only person there. I ordered a veggie, nopales, pastor, and chicken taco at the register. The gentleman informed me it was “Cash Only” and pointed to an ATM behind me. Luckily, I was prepared. After ordering my tacos I kind of stood around for a minute, thinking “Well, I guess I’m going to have to eat my tacos standing up”, until I noticed a door that led to a small back patio where some fellow patrons were enjoying their food. I went out back, and copped a seat at one of tables.

The back patio was pretty nice and had that comfortable gazebo-ish feeling. There was a mural of an old truck, with some cacti decorating the edge of the patio, offering a nice backdrop to the gravel filled enclosed lot. If you use your imagination, you can sort of pretend you are eating tacos in the backyard of a mechanic’s shop in Tijuana. Some gentleman were having a work conversation, and I noticed a couple ladies were seated with a six pack of beer, so I guess this place is BYO?  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a few more minutes, someone brought out my tacos, along with a cup of water that I had requested. They came out on a tray, in a metallic “taco holder”. They looked heavenly. I started with the al pastor taco. Magnificent. It was what the kids would call  “Amazeballs”. I don’t want to call it that because then I would feel like I’m eating someone’s balls. But if you have enjoyed the al pastor at Big Star or L’Patron, this taco is as good or better. For reals.

Biting into the nopales taco, I begin to realize these guys really know what they are doing. To keep an avid meat eater like myself happy, vegetarian tacos need to be on point, and this taco was off the hizzoook. It was incredibly flavorful and juicy, and who knew cactuses tasted so damn good? Well, I’m sure a lot of you knew that, but it’s more fun if you pretend you don’t. And of course there aren’t any prickly quills, so it’s not like making out with someone’s unshaven leg. Nopales? More like YESpales!

Next up: My old nemesis, the chicken taco. I don’t know what it is, but no one knows how to make a good griled chicken or grilled fish taco in this town. I’m sure there are plenty of you who will disagree with me, but unless these taco places have started marinating these tacos in something other than forced air, I have yet to taste one. Until now. This goddamn taco was so good I would have pooped my pants if it meant making more room for these delicious chicken tacos. We all know only Sith Lords deal in absolutes, and I am no Sith Lord, but I am tempted to say this is absolutely the best chicken taco in Chicago. The best Jerry!

Authentaco Tacos

Although still incredibly tasty, the veggie taco was probably the most disappointing of the bunch. It was a tad slimy, and with all the different cooked veggies, felt much closer to actually eating a taco full of amazeballs. Although I enjoy eating squishy cooked vegetables, they really need to be served in moderation, or at least with something dry or crunchy to balance them out. That being said, this was still a delicious taco, and I would not think twice about scarfing it down. If you enjoy murdering plants, cooking them until they are squishy and eating them, you will love this taco.

Before I finish, I need to expound here on the benefits of handmade tortillas. They can make or break a taco. First off, flour tortillas, get that shit the hell out of my face. I will cut you! Secondly, a good handmade corn tortilla is like the soft bed linens for the delicious taco fillings. Now, do you want to put your yummy taco fillings in a low thread count, raspy, uncomfortable corn tortilla linen you would find at the HoJo? Or do you want to lovingly lay them down to rest on a super soft, silky smooth corn tortilla linen of the Four Seasons? I think you know what I’m getting at here. And this is why Authentaco knocks it out of the ballpark. Their tortillas are simply divine. Soft, almost chewy, they provide the perfect resting place for your taco fillings. 

Does Authentaco serve authentic tacos? You be the judge. But it definitely is a bright, shining star among the many taco restaurants popping up in Chicago. Meter parking can be kind of tough on Ashland, but luckily it is right next to the Division blue line stop, so I recommend hopping on that train and or hitting that Ashland bus.

 * Side note: They do NOT carry steak tacos, which is rather unfortunate, but the rest of the tacos are so good it more than makes up for it. Maybe they will in the future? Who knows.

I give Authentaco 4.5 out 5 chiles. 

 Like Chicago Taco Talk on Facebook! facebooksmall

 

 

 

Taco Review: La Cocina, 2901 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago

Standard

Type: Vegan-Friendly Taco Spot

Price: $$

http://lacocinachicago.com/

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.

Hail Seitan! Also, my mustache can tickle the person next to me.

Hail Seitan! Also, my mustache can tickle the person next to me.

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.

Cocina tacosThe 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

Taco Review: Taqueria El Chorrito, 6404 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Hole-in-the-wall tacos

Price: $ 

http://www.elchorrito.com/

At the end of a long strip of Mexican joints on Clark Street in Rogers Park, kitty-corner from Deluxe Diner, is Taqueria El Chorrito. I have been to this hole-in-the-wall taco joint before, but I was under the influence and was not able to properly take note of how decent the tacos actually are. So I decided today to revisit this tiny place and see how it fared. I would like to stress that this is a very small restaurant, maybe only a hair larger than the old La Pasadita (RIP) on the east side of Ashland. There is a television in the corner with the Spanish channel on and an actual pay phone.

After sitting at the bar, I ordered three tacos and a glass of water. You have to specify cilantro and onions or lettuce and tomato.They have a fairly large menu for such a small place. I ordered a steak taco, an al pastor taco, and a taco with chorizo and potato. A few minutes after sitting down, my server gave me a tiny bowl of chicken soup with rice that had jalepeños, corn, and cilantro in it. I must say, it was pretty damn good, not exquisite, but for a complimentary bowl of soup it wasn’t bad. I’m sure high school cafeterias around the country are serving much worse. I wasn’t expecting it from such a small operation. 

On to the tacos. They didn’t take long, maybe five minutes tops. First I tried the steak taco. Now here is a perfect example of a restaurant using less than top-quality meat but marinating and cooking it perfectly so that it didn’t really matter. It was incredibly flavorful and juicy without being too greasy, heavy on the spices, but boy did it taste good. The tortillas (they give you two per taco) seemed like they might have been a little on the stale side, but the steak tasted so good I didn’t even care. 

The al pastor taco was almost as good as the steak taco, albeit a little overcooked. Now I don’t mean overcooked as in dry, I mean overcooked as in a little too crispy. Sure, some people may like this crispiness (I’m looking at you Big Star), but you’re really cheating yourself and not eating the best taco you could possibly be eating. You really lose a lot of flavor of the pork. In spite of this, their al pastor was super delicious, made with traditional marinade, and just as juicy as the steak taco. No pineapple, but still pretty impressive. 

Their chorizo and potato taco was good but fell short of the other two. “Why?” you ask. Because the pieces of potato were too goddamned big. I don’t just want a mouthful of potato, it should be a well-crafted ensemble of different flavors, textures, and ingredients. The chorizo was little more than a mere stowaway on the good ship taco, when really it should have been first mate. The marinade pervaded the taco and really overcame any other flavors that might have been inside the damned thing. All I really tasted was the chorizo marinade and a whole lot of potato, which is too bad because a potato and chorizo taco can be a beautiful thing. 

I’ll admit that I should not have been hungry because the tacos were pretty huge, but I’m a classic overeater and was about to order another taco when I found out they have a $5 credit card minimum and I had no cash on me. This was clearly a sign from the good lord to chill the @#% out, thus sparing another contribution to the thick veneer of fat that covers this slammin’ beach bod I have underneath.

To sum it up, this place is good, definitely on the higher end of the taco spectrum. It is open super late for all of your North Side drunk taco needs: 2 a.m. most nights, 24 hours on weekends, and for some reason until 5 a.m. on Wednesdays. You’ll have an easy time finding parking on Devon west of Clark. 

I give Taqueria El Chorrito 4 out of 5 chiles. 

Taqueria El Chorrito can be found at 6404 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL (773) 381-0902

Taco Review: Cosina Grill, 1706 W. Foster Ave., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Lonely Mexican Restaurant Tacos

Price: $$$, BYO

http://co-si-na.com/

I have been driving by this place for what seems like forever, and finally on a whim I decided to check out their tacos. It always seemed empty and a little depressing to me. Maybe because it’s off the beaten path and not too close to the Andersonville strip. Or maybe it’s because the whole storefront is windows, and if you’re going to have your whole storefront be windows, it’s probably a good idea to have people in your restaurant.

We walk in and get seated by our server. I don’t remember what his name was but let’s call him Gary. There is a painting of an angry Mexican lady holding her pissed-off kid that gave us the stink eye our entire lunch. After a few minutes Gary brings out our complimentary chips and salsa. It consisted of a roasted tomatillo salsa, a milder roasted red salsa, and what I would call a tomato sauce with some onions in it. The tomatillo was chunky and delicious, and also quite spicy. The red salsa was tasty but diminished in flavor after eating the tomatillo, and I’m pretty sure they just emptied a jar of Pace for the mild salsa. Also, the water glasses appeared to be made of a very heavy crystal probably carved out of a geode. I was doing bicep curls every time I drank my water. 

They didn’t have any a la carte tacos on the menu. Did that stop me from ordering tacos? You bet your chalupa it didn’t. I ordered the taco plate that comes with two tacos and rice and beans. I opted for steak and chicken, though they do have a third option of chorizo if that’s your thing. There were no vegetarian tacos, but they did have a good amount of vegetarian plates available. I would also like to add I believe a true taco plate should come with 3 tacos, but that’s a whole other blog post. I asked Gary if the tortillas were made in-house and he said no. After we had some lively discussion regarding the creepy painting and did a few bicep curls, Gary brought out our food. 

Cosina Grill Taco Review

Taco Taco

The steak taco was good. Not knock your chancletas off good, but a solid taco. The steak tasted great and was cooked perfectly, and the pieces were large but not too large. I don’t like it when there are tiny little pieces of steak in my taco. I must say, I do feel it was lacking in the onion department, but I happen to like a lot of onions on my tacos so maybe it would have been fine for the lay-taco person.  

The chicken taco, I wasn’t so crazy about. It was adobe seasoned but not grilled. I have a feeling they used the same chicken they use for their enchiladas. If you want to have a good chicken taco, grill that @#$%. A little seasoning and a turn on the grill, and you’ll have yourself a tasty chicken taco. If you don’t want to offend grandma, then maybe this steamed or whatever chicken taco is the one for you. 

Cosina Grill Taco Review

Horchata!

The rice came preformed in the shape of a hockey puck. The beans were okay, but the rice was seriously lacking flavor. Garlic and salt, it’s not that hard people. 

All in all, I wouldn’t order tacos again, but I have a feeling the rest of the food is very good, and I will be returning for some enchiladas or what have you. Also, it’s BYO, which totally rules if you like to booze it up a little during dinner. Parking is easy, right on Foster, no meters.  

I give Cosina 3.5 out of 5 chiles.  

Cosina Grill can be found at 1706 W Foster Ave Chicago, IL. (773) 271-7103

Taco Review: De Cero, 814 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL

Standard

Type: Fancy-White-People Tacos

Price: $$$

http://decero.hellotacos.com/

So for my first review I decided to visit De Cero in the West Loop. I’ve been there before, and I remembered that they have fancy tacos that I liked last time I was there. 

First we ordered some chips and salsa. It’s, like, eight bucks, but they give you three different salsas that the chef’s own children slaved over and cried into the night before. The tomatillo was creamy and delicious. Personally, I like my tomatillo a little chunkier and tomatoey, but this was still good. The red salsa was pretty garlicky, thin (not watery) and good, but lacked salt, which was surprising with all those kids’ tears in it. The mango habañero tasted weird, like they were experimenting with putting some herbs in the salsa. Let me give you some advice: Mexican food is awesome because it’s simple. Leave the weird shit out of it, unless you’re gonna blow my sombrero off with how awesome it is. And FYI, the chips were still greasy from the fryer.

Okay, on to the tacos! I ordered four tacos: rajas (veggie), steak, al pastor, and crispy whitefish. Let’s start with the rajas. It seems to me that they put all of their energy into making a good veggie taco. Maybe they didn’t want their veggie tacos to suck, since there aren’t usually too many veggie taco options, and they usually do suck. Whatever it is, it was pretty damn good. They were a little juicy with a soft texture and chunky consistency, not too salty. It also had some chipotle flavored sour cream type concoction on it that tasted good. 

photo (3)Next, the steak tacos. Hmm, is this the same cream they used on the veggie taco? That’s okay because it’s delicious. And potato in my steak taco? Okay, I can work with that. But really, nothing else exciting here. I felt like the cream was covering up for the fact that steak and potato was not well seasoned, and without it, the taco would have sucked. Not having a good steak taco at a taco place is a sin in my book, but I like creamy stuff so nom nom nommmmm. Yum. Burp. 

Crispy whitefish taco … MORE cream? Jesus. Are they milking a goat back there? What’s with all the cream? Okay, maybe fried fish tacos deserve some cream, but at this point I was wondering if i should have taken a Lactaid before my dinner. The fish was too big for the tortilla, and they splattered a little pico de gallo on top. It tasted all right, but it was messy, pretty much just like most mediocre fried fish tacos. At least there wasn’t cabbage, which i’m okay with, but it seems to be the go-to for fried fish tacos, and pico’s a nice change.  

Al pastor tacos: What. The. @#$%. Are you just trying to piss me off De Cero? I remember last time I was here they boasted about having a spit roasted al pastor and devoted a whole paragraph to it on the menu. Now, it’s just another taco. Really, they should have just removed it from the menu altogether and spit roasted their chef to atone for this great sin. Had I been someone with anger management problems, I might have lit this place on fire. They were bone dry. And they tasted like roadkill. No I imagine roadkill tastes much better. Hardly any flavor (al pastor is supposed to be marinated), and a smattering of pineapple, which did not help. I would have preferred a pineapple taco at that point. Which is really a shame, because I love al pastor tacos. 

So that’s it. The service was good, attentive, and not annoying. For the prices (around 3 dollars a taco), I have had way better.  There is valet parking, but I never seem to have a problem getting a spot on Halsted just north of Randolph and hoofing it half a block.

 I give it 2.5 out of 5 chiles. 

De Cero can be found at 814 W Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 455-8114