Posted by Krista on October 3, 2012
I live by this little taco stand. I used to walk by it and think it looked a little sketchy. But then one day when the taco cravings hit, I went in. And I had the tacos al pastor and they were so gosh darn wonderful that I think I ate them three times that week. I like the staff. I like the service. I like that they give you a real hunk of lime and not just a little sliver and that they use corn tortillas, not flour. The interior decor — what there is of it given that there are really only about eight stools — could use a lot of work, but lately, they’ve spruced up the outside, so that’s nice. Oh, and did I mention that, besides for being super delicious, Taqueria Traspasada is also super, super cheap?
The Verdict: You should go here. Like really.
The Question: Where are you favorite tacos?
Posted in Chicago, Mexican, United States, West Town | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on September 29, 2012
I love tortilla soup. And my new iPhone 5 which let me take this awesome photo of tortilla soup while I was at a pretty average sports bar in Ravenswood in Chicago last weekend.
That’s the thing with tortilla soup. I’ve NEVER had a bad bowl, even at the crappiest of crappy sports bars. It’s seemingly impossible to get wrong. Why is that? Chicken broth, shredded chicken, diced tomatoes, old dried-out tortillas, maybe some black beans…they all come together in some glorious sludge that I could happily drown in.
Someone throw me an avocado and a lime. I’ll be a while.
I had my tortilla soup at Brownstone in Chicago. It’s fine if you like to watch sports on TV.
Posted in Chicago, Mexican, United States | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on September 27, 2012
I’ve been eating a lot of tacos lately.
A lot. (Non sequitor: Two words, people. TWO WORDS.)
And especially, the fish tacos at Antique Taco in Chicago. OK, sure, Antique Taco is a little hipster. But I TOTALLY want to steal all their cloth napkins. Like all of them.
Yo, it’s the fish tacos. With spicy, creamy tartar. I want corn tortillas, not flour. But this particular over-aging hipster, she can deal.
Corn salad!!! Corn salad, corn salad. This is the type of dish that makes me feel slothy. Because shurely I could make this. But I don’t. So I go to Antique Taco once a week and I eat it there. And I give thanks.
And contemplate and stare at their napkins. Like really, literally stare.
The Verdict: Go, you little hipster you! Go!
Posted in Chicago, Mexican, United States, Wicker Park | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on January 5, 2012
I was in Mexico City for work back in September and somehow never got around to writing about it. I ate really well in the DF and the service was some of the best I’ve encountered in any country during my travels. And to make a sweeping generalization — only because of all the people who warned me to “Be careful” when they heard I was heading south of the border — I did not get kidnapped. So that was awesome. Heck, I even tempted fate by WALKING from my hotel to dinner one night and nothing happened to me! Imagine that!
While in Mexico City, I stayed at the Hotel Nikko, which I really really liked. I’d recommend it. The gym was great, room service was great, and the service was great. (Except for the maid who tried to get into my room at 8 am on a Saturday morning, but the more I travel, the more meaningless I find “Do Not Disturb” signs to be. Someone in the New York Times commented on this recently, how in a lot of countries, Do Not Disturb seems to mean more like, “Yes, please do disturb me. While I am naked. And bring twelve of your co-workers and the vacuum with you.”) The wifi was only free in the bar area, forcing me to drink some very lovely Mexican Chardonnays and Verdejos, so that was a bit of a bummer. But otherwise, I survived.
For lunch one afternoon, my co-workers took me to an inexpensive taco joint called El Lago de Los Cisnes that served up cheerful service AND cheerful tacos. And guacamole. And quesadillas. I rolled out of here pretty happy. I’m not sure if A Life Worth Eating’s write-up is of the same exact El Lago de Los Cisnes that I went to, but check it out for more details. The Verdict: Recommended for a cheap, filling and delicious lunch.
The next day, we hit El Refugio for a late lunch. (Well, a normal lunch for my Mexcian colleagues. A late lunch for me.) After the previous day’s joyous taco fest El Lago de Los Cisnes, I was really looking forward to this. But I was sadly disappointed. The mole was sweaty and the whole place smelled like someone’s damp basement. Now that’s a MAJOR turnoff. Plus, we asked for the bill at the end of the meal, and even my colleagues couldn’t believe how long it took for it to arrive. Slow slow service — apparently even for Mexican standards — and only average food. The Verdict: Not recommended. Apparently, it’s in all the guidebooks, so watch out.
And then even though I had just finished eating a few hours earlier, I took myself to Pujol for dinner. People of the world, Pujol is exactly why you should NEVER sit in your hotel room alone on a business trip. This was one of the most beautiful meals of my entire life, from the service — THEY GAVE ME THE PASSWORD TO THEIR INTERNAL WIFI!!! — to the beer list (all Mexican and a HUGE list that made me want to come back just to drink beer) to the gorgeously gorgeous tasting menu. If you are in Mexico City in 2012 and assuming nothing changes in their kitchen, you MUST MUST go here. You can see all the photos over here on my Facebook fan page. Maybe become a fan while you’re at it. I’d like that.
So despite one miss during my short sojourn in Mexico City, I had two tremendous hits, and my hotel was lovely too. I can’t wait to go back and explore some more!
Posted in Hotels, Mexican, Mexico, Mexico City | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on November 30, 2011
I didn’t want to like Big Star. At All. I’ve tried too many times to get in and it’s always so packed and busy and everyone is wearing such skinny jeans. And the facial hair! Please someone end the lumberjack craze. Please.
But I had some time before my flight to Florida for Thanksgiving the other week and I learned the hard way that practically every restaurant on Division is closed at lunchtime. So I kept walking and walking and walking, and eventually I found myself at Big Star.
It was not an auspicious start. I decided to sit outside at first because it was such a gorgeously bright day. I tried queue-ing up at the taco window and a woman inside acknowledged my presence and held up one finger as in “one minute.” (Not as in the other finger and what that means.) So I waited one minute and then I waited two and then I waited three and now the woman wasn’t even acknowledging me so I knew I was out of luck. I went inside.
And inside was PACKED on a Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 pm, the day before Thanksgiving. And everyone was with someone or with multiple people and I had to ask myself, who are all these people who arrange to take the day off of work with their friends and meet up for tacos?
But then I finally got a place at the bar and ordered one of those beers on ice with salt and got some tacos and I was happy.
Very very happy.
I liked the fish tacos much better than the pork tacos. I think you will too, but then again, maybe I’m just biased towards seafood. The pork to me was a little dry. The fish was a bit moister and with a nice golden fried coating. Tasty.
Also…reasonably priced. Now I know why the damn place is packed all the time.
The Verdict: Go. But like at 11 am before it gets crazy.
Posted in Bucktown, Chicago, Mexican, United States | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on November 23, 2011
Rootstock, Humboldt Park: I dropped into Rootstock with my friend Amy one drizzly Sunday a couple of weeks ago. I love it here, and I am mad at myself for not biking over more frequently over the summer. It’s a very low-fi place, and they serve brunch til 4 pm on Sundays, which is pretty awesome. My only complaint is that once 4 pm rolls around, they really really want you out.
Having been a Webster Wine Bar fan for many years, I can tell there’s a connection between the two places. The furniture, the wall color and decor…it’s all very similar. All I had here was a bowl of butternut squash soup, but it was very very nice and I would be pleased to go back to try more of the concise menu. I like concise menus.
Cantina Laredo, River North: Popped into here for a big work lunch a few weeks ago. Our group was big enough that we were given their private dining room, which is a very nice space with lots of natural light. My colleague Mark, who is from Texas, thought the food was the best Tex-Mex he’d had in Chicago. I thought my fish tacos were dry and flavorless. This place is HUGE so I’m sure it’s good for convention traffic and large groups on the weekends.
Rudy’s Bar & Grill, The Loop. “Home of the Milkshake Martini.” I don’t want a milkshake martini, and can’t imagine anyone else does either, but the burgers are okay. They toasted the bun, which always gets points in my book. They sat me next to the mop closet though, which subtracts points in my book. I liked the idea of my burger–a Mexican burger, with poblano strips, chorizo, pepperjack cheese, pico de gallo, serrano mayo and “avacado spread.” But all I tasted was avocado, and the burger was not medium–it was closer to medium-well. And the fries were soggy. Plenty of people would like it here, and the Christmas decor made for a happy environment. But I don’t know if I’d seek this place out again.
Posted in American, Bar Food, Chicago, Humboldt Park, Loop, Mexican, River North, United States, Wine | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on August 6, 2011
When life’s got me down, I head on over to the 7th floor of Macy’s — yes, the food court — and I order myself some of Rick Bayless’ shrimp tacos. Truly delicious. Why more Chicago taco joints don’t add shrimp tacos to the menu, I have no idea. (Well, it’s probably a regional thing.) These shrimp tacos don’t come quick, but they’re worth the wait. You should get some. (Tip: eat lunch at 11 am. Avoid the 12 noon rush or you will be there FOREVER.) Also good? If AT&T’s wireless network’s got you down — seriously AT&T I hate you — the food court has free wifi. Go.
Posted in Chicago, Loop, Mexican, United States | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on July 19, 2011
I can tell I haven’t been traveling lately because my apartment looks like a tornado hit it and I have no dirty laundry. At all. It’s a strange feeling, but this is what comes with an international job when the rest of the world takes off nearly all of July and August. Sigh. America, we’ll get there someday.
I can also tell I haven’t been traveling much because I’ve been eating out a lot more in Chicago lately. But there are some places that I just can’t get a full post out of. So here’s a round-up of some of the Chicago places I’ve visited lately.
Mercadito: I thought I’d written about Mercadito a few years ago but I can’t seem to find the post. My friend Chris was in town from London for the night and my colleague Mark was a bachelor for the week so we headed over to Mercadito to fulfill Chris’ request for Mexican. (I know, I know. We could have gone someplace more “authentic” but we needed to stay local for various reasons. And my guess is that a good portion of Mercadito’s kitchen staff is Mexican anyhow, so “authentic” is a non-starter.) The margaritas were great, our server was awesome, and Chris was extremely pleased with the tacos. The noise-level was deafening and the restaurant is too dark to take photos in, but this is a fun place with tasty food that I will gladly revisit.
Bandera: I stopped in here around 2:45 pm on a Friday afternoon in the hopes of having a good lunch salad. (My employer very graciously grants summer hours between May and September, so you might notice I take myself out to eat a lot on Friday afternoons when I’m in town.) The “Hacked” chicken salad was really really good. Oddly — but this is America after all — after my first bite of salad, I thought to myself… “Oh, there’s real chicken in here.” None of those frozen chicken breasts. This was a real roast chicken hacked up into bits, and it was dark meat, my favorite. Loved the dressing, which was a bit of lime and a bit of peanut. I thought the service was a bit stand-offish, but for a salad, I’d go back here.
Emerald Loop: I dropped into Emerald Loop with a few colleagues to have lunch and watch the women’s US soccer team beat France in the women’s world cup. It was kinda exciting to see so many people out to watch the women. Sadly, my Southwestern Chicken salad was nowhere near as exciting. In fact, it was pretty bad. Frozen chicken breast that still tasted like refrigerator and an over-dressed salad. Meh. Not for me. Service was generally good though, but we did wait for ages for our food and the check.
Coming up…Shaw’s Oyster Bar, Mana Food Bar, The Florentine, and Blue Star Wine Bar.
Posted in American, Chicago, Loop, Mexican, Michigan Avenue, River North, United States | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on July 18, 2011
1072 N. Milwaukee
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The Victims: Jeff, Jeff, Erica, and special international guests Nordic Nibbler & Mrs. Nordic Nibbler
I miss having a “local.” In London, I could always depend on The Peasant on St John Street or The Well, also on St John Street (and conveniently located next to Clerkenwell’s newest Waitrose. How I miss that Waitrose). My international guests always loved The Peasant and The Well, the former for its atmosphere, the latter for its food. (IMHO, the food at both was good, not great. But take an American tourist’s preconceived notions of British food, and both of these places do amazingly well.)
Anyhow, as the one-year anniversary of my repatriation approaches, I promise to refer to London less and less in blog posts that are not about London, lest I become one of “those people.” (If I’m not already so.) So let me focus on Frontier and Chicago.
I like Frontier. It’s hard not to given its proximity to my abode. I like their Tuesday night specials even more.
$2 OYSTERS. (See above.)
$2 TACOS. We watched as two guys got what had to have been a dozen tacos on the Tuesday we visited. We probably did good work on about six in total. For $2, these were pretty high quality tacos and much better (in my opinion) than La Pasadita’s on Ashland.
Better still, Frontier has fulfilled one of my US-demands…
$2 HALF PINTS. Half pints have been nearly impossible to find in Chicago. Even Owen & Engine doesn’t have them. But Frontier does!
Ah, and I neglected to take any photos of the outdoor patio, but it’s pretty awesome. This alone is reason to go.
(Frontier also offers $2 deviled eggs on Tuesday, but they’re not my sort of thing.)
The Verdict: I like it here. I’ll be back.
Posted in American, Chicago, Mexican, Noble Square, United States | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on April 27, 2011
1141 N Ashland
Date of Last Visit: 23 April 2011
The Victim: Me
The Damage: Around $7.50
The Background: People swear by La Pasadita. There are three of them just south of the intersection of Division and Ashland. I went to the one on the east side of the street…the one that only serves tacos and burritos.
And you know what? It’s FILTHY. Why someone would willingly choose to eat here, I don’t know. The floor looks like it has never been cleaned. There’s stuff everywhere. It’s dingy and grimy and while I appreciate a hole-in-the-wall, I like them to at least seem like someone cares enough to wash the floor at night.
The steak in the steak burrito was over-cooked, flavorless, and dry. The tortilla was the only saving grace. It had a nice char to it in parts from being on the grill.
The Verdict: Definitely not. Maybe I caught them on an off-day, but it takes a long time to build up that level of grime. And I’m sorry, but if the floor is that dirty, what else is dirty? I checked the Public Health Web site and there’s no report on any of the La Pasaditas. This place makes me want to resurrect that idea about operating a high-pressure water hose business on the side.
Posted in Chicago, Mexican, Ukrainian Village, United States | 7 Comments
Posted by Krista on April 19, 2011
449 N Clark Street
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, March 19
The Victim: Me
The Damage: About $10
The Background: Most asked question since I arrived back in the States in August?
“Have you been to XOCO?”
Well no, I haven’t. But I’ve been to Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera in O’Hare. And you know what?
They serve pretty much the EXACT SAME MENU at XOCO as they do at O’Hare. And you don’t have to wait in line for over an hour to eat something.
Over an hour. Yes, I was stupid and got into line around 12 noon. I should have aimed for 11:15 or 11:30 a.m. But I had nothing better to do so I waited. And waited and waited and waited. Until finally, I placed my order for the Pepito — braised short-rib, carmelized onion, jack cheese, and black beans. Once I placed my order, I was shown to my seat. You would think that the restaurant would be PACKED given that there had to be 40+ people queuing.
THE BACK OF THE RESTAURANT WAS EMPTY. Maybe it’s a pacing thing. Maybe the kitchen can only make sandwiches so fast. Or maybe their cashier is REALLY slow. Something was off. I was kinda pissed.
My sandwich arrived within 10 minutes of ordering — and 50 minutes of queuing — but I was so worn out by this part that very little would make me happy. The bread was really good, that I am sure of. But the meat was strangely flavorless. Even the pickled jalapenos were flavorless. The only saving grace was the salsa verde there on the side.
Things continued to go downhill for me. I start talking to the guy sitting next to me. He’s just finished off his sandwich and ordered some dessert. He asks me how long I waited. I explain 50 minutes in the queue. He smiles. Handsomely, as he’s a handsome man. He asks if I speak Spanish. I say no.
He says he entered XOCO about 20 minutes earlier. He told one of the servers in Spanish that he was by himself, and he asked if he really had to wait in the queue.
They let him place his order at the take-out counter, and then they gave him a seat IMMEDIATELY in the back of the restaurant. And they brought his sandwich to him a few minutes later.
I am annoyed. Highly annoyed.
The Verdict: Did not go ga-ga over my Pepito. And was totally annoyed by waiting in the queue for so long only to have some guy walk in off the street and get seated immediately because he worked around the system and was handsome and spoke Spanish. And the restaurant facilitated this. That’s just not right.
Posted in American, Chicago, Mexican, River North, United States | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on March 7, 2011
155 W Kinzie
Date of Last Visit: Friday, January 28, 2011 and then again on a week night in February.
The Victims: MANY
The Damage: None, both times. Employer paid.
The Background: Sigh. Moe’s Cantina is a very nice very large space. It’s clean and big and somewhat rustic.
I like the light fixtures. And the exposed beams.
The menu is good. It’s focused. I LIKE focused menus. There are not 20-million options. Thank you, Moe’s, for that.
But the fish tacos? They were bland. Bland bland bland. We had to ask for more lime. And some Cholula and lots of it. Also, some of these tacos were triple-wrapped. I thought that was odd. I mean, how much tortilla can a gal realistically eat? Trying to make up for the lack of fish, me thinks…(and dry fish at that).
The Verdict: Sigh. Not for me.
Posted in Chicago, Mexican, River North, United States | 2 Comments