WBEZ | tacos http://www.wbez.org/tags/tacos Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 5 ways Big Star shows why Chicago is America's 'best food city' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-05/5-ways-big-star-shows-why-chicago-americas-best-food-city-107126 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big_star_xmas_trees.jpg" style="height: 290px;" title="Photo of the Big Star Christmas Tree selection during the winter time. (BigStarChicago.com)" /></div><p dir="ltr">This week, the Munchies Awards named Chicago the country&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/09/chicago-best-food-city-th_n_3247468.html">best food city</a>, citing local hot spots like Black Dog Gelato in Wicker Park, Intelligentsia Coffee in Lakeview and Streeterville&rsquo;s Bar Toma as some of Chicago&rsquo;s best food attractions. However, no restaurant better emblematizes Chicago foodie culture like the visionary Big Star, the hub of Wicker Park&rsquo;s cuisine scene. Big Star is a love letter to Chicago, a testament to our city&rsquo;s endless capacity for invention. When it comes to food, we are second to none.</p><p dir="ltr">There are an endless number of reasons you should be a Big Star regular&mdash;or a self-described &quot;fan girl&quot; like myself. Here&rsquo;s five.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>1. Big Star makes great food accessible.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">Big Star is located in the heart of Wicker Park, a latte&rsquo;s throw from the neighborhood&rsquo;s popular Wormhole Cafe and the shops that line Milwaukee Avenue. They say that business is about location, but dining at Big Star turns geography into a mindset. Although The Girl and the Goat (tucked away in the West Loop) might get the haute cuisine cred, Big Star succeeds by bringing quality to the masses. Nothing is over $10, and it&rsquo;s the rare establishment that can bring together college students, poor artists and the neighborhood&rsquo;s influx of young professionals.</p><p dir="ltr">Big Star feels like a part of the community. There&rsquo;s no better testament to that than Big Star&rsquo;s drive-thru, which caused many to scratch their heads when it opened a few years ago. However, this is exactly what I love about Big Star: They blend the affordability of fast food and the experience of a great night out with friends at the neighborhood&rsquo;s hottest restaurant. It&rsquo;s the best of both worlds: mobile cuisine for a society of multi-taskers. It&rsquo;s also incredibly helpful on days where you don&rsquo;t feel like battling the crowds for a seat.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>2. They think outside the taco.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">From a name inspired by California honky-tonks to a website that looks more like a Tumblr page than the home base of Chicago&rsquo;s finest dining, Big Star is a restaurant bursting with creativity. At Big Star, style meets substance in a way that brings joy and wit to the table. Their menu lists every entree in a different font, giving every dish its own distinct personality.</p><p dir="ltr">Although the restaurant is known for its Taco de Panza and Taco Al Pastor, the Walking Taco is a fan favorite. The chefs transform a simple bean and corn chip dish by serving it in a Fritos bag, a take on the Frito Pie that&rsquo;s charmingly tongue in cheek. The price? A whole $2.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>3. Did I mention everything is delicious?</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">With most restaurants I frequent, I know what dishes I like and which are the lemons of the bunch. But with Big Star, you can&rsquo;t go wrong. The menu is petite and deceptively simple, allowing the chefs to focus on getting each dish exactly right. Although customers gravitate toward certain options, I&rsquo;ve never been disappointed with taking a risk on the potato-based Taco de Papas con Rajas or Tostada de Nopales, with a chief ingredient of cactus. I never thought something so prickly could be so tasty. (Watch out, Sonic the Hedgehog. I&rsquo;m onto you.)</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>4. The service is bonkers good.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">In addition to being universally attractive&mdash;always a dining plus&mdash;the staff at Big Star are helpful and attentive without being pushy. The last time I visited, I grabbed a spot at the bar, my preferred dining arrangement. (I like to be on a first-name basis with those liquoring me up.) I made the mistake of ordering the Sonoran Hot Dog, a delicious (and giant) take on the Chicago staple that turned out too spicy for my tender taste buds.</p><p dir="ltr">After attempting to power through, I crapped out a quarter of the way in, confessing to my server that I couldn&rsquo;t finish. I wasn&rsquo;t strong enough. Three glasses of water later, he comped the hot dog and helped me find something more favorable to someone who orders Indian food &quot;negative spicy.&quot; As the hot dog is one of his favorites, he suggested I order the jalapeno on the side next time. Duly noted.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, for a place as perpetually slammed at Big Star is, the service is so fast it&rsquo;s practically rocket-fueled. Maybe they all eat the hot dogs before work to give them that jalapeno power.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>5. Big Star offers an experience you take with you.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">Many establishments pride themselves on being hidden treasures, and if you journey to Violet Hour, that&rsquo;s part of the shtick. It&rsquo;s the speakeasy mentality: that greatness should be hard to find. However, Big Star is great because it feels so open. Don&rsquo;t let the long lines fool you. The interior of Big Star is expansive enough to seat the cast of <em>Downton Abbey</em>, giving guests an ambience that feels warm and inviting. Instead of a dim space where you barely see your food, Big Star lets the light in.</p><p dir="ltr">Big Star fosters its convivial ambience with a structure recalling the great diners of the 1950&rsquo;s, and there&rsquo;s no better seat in Chicago than Big Star&rsquo;s patio in the middle of summer. Like a French bistro, the patio blends seamlessly with the sidewalk traffic, and it&rsquo;s not uncommon to see passersby running into friends and family enjoying a meal. At Big Star, it&rsquo;s the more, the merrier; if they can&rsquo;t accommodate more, you can take the experience to go and find a spot at a park.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s almost summer. The three months of paradise Chicagoans wait for. Why else would we put up with the winters? There&rsquo;s no place in the world like Chicago in the summertime, so get out and enjoy it however you can. If your enjoyment includes tacos, even better.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang covers LGBTQ issues in Chicago...and sometimes tacos. You can find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>, <a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Twitter</a> or <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 11:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-05/5-ways-big-star-shows-why-chicago-americas-best-food-city-107126 Eat this, drink that! Grace, tacos, Indiana and Bayless for Spence Farm http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-10/eat-drink-grace-tacos-indiana-and-bayless-spence-farm-102908 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gcmbbqdirkstaco.jpg" title="Grilled walleye taco with tomato jalapeƱo chutney by Dirk's Fish at Green City Market BBQ 2012 (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><p><u><strong>Friday, October 7</strong></u></p><p>Is one of the best new restaurants in the world being built right now in Chicago? That&#39;s the consensus of the league of worldwide culinary watchers, including yours truly.&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/curtisduffy">Curtis Duffy</a>, chef/owner of the <a href="http://www.grace-restaurant.com/">highly anticipated&nbsp;restaurant Grace</a>&nbsp;visits&nbsp;<a href="http://www.markbazer.com/2012/07/16/the-interview-show-%E2%80%94%C2%A0august-3/"><em>The Interview Show</em> by Mark Bazer</a> at <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com/event/168411/">The Hideout</a>, with&nbsp;business partner/wine director Michael Muser. Duffy won two Michelin stars at Avenues at The Peninsula, and when he left he said he was shooting for three. I could see his eyes on that prize when I first met him in 2004, way back when he was Grant Achatz&#39;s pastry chef at Trio. Watch <a href="http://www.curtisduffy.com/2011/03/interview-with-mark-bazer.html">Duffy previously on <em>The Interview Show</em></a>, where he talks about finding grace in food before he ever announced Grace. Admission $8.</p><p><u><strong>Saturday, October 6</strong></u></p><p>Were tacos invented by Mexican silver miners as late as the end of the 19th century? Jeffrey Pilcher thinks so. He explores&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/taco-world-global-history-mexican-food-102388">Taco World: A Global History of Mexican Food</a>&nbsp;at <a href="http://www.kendall.edu/">Kendall College</a>, hosted by the Chicago Foodways Roundtable.&nbsp;Pilcher&#39;s newest book,&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0199740062?ie=UTF8&amp;creativeASIN=0199740062&amp;tag=lklchu-20">Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food</a>,&nbsp;</em>was just released Monday<em>. </em>He&#39;s<em>&nbsp;</em>investigated the history, politics, and evolution of Mexican food for the past 20 years and is a&nbsp;history professor at the&nbsp;University of Minnesota&nbsp;where he&nbsp;teaches history courses in Mexican and global food and drink. My friend and Roundtable founder Cathy Lambrecht says <a href="http://lostrecipesfound.com/recipe/enchiladas-picadillo/">Enchiladas Picadillo</a> will be served. This event will be recorded for WBEZ&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/amplified">Chicago Amplified</a>&nbsp;but you&#39;ll need to attend to taste those enchiladas.&nbsp;Admission $3, FREE for Kendall students and faculty with ID.</p><p><u><strong>Tuesday, October 9</strong></u></p><p>Is Indiana the next cool culinary destination? I know I can&#39;t wait for next year&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2012-03-07/amber-waves-national-maple-syrup-festival-97081">Maple Syrup Festival</a>&nbsp;in Medora. At the weekly thought and talk provoking&nbsp;<a href="http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/_programsevents/_kitchen/_rethinkingsoup/rethinkingsoup.html">Re-Thinking Soup</a> at the <a href="http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/hull_house.html">Jane Addams Hull-House Museum</a>&nbsp;the&nbsp;topic of the day is the book&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934922757?ie=UTF8&amp;creativeASIN=1934922757&amp;tag=lklchu-20">Food For Thought: An Indiana Harvest</a>. </em>In this big beautiful collectible we meet more than 80 food renaissance Hoosiers, including Greg Gunthorp, whose chicken, pork and duck get namechecked on menus across Chicago; Judy Schad who makes the ethereal Capriole goat cheese; and the one and only <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2012-03-07/amber-waves-national-maple-syrup-festival-97081">Tim Burton of Burton&#39;s Maplewood Farm</a>.&nbsp;Author David Hoppe and photographer Kristin Hess will be there to discuss their year making the book, and maybe tell us how we can get one done in Illinois. A local, seasonal soup will be served with bread by Nicole&#39;s Divine Crackers. Admission FREE.</p><p><u><strong>Thursday, October 11</strong></u></p><p>Have you ever dreamed of escaping your cube and living off the land as a sustainable farmer?&nbsp;<a href="http://spencefarmfoundation.org/spence-farm-foundation-harvest-feast-chicago-october-11th/">Harvest Feast Chicago</a> at the <a href="http://www.greenhouseloft.com/">Greenhouse Loft</a>, benefits the <a href="http://spencefarmfoundation.org/">Spence Farm Foundation</a>, whose mission is to teach the art, history and practice of small sustainable family farming across America.&nbsp;A four-course dinner by Rick Bayless of&nbsp;Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, XOCO, et al.; Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate; Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant and&nbsp;Daven Wardynski of 676 Restaurant and Bar. Only $25 more gets you in to the VIP cocktail hour with tastings from Ashlee Aubin of Wood, Paul Fehribach of Big Jones, Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions, Jonathan Goldsmith of Spacca Napoli, Thomas Leavitt of White Oak Gourmet, Chris Pandel of The Bristol and Balena, and Marianne Sundquist of Mess Hall &amp; Co. Admission $125 dinner only, $150 VIP tasting and dinner.</p></p> Fri, 05 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-10/eat-drink-grace-tacos-indiana-and-bayless-spence-farm-102908 Something You Should Eat: Shrimp tacos from La Lagartija http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-02-15/something-you-should-eat-shrimp-tacos-la-lagartija-81260 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/taco.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="599" height="337" frameborder="0" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/19290203?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;color=c40215"></iframe></p><p>While I've enjoyed my tortas and salads at<a href="http://chicagobestcakes.com/locations/"> Bombon Cafe</a><a href="http://bomboncafe.com/">,</a> as well as their legendary tres leches cakes (still have dreams of the mini rompope flavor), I never realized Luis Perea could also make amazing tacos. I don't mean just any tacos, like the so-called versions I've seen at some of the new &quot;urban taquerias&quot; or alleged late-night legends in Wicker Park and Bridgeport (here's looking at you, <a href="http://www.pasadita.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=5&amp;Itemid=2">La Pasadita</a> and <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps/place?client=safari&amp;rls=en&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;q=tacos+erendira+chicago&amp;fb=1&amp;gl=us&amp;hq=tacos+erendira&amp;hnear=Chicago,+IL&amp;cid=14700474357782926053">Tacos Erendira</a>). I mean places where they actually make the corn tortillas from scratch - thus, negating the need for stacking two thin, packaged tortillas together, when one will suffice - and assemble the little beauties with as much care and thought as those <em>platos principales; </em>where the filling isn't just an excuse to soak up alcohol, and the garnish goes a few steps beyond cebolla y cilantro and a bottle of Cholula hot sauce. (Yo <a href="http://barriourbantaqueria.virb.com/">Barrio</a>, why even bother making flour tortillas for your seafood tacos? Your shrimp version is both anemic and embarrassing).</p><p>I say this, because I've had Perea's shrimp taco recently, at <a href="http://lalagartijataqueria.com/">La Lagartija</a> (the lizard), just a block South of the Bombon Cafe on Ashland. From the homemade tortilla, to the plump shrimp bathed in a Negro Modelo-infused batter, and the accompanying shredded cabbage, caper-laced aioli and ketchup-habanero that graces the top, this is a shrimp taco for the ages. Buen Provecho!</p></p> Tue, 15 Feb 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-02-15/something-you-should-eat-shrimp-tacos-la-lagartija-81260 GT Fish & Oyster preview and Big Star to go http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/gt-fish-oyster-preview-and-big-star-go <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/tacos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="332" width="500" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-07/13049_207306229142_162760584142_3102630_6154841_n.jpg" /></p><p>Amid all <a href="http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2010/12/02/new-gt-fish-oyster-video-reveals-some-interior-plans.php">the</a> <a href="http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2010/11/23/10-things-you-want-to-know-about-gt-fish-oyster.php">hype</a> surrounding the early 2011 opening of <a href="http://gtfishandoyster.wordpress.com/">GT Fish &amp; Oyster</a>, owner Giuseppe Tentori has decided to give anxious foodies an early holiday treat. Tomorrow, Tentori will team with <a href="http://twitter.com/wherezthewagon">Gaztro Wagon</a> owner Matt Maroni to offer a mobile preview of GT's menu. Tentori will serve a lobster roll and clam chowder combo for $12 out of the truck, which will be parked in front of the GT space at the corner of Wells and Grand from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.</p><p>Speaking of hype, the always-crowded <a href="http://twitter.com/BigStarChicago">Big Star</a> launched its &quot;Big Star at Home&quot; program yesterday, in which customers can pick up all of the ingredients to assemble their tacos, tostadas, chips, guacamole and salads at home. The catch? The minimum order is 30 tacos, and customers must allow one hour between placing the order at the taco hotline, (<span class="status-body"><span class="status-content"><span class="entry-content">773-680-7740), and pick-up, and the program's hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., which means orders must be placed by 7 p.m. But despite the program's limitations, avoiding the Big Star mayhem and bringing home 30 (or even 50) tacos to enjoy certainly isn't a bad deal.<br /></span></span></span></p></p> Tue, 07 Dec 2010 22:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/gt-fish-oyster-preview-and-big-star-go