the tamale spaceship

Kinda looks like  comic book store...

Kinda looks like comic book store…

The Tamale Spaceship is a pretty dumb name. We can all agree on that. It’s also pretty stupid that they try to pull a gimmick like a Lucha Libre motif. We can all agree on that.

It also may be stupid for me to review tacos at a tamale place, but we’ll have to discuss that a little further…and see if we agree on that.

The Tamale Spaceship started as a food truck, which still exists, but they have also opened up a restaurant. So, upon the recommendation of my Adonis-like friend Glen and his sassy little sweetheart Nikki, we mounted our bicycles and rode down to Wicker Park to check it out.

The restaurant is an order-at-the-counter, gastro Mexican joint with a nice little unassuming patio on the side.

One thing I don’t particularly like about this spot, is that you have to order tacos in pairs. You can’t just order one of each. I really hate it when places don’t do tacos a la carte. I know. I’m such a diva. But, luckily, Glen and Nikki were nice enough to let me try one of their tacos, so I was able to sample three of their four varieties.

The tacos are modeled after the Big Star tacos that everyone in the world loves, yet are a bit pricier. But, how do they stack up in taste?

My first taco was the barbacoa, which is made of short rib meat. It’s topped with salsa verde, onions and cilantro. They are served on handmade corn tortillas, which is a nice start. The meat is decent, resembling a pot roast, although I’d prefer a little more spice. Overall, probably my favorite of the three I tried.

My second taco was the cochinita pibil, which is Yucatecan-style roasted pork. It’s served with a habanero sauce and purple pickled onions. Again, it’s pretty good. The meat is cooked well, but it lacks anything to write home about (or blog home about?). The two meats I tried are very similar, and with only four tacos on the menu, I’d like to see a little more variety (sooo Diva).

Finally, I tried the hongos, or mushroom, taco. Nikki is one of those hippy vegetarian weirdos, which means she’s never really had a good meal. So, I figured I’d give one a try. I’m not the biggest fan of the mushroom taco, and yes, I gave it a fair chance. It’s portabella mushrooms marinated with a garlic sauce and a black bean corn relish on top. It needs some onions or something crunchy to make the textures more contrasting. The mushrooms are naturally a little rubbery and the black bean relish is too pasty. I need a little crunch, know what I mean?

I’m probably a little hard on this place, but I think they could do better with what they’ve got. Lower the prices, get rid of the gimmick, serve tacos a la cart, add some variety in choice, and incorporate some spice…then they’d be speaking my language.

Maybe I shoulda ordered the chicken taco…or maybe just stuck to their namesake tamales. Either way, it’s not my favorite place. That we can agree on.

Looks good, doughnut?

Looks good, doughnut?

I enjoyed my time with my pals, though.

Now, on to the next spot!

  • Location:  1341 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL (Wicker Park)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Glen, Nikki
  • Tacos sampled:  barbacoa, cochinita pibil, hongos (also have pollo a las brasas)
  • Toppings:  varies per taco
  • Salsa:  salsa verde y salsa roja
  • Extras:  nada
  • Tortillas:  handmade corn
  • Atmosphere:  lucha libres, sterile, decent hidden patio, tamales, trendy gastro wannabe-ish
  • Price: $6.75/two tacos
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