Category Archives: new restaurants
Even after 6 days on a serious taco binge in Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, I was dying to get to Antique Taco in Wicker Park. I had heard good things, but was honestly expecting a Big Star off-shoot, but discovered a gem of a taco cafe that was more quaint, rustic and seasonal than taqueria roadhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove me some Big Star when I’m in the mood for some cerveza with my pork belly and summer crowds. But Antique Taco offered a different, and equally as delicious experience. Let start with the tacos. One look at the menu and my eyes darted to “garlicky kale,” “pickled escabeche” and “cilantro cream” in the market mushroom, so I knew I had to have it. These ingredients along with local mushrooms were stuffed inside a fresh, soft tortilla, each bite delivering all of my favorite flavors and bursts of lush green and pink. A fresh lemon wedge for the squeezing just added to the beauty of these generously sized dish.
Garlic-soaked or not, I could eat kale everyday, but I need something crispy to balance it out. Our other taco was the crispy fish with smoked cabbage, scallions and sriracha tarter sauce. Light tempura battered whitefish was the perfect canvas for the smoky cabbage and spicy tartar sauce, again all wrapped up in a fresh flour tortilla.
Coming off my Mexico trip, I had to do the tacos, but you won’t miss the tortillas if you get the taco salad served in a cardboard blueberry carton. With a crunchy and colorful array of kale, spicy peanuts, queso fresco, cranberries, corn chips, sesame, pomegranate vinaigrette, it’s almost too pretty to eat.
Pork carnitas, a toasted tortilla soup, chili cheese curds and habanero popcorn on the menu mean multiple visits are in order to basically try, well everything, and I didn’t even get to the horchata milkshake or are you kidding me Mexican chocolate and marshmallow pop tart, but the perfect summer quencher (and something we sipped all over Mexico) are the agua frescas made with seasonal pureed fruit, simple syrup and lemon juice…available with or without vodka. OK, I’ll stop, just go.
Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the name Ada. It was my grandmother’s name and I have never met anyone else who shared it. It’s also the name of a short street in my ‘hood, just off of Grand Avenue, which I recently discovered stops and then picks up again due north, past the expressway, for a couple short blocks just off Elston. It’s a stone’s-throw from the Hideout, and even more hidden than the intimate music venue. And now, it’s the name of a less-than-a-week-old restaurant/lounge that’ll give those post-Hideouters somewhere to eat after a show. Even if you aren’t Hiding-out for the night, it’s worth a visit for the stunningly cool room, and bites by chef Zoë Schor.
The sign-less entrance may infuriate some, but I was fascinated by the mysterious façade and narrow doors. I also love that it blends in with the block, save two glowing red lights (which didn’t show up in the ol’ camera)
This was one of the first bites we tried, lightly fried black-eyed peas with a crispy outer coating and hint of spicy aïoli. I easily could’ve snacked on them all night.
The French-inspired small plates include steak tartare with fried capers and a quail egg, Southern fried quail with greens and bacon gravy, polenta fries with chipotle purée and a duck confit served with pasta, a poached egg and Parmigiano. They pretty much had me at poached egg.
A stack of brioche doughnuts didn’t stay around the table for long, rumor has it they’ve added a port wine caramel sauce as an accompaniment since our visit..holy yum.
Before you hit up the sexy back dining room with army blanket upholstered banquettes, an open kitchen, long bar with cocktails served up by Tim Lacey and a garage door that’ll open to the back patio in the summer, there’s an even sexier from room waiting room with wine and stacks of records hiding in the walls. The dining area isn’t huge, so I anticipate guests without reservations having to in here for a while before they sit, but you and your date most likely won’t mind. Ada Street, 1664 N. Ada Street.
I love sardines. Yeah, I said it. I love them fried at restaurants, or in a lemon garlic-lemon fettuccini with breadcrumbs (I have made this and it rocks). But it seems it’s not just canned fish, but fish cans themselves that are making an appearance on restaurant tables with the bill. New white-hot spots from Japanese Yusho in Logan Square to Spanish Tavernita in River North are flaunting the creative bill delivery, and while it may not new, it’s a cool touch.