Friday, March 8, 2013

Taco Joint Urban Taqueria and Cantina, Chicago

Several months ago, Laima and I were lucky enough to try out Zocalo Restaurant and Tequila Bar. With the comped bill came a gift card to the Taco Joint, a restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. We finally ad the opportunity to take advantage of their generosity and headed into the city for lunch.

Taco Joint Design

"Taco Joint Urban Taqueria and Cantina  brings the different flavors found throughout the streets and marketplaces of Mexico to Chicago. The menu includes a selection of tacos made with braised and grilled meats, homemade salsas and handmade tortillas including; Barbacoa from Central Mexico, Cochinita Pibil from Yucatán and Birria from Jalisco. Other street fare includes flautas, tortas, elotes and huaraches. Taco Joint celebrates Mexico's national spirit with over 50 tequilas made from 100% Blue Agave. The cantina also features a variety of specialty margaritas & cocktails, Mexican beers on tap and Chicago's first tequila lockers."

We opted to order a variety of tastes to try, to get a good feel for the menu.

Taco Joint Food

To start, Laima went with the Guacamole Tradicional (avocado with tomatoes, red onion, cilantro and Serrano), while I tried the Vegetariano Sope (soy "picadillo" or vegetarian hash made with roasted tomatoes, guajillo and cascabel chiles; garnished with traditional "pico" and fresco cheese). Both were quite good, though I wished that the sope had a crispier texture.

For Tacos, Barbacoa (braised beef brisket garnished with cilantro, onion and roasted red jalapeno salsa), Cochinita (Yucatan style pulled pork garnished with pickled red onions and spicy habanero salsa), and Rajas (Strips of Poblano peppers and onions, sauteed with creamy tomatillo salsa; served over a black bean spread) were our choices and all were quite good.

Taquitos Potosinos (four Michoacan style taquitos filled with garlicky mashed potatoes and roasted carrots; topped with red guajillo salsa and fresco cheese) almost worked, but had a bit too much salsa, which overwhelmed the more subtle potato flavor.

Our favorite by far was the Panela Torta (grilled panela cheese, black bean spread, charred avocado, watercress and red jalapeño aioli). Served Panini style, it was the perfect blend of flavor and texture.

Taco Joint Drinks

To wash it down, Laima opted for the TJ Flight , a sampling of three signature cocktails: ZOCALO Margarita, Moi's Sangria, and the Black and Green Margarita – the last was our favorite, with the beer a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the margarita. I tried the Micheladas Zocalo (choice of Mexican beer served over ice with fresh squeezed lime juice, homemade sangrita and chile piquin rim); unfortunately I didn’t like it at all. My assumption was that sangrita was some form of sangria, but instead it was a spicy bloody mary mix – I don’t like tomato juice, so it pretty much ruined the drink for me. Our server brought a fresh glass with lime juice only, which mixed with the beer, was refreshing and much better for my tastes.

While the Rompope Tres Leches on the dessert menu sounded quite good, we instead opted for the Pastel Chocolate. We’re fans of molten chocolate and this one delivered. A mini scoop of hazelnut gelato was good, but almost unnoticeable, overshadowed by chocolaty goodness.

If you’re in Lincoln Park, Taco Joint Urban Taqueria and Cantina is worth a visit. It’s a pretty small place, so you may end up sitting at the bar, not a bad option at all. They hold a few tables in the small dining room for larger groups, which is a nice touch.

Taco Joint on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for review purposes. Some information was taken from the company’s website and all opinions are my own.

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