Interior at Big Star
Ah, Pontiac. I remember my sandals sticking to your floors, and vying for a seat on your sun-soaked patio filled with condensation-speckled Coronas, Converse tennis shoes resting leisurely up on rickety metal tables, and lots and lots of cute dogs. You were in a former garage and it felt that way; gritty, loud, dark. Then you shuttered and the neighborhood wept. But, our sadness was soon eclipsed by anticipation when we heard a taqueria was on the way, and chef Paul Kahan was behind it. So, of course I couldn’t wait to finally get into the place, not only to fulfill my craving for mini tacos, but to see what the hell they did to it. I noticed the lights first. I am sucker for both year-round Christmas lights and single white light bulbs, and Big Star has both. They dark walls of Pontiac have turned winter white (but even with the lights, it’s still pretty dark), and bar has shifted from the north side to the center of the room, pretty much dominating the space. And, well the seating. I had heard about the seating, aka: not a whole lot if you’re in a party of two (the 4 large wooden banquettes are reserved for parties of 4 or more), but the bar is wide open, well when it’s open at all. It was a Monday night and the place was packed, so I can’t imagine trying to fit your way in on a weekend, but once you do, jump on a couple seats, stay there, and order lots and lots of well-priced items on the menu.
Start with the ultra-fresh chips and guac, and move onto the queso fundido
. Served with perhaps a few too few mini flour tortillas, rich chihuahua cheese mixed with luscious chorizo tops spicy poblanos, all melding gooey-ly on the warm tortillas.
Taco tasting: al pastor
Next, move onto the tacos, they are both 3 bones and 3 bites, so mix and match, or just load up your lime wedge adorned plate with the thick and juicy pork belly, queso fresco and tomato quajillo
or the al pastor
—the obvious winner with smoky spit-roasted pork shoulder, sweet grilled pineapple and grilled onion. The braised lamb comes with cool slices of radishes and queso and is yet another tasty addition to the collection of juicy bites of meat. I didn’t indulge in the Violet Hour-esque drink menu, but a cold Great White Ale by Lost Coast Brewing brought everything together in perfect harmony. There are so many more things I have yet to try at Big Star, and with their new take-out window in operation, I’ll be back. Or you’ll find me lounging on the beer garden this summer, thinking not of old tire shops but of tacos. 1531 N. Damen Ave.