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

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Type: Hole-in-the-Wall Patio Tacos

Price $$$

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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?  

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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. 

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Taco Review: Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL

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Type: Fancy-white-people tacos 

Price: $$$$

http://antiquetaco.com/

My friend and colleague had been bugging me about reviewing Antique Taco in Wicker Park, so I finally caved and took him up on it. I had been wanting to review and discover more secret hidden gems, but it really does not take very much to get me to eat tacos with anyone, so of course I said yes. You won this round stomach. Actually, you win every round.

Antique Taco review

One taco over the line…

I am going to start with the bad. First off, during weekend dinner hours, this place is packed. I was there with a couple of friends, and we could only find a two-person table to seat the three of us. You order up front, and they give you an empty paper towel roll with a number on it and bring the tacos out to you. There also seems to be a family-style seating thing going on, so it’s possible you might need to share your table with some Wicker Parkians. Second, these tacos come two per purchase, and you cannot pick and choose. I wanted to try at least two different kinds, so naturally I ended up ordering four tacos, which cost me $18. And unless they are filled with unicorn meat and the tears of our Lady of Guadalupe, four tacos should not cost you $18. Luckily, my amigos were kind enough to trade a couple tacos with me so I could try all four. I would recommend doing the same. 

After trying them I understood the line and exorbitant prices; holy guacamole these tacos are good! This place makes Big Star taste like Taco Bell. And I really enjoy Big Star (and Taco Bell for that matter). I had steak, chicken, fish, and shrimp tacos. The balance of ingredients and proteins in all of these tacos was just right. The steak, a ribeye, was adorned with avocado, cilantro, pickled onions, and cotija cheese. Seriously, it was salsa your pants good. (Note: the current menu online is not accurate.) It had that grilled flavor to it, and, as we all know, grilled is the most delicious of flavors.

The fish taco might have been the best fish taco I’ve ever had. They clearly put awesomeness spices in the batter, which meant it really didn’t need to be drowning in sauce to taste good. It had a Sriracha tartar sauce, chives, and cabbage (which was apparently smoked, but I couldn’t tell). I’m not really sure what kind of fish it was, but after the first bite I didn’t care and just wanted it in my stomach.    

Antique Taco Review

Holy Guacamole

The shrimp taco tasted good but wasn’t anything special. It got cold pretty fast, probably due to the corn relish. They were marinated or cooked in some kind of chipotle deal, which was noticeable but maybe got a little bit lost with the flavors of the relish. Really, the shrimp just didn’t hold a candle to the steak and fish tacos. 

The chicken taco was tasty and going for an Indian vibe. It was slathered in turmeric/curry and a ton of other spices, and topped with cucumber, pickled jalapeños, onions, and yogurt sauce, definitely on the mark but not the best of the four. However, you will not be disappointed. 

The staff is very friendly. Our server/food-bringer-outter told us he would keep an eye out for an open table, but we told him we were cool where we were. People were nice and mostly filled with smiles. The register guy seemed a little annoyed, but we all have our bad days, and seriously who enjoys working at a register. (Well, I actually did.)

My only question was what the heck do antiques have to do with tacos? Clearly nothing, but one of my friends explained to me that one of the owners enjoyed antiquing and the other owner enjoyed tacos, and voilà, a nonsensically named taco joint was born. Parking can be tough and expensive because it’s in the heart of Wicker Park. I recommend public transportation, especially since they have margaritas and canned beer available for consumption. Yum. I added a poll below! 

I give Antique Taco 4.0 out of 5 chiles. 

Antique Taco can be found at 1360 N. Milwuakee Ave., Chicago IL (773) 687-8697