el puerto mexican restaurant

I generally try to find a truck to fill up half of the picture. This one's perfect.

I generally try to find a truck to fill up half of the picture. This one’s perfect.

My princess and I have been dating for a little over seven years. I know. I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone be with me for longer than seven days? I’m not really sure, either, but I’m very glad I’ve fooled her for so long. Her parents live in the far north suburbs, and recently we drove up to hang out with them for a nice sunny Saturday afternoon and evening.

Seeing that their daughter has been dating such a fine catch for a while, what better way to capture my heart than through some Mexican food? So, we headed to El Puerto Mexican Restaurant in Fox Lake.

El Puerto is located right on Fox Lake. I’ve always loved hanging around water. Whether it’s watching the waves crash on an ocean beach, watching a river flow relentlessly by, or the calm waters of a lake, I love the atmosphere of being on or around water. El Puerto has a great patio that overlooks the water, where you can watch boats buzz around the lake or drive right up to the dock and catch a meal. It’s the kind of atmosphere where you feel at peace, and everybody around is in a chipper mood.

So, with such a great start to the day, did El Puerto deliver when it came to their food?

Absolutely!

Don’t get me wrong, El Puerto isn’t doing anything Earth-shattering, or blazing any new trails. But, they do everything right and the food is a perfect match for the setting. The food and menu is simple, but they execute it very well. I tried all three tacos: the steak, the ground beef and the chicken.

The steak is my favorite. It has a nice charcoal grill taste and the meat is tender and juicy. It contains a nice amount of meat and is topped with lettuce, tomato and cheese.

The chicken is also very good. It isn’t dry like a lot of chicken tacos. It’s got a little marinade that gives it a little kick too. I’m normally scared of chicken tacos, but this one is simple and very flavorful.

Likewise, the ground beef taco is tasty. I don’t order a lot of ground beef tacos, but this one is one worth trying. It doesn’t taste like Taco Bell or your mom’s packet seasoning you grew up with. It kind of tastes like Mexican Sloppy Joe…in a good way. I was pleasantly surprised.

Maybe it was the atmosphere, or maybe it was the great company, but this place really impressed me. It’s simple, yet everything is done with great attention and the food is excellent. I will definitely go back.

After finishing our meals, we proceeded to go out for the evening, where my princess inexplicably ordered shot after shot of Fireball Whiskey. She, and her father, ended up re-tasting their meals later, but that’s a story for another blog…

On to the next episode.El Puerto Mexican Restaurant tacos

  • Location:  200 Forest Ave., Fox Lake, IL (Chain O’ Lakes)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia, Bingo, Lisa
  • Tacos sampled:  steak, ground beef, chicken (th….th…that’s all folks)
  • Toppings:  lettuce, tomato, cheese
  • Salsa:  salsa roja
  • Extras:  chips
  • Tortillas:  corn or flour
  • Atmosphere:  lake, Northwoods feel, calm, boats, blanco
  • Price:  $1.95/ea.
  • OVERALL RATING: 7.75
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pepe’s mexican restaurant

 

10. It looks stupid.

10. It looks stupid.

With over 50 locations in Chicagoland and Northern Indiana, Pepe’s is a prevalent competitor in the local taco scene. At least, numbers wise. I happen to work near a couple of Pepe’s and thought I’d give the Dolton location a chance while on lunch (yup, like real people get to do!) with a few fellow teachers. Why not give the one a try that’s just a few miles from where I work?

Well, there are several reasons why. But, in the name of everyone’s sanity, I’ll keep it short.

1. The food isn’t good.

2. The people there are unfriendly.

3. They tried to charge my friend $1 for a cup of water.

4. Their soft corn tortillas (I’m guessing) are supposed to be lightly fried. Instead, they just drip oil. It’s as if they dunked the tortilla in room-temperature vegetable oil. Could be used as a lubricant or massage sponge, though.

5. It takes a really long time to get your food. Even when you’re just ordering tacos and there aren’t any other patrons around.

6. There are Mexican workers, serving up beef tacos that taste like they were made with the seasoning packet and water, with a straight face.

7. They serve “stuffed” tacos, which are just two soaking-wet floppy tortillas with some melted cheese in between. Stuffed with oil.

8. The al pastor tacos come with a nickel-bag of pork. Even my five pound Pomeranian couldn’t get full off three of these.

9. The steak tacos aren’t too bad. Sorry, I’m not a total diva.

Look at all that pork...

Look at all that pork…

Basically, this place ain’t great. Let’s move on to the next stop…

  • Location:  536 East Sibley Blvd., Dolton, IL (Southside Suburbs)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Quinn, Brian, George
  • Tacos sampled:  steak, al pastor, beef stuffed (also have chicken, guacamole, veggie, Jalisco steak and steak or chicken fajita tacos)
  • Toppings:  lettuce, tomato and cheese; onions and cilantro
  • Salsa:  salsa rojo and Pepe’s hot sauce
  • Extras:  chips, pickled veggies
  • Tortillas:  soft corn, hard corn, soft flour
  • Atmosphere:  empty, rude, slow, dirty, sketchy
  • Price:  $2.15-$3.65/taco
  • OVERALL RATING: 6.0
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tacos chapala

Chapala is a city in Mexico. I think I need to go there...

Chapala is a city in Mexico. I think I need to go there…

I have a very good friend. A special friend. One of those friends that you can always count on when in search of a little something special. One of those friends who will always give you the right answer, no matter what your problem is. A friend that can solve a dispute between two people in a matter of seconds. My friend’s name…is Google.

With a little spare time, and a lack of people willing to spend time with me, I asked Google where I should get tacos in Long Beach. Google told me to head to Tacos Chapala. So, like any good friend, I listened.

Tacos Chapala is a very unassuming place located right next to a very assuming Mexican restaurant. I get the feeling it gets overlooked a lot.

Well, I’m glad I listed to Google, because Tacos Chapala is an excellent taco joint! I don’t get the feeling that it’s terribly popular, but it should be. I happened to go on Taco Tuesday, when some of their tacos are $1. Not bad for a baller on a budget.

I tried the asada, al pastor and chorizo tacos. All of them are simple and delightful. They are served with the customary onions and cilantro, along with the un-customary radishes and lemon.

The asada is very traditional, but done very well: great grill flavor, cooked perfectly, seasoned nicely, and excellent texture. I would have liked some larger meat chunks (maybe another good band name?), but overall it’s still a very good taco. ¡Me gusta!

The chorizo is also muy bien. I like places that use home-made sausage and don’t rely on the greasy mess of a short cut many taco spots serve. The meat is a great mixture of spicy and sweet. It’s juicy, yet not spewing fat all over the plate. ¡Me gusta!

The al pastor, here, though, is the star of the show. You can’t help but drool when the pork on the spit is staring you in the face while you order. It’s not drenched in adobo, but it still has plenty of smoky, spicy goodness. Also, it’s not served with the same grilled onions and pineapple I’m used to, but the flavor of the meat alone is enough. Nothing else needed. ¡Me encanta!

I love finding hidden gems, and I feel like I did that with Tacos Chapala. If you’re ever in the LBC, you should check out this place….and Roscoe’s, but that’s for a different blog.

One last note. They don’t serve guacamole, or any variation of the avacado, on their tacos here. I’m not sure, but I think that’s punishable by death in California….so, shhhh. It’s our little secret.

Lemon? Must be a Chapala thang.

Lemon? Must be a Chapala thang.

And Google’s.

  • Location:  3205 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, CA (Port City)
  • Tourists:  Josh
  • Tacos sampled: asada, al pastor, chorizo (also have carnitas, pollo, lengua, cabeza and tripas)
  • Toppings:  onions and cilantro/radishes and lemon
  • Salsa:  salsa roja
  • Extras:  none
  • Tortillas:  corn
  • Atmosphere:  authentico, pequeno, limpio, not mucho seating, quiet
  • Price:  $1.50-$2.00/taco
  • OVERALL RATING: 8.5
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taco surf

Whatever city we were in, here's what it looks like.

Whatever city we were in, here’s what it looks like.

Taco Surf is a small chain of surf-themed (duh) restaurants in Southern California. If you close your eyes and picture a joint where sun-bleached surfer brahs, looking to shred the gnar go, this is the place. For the last 12 years, I’ve been traveling to California to visit my brahs, and almost every time I make a stop at Taco Surf. Most of the time it’s been the Long Beach location, but they all basically have the same vibe going on….except for the fact that everyone at the Long Beach spot has a fake connection to Bradley Nowell, but whatever.

It’s a great place to go, especially for happy hour, something we don’t have here in Chicago. Every weekday, from 2-6, you can enjoy $1.50 tacos and $2.50 beers. Back when I had more hair, it was $1 tacos and $1 beers. Pretty awesome.

On my most recent visit, we made a spontaneous pit stop in Surfside….or Sunset Beach….or Huntington Beach. You see, the land has been annexed by Huntington Beach, but the address on Google maps says Sunset Beach, and their website says Surfside. So, take your pick.

We got there in time for happy hour. I ordered two surf (pescado and shrimp) and two turf (al pastor and asada) tacos.

The tacos are all served California White Boy style. That is, they have lettuce, pico, cheese and guacamole on top. Guacamole is a requirement on all tacos in the Golden State, by California Law #3C, article 2, section A, lines 3-7.

The turf portion of my meal was very good. The al pastor is seasoned well, and has a nice amount of spice. With a large hunk of meat, and all the toppings, each taco is a decent amount of food. Even with the meat buried in toppings, you can taste the paprika and spice on the pork. The asada taco is very similar in my liking. The steak is cooked well, has great grill flavor and texture and stays moist. Both are good for any taco spot.

The surf part, however, was outstanding. You can get the fish either baha style, or grilled. I elected for grilled this time. The fish is juicy, tasty, and, yet, not overpowering. It tastes very fresh and fits the ambiance Taco Surf provides.

The shrimp taco, however, is my favorite. I just love their shrimp. It isn’t too chewy and has a nice crunch. They don’t skimp on the shrimp (band name?) either. Each bite is filled with mouth-watering shrimpy goodness. If I were to elect a California state taco, this would be it.

Maybe because of the nostalgia I have for this place…maybe because I was on vacation in sunny California away from work…maybe because it was happy hour in a fun setting…or maybe because I was with my princess, my beloved friend Sara, and our supermodel friend Alise, looking like a pimp…whatever the reason, I loved my stop at Taco Surf.

Who knows, it coulda been the $2.50 Dos Equis too?….This place may be a little cliche, especially for people who live here, but I’m still a big fan.

Brah, that's a lot of food.

Brah, that’s a lot of food.

I guess you could say, this place is sublime.

  • Location:  1681 Pacific Coast Hwy., Surfside, CA (Orange County)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia, Alise, Sara
  • Tacos sampled:  asada, pescado, al pastor, shrimp (also have shredded beef, ground beef, chicken, baja fish, carnitas and veggie)
  • Toppings:  lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and guacamole
  • Salsa:  salsa roja (chunky), salsa mild (gringo), salsa caliente (habanero)
  • Extras:  chips
  • Tortillas:  corn or hardshell
  • Atmosphere:  beachy, surfy, friendly, fresh, sooooo California
  • Price:  $3.25-$4.25/taco
  • OVERALL RATING:  8.0
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el compadre restaurant

Those stucco walls can barely contain the excitement!

Those stucco walls can barely contain the excitement!

Alright, this one’s gonna be about life lessons. Specifically, these two: don’t settle…and, don’t ever listen to a vegetarian when getting advice on Mexican food.

I recently took my princess to California. Knowing there is an abundance of Mexican joints there, I just knew I could find places to go all over the place. There’s Mexican food on every block. That doesn’t mean good Mexican food, though, unfortunately.

Let me set the scene:

Upon arriving to my friend’s house (the aforementioned evil vegetarian) in Hollywood, we were starving. I had my sights on two taco places in particular: Guerrilla Tacos and Tinga Tacos. I’ve heard great things about both (thanks to my foodie friends Glen and Gina). Unfortunately, they are both about 20 minutes from where we were. We settled (problem #1) on a place just down the street, which was recommended to me by my hippy, meat-hating friend (problem #2). That place is El Compadre Restaurant. When I put a photo of the place on Instagram (follow me: tacotourist), Gina immediately commented, “Oh no! Not there!! Food is not good :-/”

When we arrived, we first noticed that the ambiance is very strange. It felt like I was at an Italian steakhouse with all of the excitement of bingo night at a Sunrise Assisted Living center. It’s dark and emotionless. The only thing we could pay attention to was the D-bag businessman who had too many tequila shots. He was shouting out ideas about how to climb up the Forbes list, detailing one bad idea after another.

Nonetheless, we were there, hungry, and ordered our food.

I’m not going to drag this one out (any more than I already have), but let’s just say that Gina is right. I tried the carne asada, the shrimp, and the carnitas tacos. None of them are good. The carne asada and the shrimp are very bland, and very, very messy. They look more like a walking taco (thank you public school lunch!) by the time you’re halfway through the meal. Even the guacamole, which I believe you have to serve on tacos in California, by law, is sub par.

The carnitas taco, however, isn’t bad. It’s terrible. The meat is so overcooked it’s crunchy. It’s like the french fries on the bottom of a McDonald’s order. You know, the stuff that’s dark brown with no potato whatsoever? Only, this stuff isn’t as good. At least the Micky D’s fries have salt on them.

Bad choice all around…with the exception of their margaritas. Those are very strong, and pretty tasty. Maybe most patrons get so drunk, by the time the food gets there, they don’t even know what they’re eating?

Maybe I should’ve used the salt from the rim of my margarita on the tacos. I guess that could be lesson # 3…

Oh, the tacos come with a pepper and an olive too. Very Italian...

Oh, the tacos come with a pepper and an olive too. Very Italian…

Alas, there are more fish in the sea, and hopefully better Mexican joints in California.

On to the next stop.

  • Location:  7408 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (Hollywood)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia
  • Tacos sampled:  carne asada, shrimp, carnitas (also have beef, chicken, fish, and potato)
  • Toppings:  lettuce, cheese, salsa, guacamole
  • Salsa:  salsa roja (caliente)
  • Extras:  chips
  • Tortillas:  corn or flour
  • Atmosphere:  dark, Italian steakhouse, lazy, quiet, red pleather
  • Price: $3.25-$4.75/taco
  • OVERALL RATING:  6.0
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bullhead cantina

This guy is calling the taco police.

This guy is calling the taco police.

There are some really fantastic things about Bullhead Cantina. It’s in a great, multi-cultural neighborhood in Chicago. It’s one of those innovative neo taco joints that tries new ideas and different ingredients on their tacos. They really know how to cook their meat. And, there are a ton of choices for the taco consumer.

Let’s focus on those for a minute.

Humboldt Park is an ever changing neighborhood. It’s been known as a high crime area in the past, where the Latin Kings call home (you down with the crown?). But, as of late, it’s seen a lot of new residents move in, and is considered an up and coming neighborhood. Since hipsters (of course) started to infiltrate the land, things have certainly gotten whiter (that doesn’t mean better in my opinion, but it does mean things are changing), and got the ball rolling for others to move in. The predominantly Puerto Rican community has given way to all sorts of new people. For now, things like living quarters, bars and food, are still relatively cheap.

Bullhead Cantina boasts a wide variety of well cooked meats on their menu (see below). The choices obviously aren’t very traditional, which provides some appropriate symbolism for the direction in which the neighborhood is going.

I tried the hanger steak, the brisket, and the fried chicken tacos. All are accompanied by various toppings to match the meat. I really like the way each of the meats is cooked. The hanger steak, a very underrated piece of meat (that’s what she….nevermind), is cooked to perfection. It has a nice crispy sear on the outside, contrasting the juicy tender meat on the inside. The brisket, which needs to be heated completed differently (low ‘n’ slow) is also very tender. You can tell it’s been cooked with care, allowing the normally tough connective tissue to break down and create a nice juicy hunk of meat (that’s what….). I also really like the fried chicken. Normally taco places serve dried out, pulled chicken. This isn’t the case with Bullhead’s fried chicken. It’s golden and crispy on the oustide, and full of juicy goodness on the inside. All are cooked to near perfection.

So, are there any negatives?….Unfortunately, yes. Let’s just list them to save us both some:

1. No chips waiting for you at the table. What?!? When you sit down at a taco joint, you expect some chips and salsa to snack on. You can do that here, but it’ll cost you. They don’t even give you salsa with your tacos. You gotta pay… I know. I know.

2. The taco toppings don’t really add much to the taco. While the meats are cooked very well, they’re barely seasoned, and the toppings don’t provide much added flavor. They look great on the menu, but don’t work out so well once they hit your taste buds.

3. If you order guacamole, it’s $6. It says $2 on the menu, but that’s just for a small side that could be eaten on two tortilla chips.

4. The tacos are $3 each. That may not seem like much, but the tacos are very small. Plus, they really don’t compare to the other spots they are trying to mimic, such as my personal favorite, Big Star.

5. For a humble (Humboldt) neighborhood, the prices don’t match. My princess, her brother and I went and our bill was over $60. Not really what you expect going out to lunch for a few tacos in a hipster-infested neighborhood.

While all of this may seem picky and petty, you gotta remember, I’m a taco diva. I take this stuff seriously serious. Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this place, and there is plenty to boast about. I’m sure I’ll go back, but I’ll still wish things were done a little better, and for a little less dough. You know?

Looks good, donut?

Looks good, donut?

Ok. On to the spot!

  • Location:  1143 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL (Humboldt Park)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia, Johnny
  • Tacos sampled:  hanger steak, brisket, fried chicken (also have al pastor, grilled chicken, grits & kale, carnitas, grilled tilapia, avacado, pulled pork, grilled portabello and roasted beet)
  • Toppings:  various
  • Salsa: salsa roja (gotta pay for it)
  • Extras:   none
  • Tortillas:  corn
  • Atmosphere: muchos choices, bar, gringos, gastro tacos, expensive chips and guock
  • Price: $3/taco
  • OVERALL RATING: 7.75
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puebla restaurant & taqueria

I know. I know. My photography skills are flawless.

I know. I know. My photography skills are flawless.

There are two scenarios where I would see it fit to eat tacos at Puebla Restaurant and Taqueria: 1. You have been out all night, tearing up the town. And, 2. You wake up for work really early and have a craving for tacos.

Why these two scenarios?

Well, there are two answers: 1. It’s open until 6:00 a.m. everyday. And, 2. It’s really not that good.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not terrible. But, on a street like Milwaukee, where taco joints are more prevalent than ironic mustaches, you’ve gotta do something to differentiate yourself from the others…other than outlasting them into the blackout hours of the morning.

Unfortunately, we didn’t go under either of these scenarios. My princess, and two of our friends, Beauty (Nikki) and the Beast (Glen), headed over at a normal dinner time. Since I don’t ever admit to mistakes, I’ll blame the choice of restaurant on the three of them. Jerks.

Located half a block from the heart of Logan Square, Puebla is in a great spot. It’s in a big, open space, with a lot of colorful Mexican decor and plenty of tables….empty tables. It’s nice looking, but has a very stale atmosphere….probably due to the fact that nobody is ever in there.

So, what about those tacos?

I ordered the steak, roast pork and Mexican sausage. If I described each one, I’d sound like a broken record, so I’m just going to say it once, for all three. Everything about the tacos is just aight.

The meats are all cooked ok, but they lack seasoning and flavor. Even the chorizo is plain. No spice from the peppers, no mesquite flavor from the paprika, just an extremely plain tasting sausage. Same with the steak. Ditton on the roast pork.

Puebla’s tortillas aren’t bad, but they are doubled up, which takes away from the taste the meat never had.

The onions and cilantro are spot on, though.

No a la carte, kids.

No a la carte, kids.

I’m sure I’ll find myself stumbling into Puebla again at some point, but I doubt I’ll be getting the tacos. One order was enough.

On to the next stop on the Tour…

  • Location:  2658 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL (Logan Square)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia, Glen, Nikki
  • Tacos sampled:  steak, roast pork, Mexican sausage (their choice of words, not mine), (also have ground beef and veggie)
  • Toppings:  onions and cilantro; lettuce and tomato
  • Salsa: salsa roja
  • Extras:  chips
  • Tortillas:  corn
  • Atmosphere:  open, empty, quiet, late late night, bright colors/dull atmosphere
  • Price: $8.95/3 taco dinner with beans and rice; no a la carte
  • OVERALL RATING: 6.5
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turbo tacos

One stop shop.

One stop shop.

Turbo Tacos is a relatively new spot located about 4 blocks from my apartment. The first time I saw that it had opened, I had two thoughts: 1.) “Hasn’t this place been like a million different things?” I tried to look it up on the Google, but I quickly found myself looking at pictures of Kate Upton and lost my concentration. So, to any of my millions of subscribers, if anyone knows what it has been, please let me know….and….2.) “This place looks terrible.” It just looks like one of those greasy places that serves everything from burgers to pizza puffs to gyros to tacos. Which, I guess, it is. EXCEPT, it’s actually pretty darned good, especially considering the price: $1.50 per taco!

My favorite taco is the al pastor. It is spicy and doused in adobo sauce. I can’t believe how juicy it is, and it isn’t cooked on a spit, just on the flat top. Very, very tasty indeed.

I expected the chorizo taco to be oily, but it’s a legit chorizo: spicy, sweet, paprika-ridden and full of flavor. Just as it should be. Very tasty indeed.

The asada taco is also flavorful, although the meat isn’t a very high quality and is cut into very small chunks. It still has nice grill flavor and seasoning, but it’s not going to stack up to L’Patron, Las Asadas or La Pasadita. Still, tasty indeed.

I don’t think Turbo Tacos uses the prime meat, but they do a good job with what they’re workin’ wit. And, what more could you expect for the price? I’m highly impressed and will be back. Not because it’s so close to where I live, but because it’s a bona fide spot.

One quick side note: I did have heroically terrible burps later in the night, something my little princess enjoyed.

One more quick side note: I’ve now used more colons (the punctuation mark, you fecal freaks) in this blog than ever before. Cool, huh?

Oh yeah, they also live up to the name Turbo Tacos. The tacos come out so fast, it’s almost as if the cooks know what you’re going to order. A very nice quality.

Ok, one more side note: the beans are runny.

Ok, one more side note: the beans are runny.

This marks my 60th stop on the Taco Tour. Here’s to 600 more!

  • Location:  2050 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL (Logan Square)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia
  • Tacos sampled:  asada, al pastor, chorizo (also have pollo, carnitas, cecina, lengua, tripa and pescado)
  • Toppings:  onions and cilantro/lime
  • Salsa:  salsa rojo and avacado salsa (no, not guacamole)
  • Extras:  none
  • Tortillas:  corn
  • Atmosphere:  fast-foody, America vs Mexico, quick, cheap, clean
  • Price:  $1.50-$1.80/taco
  • OVERALL RATING: 7.5
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señor jefe

Jefe is spanish for slow...

Jefe is spanish for slow…

Have you ever heard of Johnny’s Beef? It’s a chain, but, from what I hear, still a must on any foodie’s bucket list. Late one night, my princess and I were cruising the wild streets of Elmwood Park looking for some grub. While foraging, we stumbled upon Johnny’s. So, what did we do? That’s right, we went to the taco joint across the street, Señor Jefe.

I ordered the steak, pork and chorizo tacos. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

There weren’t even any other customers in there. I thought the Cubs would win a World Series before I got my tacos. But, they didn’t. I finally got them….AND?

Well, Señor Jefe is kind of hit or miss. Well, I guess actually hit, hit or miss. I really liked two of the tacos: the steak and the chorizo.

The steak is nicely cooked and has great grill flavor. It is well seasoned and just salty enough to distribute the flavor of the steak. The chunks of meat are kinda small, but it’s still a very good taco. It, and the other tacos, are topped with onions and cilantro. Simple, yet enough texture and flavor to please.

The chorizo taco is my favorite. It’s spicy, sweet and salty. They either make the chorizo on site, or get it freshly made for them. At any rate, it’s very clean tasting and very good. The paprika really stands out. I hate it when places use those chorizo tubes you get at the grocery store that just leak piggy juice all over the place. This, on the other hand, is legit.

My last taco was the pork. While it isn’t bad tasting, it’s just really bland and rather dry. You’ve heard the expression “dry as a bone”? Well, this would make bones envious. I’m not sure how that would work, but it’s true. Two out of three ain’t bad, though, right?

My only other nit-picky, taco diva advice for this place would be to serve the tacos on one tortilla instead of two. I don’t get why people double up on tortillas when it’s unnecessary. It takes away from the juiciness and overall flavor of the taco. Duh.

Boy, that lime taco looks deeeelish!

Boy, that lime taco looks deeeelish!

Ok, enough of Elmwood Park. Whatever that is.

On to the next stop:

  • Location:  7446 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park, IL (Concordia University-ish)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia
  • Tacos sampled:  steak, pork, chorizo (also have beef, chicken and lengua)
  • Toppings:  onions and cilantro/lime; or lettuce, tomato, sour cream and chihuahua cheese
  • Salsa:  salsa rojo, salsa verde
  • Extras:  none
  • Tortillas:  corn or flour
  • Atmosphere:  slow, empty, small, slow, un-busy
  • Price:  $2.19/taco – also have jr. tacos for $1.29 each
  • OVERALL RATING: 7.0
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mitad del mundo

Karaoke on Saturdays: I hope the owner isn't the only one singing...

Karaoke on the weekends: I hope the owner isn’t the only one singing…

You ever pass by a restaurant over and over that looks intriguing to you? Maybe one that’s always empty and you ask your self why? Well, for the past year and half, I’ve been passing Mitad del Mundo daily: on my way to work, walking the dog, going to Tasty Freeze, whatever. I’ve passed by a thousand times, and it’s always empty. I wonder why.

A few months ago, I went by and took a look at the menu on the outside. The menu looked a little fancy pantsy, but it had catfish tacos on it. I had to try them. So, the other day, I rounded up a motley crew and headed on down.

According to my friend Google, the name means “center of the world” and is a tribute to an area of Ecuador. The restaurant specializes in Ecuadorian cuisine, with a mix of Mexican. We were there for the Mexican.

To nobody’s amazement, we were the only patrons there. Other than the cooks and our server, the only other person there was the owner. He sat at the bar bellowing out lyrics to the Latin music in the background.

Usually, on my reviews, I start with the good stuff, and then end with my expert criticisms on areas of improvement. For Mitad del Mundo, we’ll start with the negativos, and I’m not talking about the Spanish rock group…

Ok, first, the menu on the outside of the restaurant does not match the menu they give you. Our server said he doesn’t think they have ever served catfish tacos. He seemed puzzled why I was even asking.

Second, this is the type of place where you can’t mix and match your tacos. You order your meat and it comes on a plate with some beans, guacamole and tortillas. They said you can make about 4 or 5 tacos out of each order. They’re correct, if you put about a tablespoon of meat on each taco. Otherwise, it’s enough for 3 small tacos. Also, the tacos are pretty expensive, especially considering the small amount of meat that comes with an order.

I am still be willing to overlook all of that IF the tacos are delicious… BUT, they aren’t.

I tried the skirt steak, the duck breast, and the tilapia. The skirt steak is the best, in my opinion. The meat is cooked well and is the only think I ate with any seasoning. It also has a nice grilled flavor. Not too bad.

Everything else is very bland. The duck breast is texturally appealing and juicy, but lacks any flavor. The tilapia is also cooked well. But, tilapia is basically flavor-less by itself. It takes on the flavors of whatever you put on it or cook with it. Unfortunately, they don’t season it, and it ends up tasting like a cloth napkin. Even the beans and guacamole need something added, at least some salt.

Ok, now for the good stuff. Um…..oh, we did talk the server into giving us a special on our beers. So, maybe you can barter here and there and save on your bill?

The best part of the trip was finally answering my question. I now know exactly why this place is always empty. But now I have a new question. How in the hell is this place staying open?

$14.50?

$14.50?

Better luck next time?

  • Location:  2833 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL (Logan Square)
  • Tourists:  Josh, Julia, Glen, Nikki, David (?)
  • Tacos sampled:   skirt steak, duck breast, tilapia (also have chicken)
  • Toppings:  grilled onions and peppers, guacamole
  • Salsa:  salsa verde
  • Extras:  none
  • Tortillas:  corn (freshly made)
  • Atmosphere:  empty, quiet, musica latina, lonely, no reservations needed
  • Price:  $13.50-$14.50/plate of tacos
  • OVERALL RATING: 6.0
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