3400 N Ashland
Chicago IL 60657
Date of Last Visit: Monday, July 21st, 2009
The Victims: Aileen, Bob, Brady, Eileen
The Damage: About $20 each
The Background: I’ve done something stupid. My flight from Barcelona landed at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night, and I have myself booked on the 7:45 a.m. flight to Chicago on Monday morning. Uggh. Luckily, everything goes to plan. I land at 9:45 p.m. I have IRIS and I’ve carried on. I am home somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30 p.m. I go straight to bed and wake up at 4:15 a.m. for my taxi at 4:45 a.m. I am at Heathrow at 5:25 a.m. Perfect. AND I sleep three hours on the plane.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in Chicago. And I’m struck immediately by how much the city has changed. There are buildings where beforehand, there were none. (My employer, for example, is operating out of an entirely new building in the Loop, a property that stood empty for ages.) When I step off the El at Irving Park to meet Aileen, the station has been completely transformed…no more rickety wood. No more dodgy station. Chicago seems more grown up. More serious. And in comparison to London, it’s hot. And sunny. And the skies are blue.
The Entrance: Aileen, Brady, Eileen and I head over to El Tapatio to meet Bob. El Tapatio is on the edge of my old ‘hood, but although I lived in the area for five years until 2004, I never visited El Tapatio. We take a seat outside and peruse the menu.
The Drinks: I order a lemonade and it is HUGE. Bob, Aileen, and Eileen all get iced tea (God bless America) and their iced teas are HUGE too. I would order an Arnold Palmer if it wasn’t for the no caffeine thing. Oh, and there are free refills. And huge glasses of tap water that are continuously refilled throughout our meal.
The Food: There’s complimentary chips and salsa to get us started. These are okay. The chips are just the tiniest bit stale and the salsa is the watery kind. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means it’s hard to scoop up.
For my main, I go for the Guadalajara: an enchilada, crispy taco and a tostada, served with rice and beans. (Hey, I’ve been gone for a while.) It looks like a mess, doesn’t it? The refried beans are good (hard to mess up beans) and the rice is okay. The steak taco is just average…the steak tastes rubbery and old. I feel better about the enchilada and the tostada. (Crazily, while I’m at BlogHer, there’s a Mexican buffet one day. It was fantastic. I wanted to hug the chef. In hindsight, I should have.) In short, this meal takes the edge off, but it’s not the Mexican fiesta that I’ve been dreaming of. DO OVER!
The Verdict: Well, I was happy to be with old friends in my old neighborhood. There’s nothing that really compares now, is there? But I wanted to be happier with my food. Oddly, everyone on the Internets loves El Tapatio. So either I’m the outlier or the chef was off that day. (It was a Monday.)