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

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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: 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