Archive for the tag “Humboldt Park”

Irazú

WHAT: Irazú
WHERE: 1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.

OUR RATING: Do It!

Picture 24Named after the mighty Irazú Volcano in Costa Rica, this lively, spirited and eclectic restaurant allows you to enjoy the unique cuisine from this little sampled country in Central America. Flavourful, mild and lots of fruits and vegetables clearly mark these dishes out as deriving from the lush rainforests of that country, which houses an astonishing 5% of the world’s biodiversity, while being only 0.25% of the Earth’s landmass.

With a colourful and light-filled interior and exciting buzz, you’ll be just itching to try to many rare delicacies that come at phenomenally reasonable prices.

Picture 26Adam: Locked between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultures, with a good dose of Spanish colonialism mixed in, Costa Rica (literally Rich Coast) is most certainly true to its name when it comes to food and Irazú provides all the bounty that this nation has to offer. Brought straight to your table and served casually, steaming plates of traditional foods whirl in, with all the colour and verve of this canopied country.

Casado with tilapia

The menu is vast, offering breakfast items, appetizers, vegetarian options, tacos, empanadas, burritos, sandwiches and even shakes. The forefront of the menu, however, are the Costa Rican dinners. Being in the mood to try the most authentic dish on the menu, I opted for the Casado, a traditional full-plate meal.

Casado with steak

Choosing from steak, chicken or tilapia, you can really appreciate the full force of this diverse cuisine through this dish. I went with steak and was not disappointed. A heaping portion served with black beans, sweet plantains, a cabbage salad, rice and an over easy egg to top it all off, the portion was very large and I felt truly stuffed when finished. I actually had my meal upgraded to include gallo pinto instead of rice, a mixture of rice and beans which is exclusive to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Watch out though: they won’t tell you this upgrade costs a buck when they offer it, although it’s worth all one hundred cents.

Potato Tacos

Alicia: One of the many things I love about Irazú is how vegetarian friendly they are. Some of the guests we went out to dinner with ordered the restaurant’s famed potato tacos: crispy corn tortillas filled with mashed potatoes (flauta-esque) and served with guacamole and mole sauce. The dish was gigantic, and also served with yellow rice, beans, deliciously cooked sweet plantains and a cabbage salad. Beware: the mole is not vegetarian, but it’s possibly one of the most delicious moles I have had in the city.

Avena Shake

What I wanted to try more than anything was Irazú’s Avena (Oatmeal) shake made with milk, which was the most deliciously complex consistency with beautiful hints of cinnamon. It was sweet and savory and an entire meal in itself, so I’m glad I only ordered a salad to go with it. They have a ton of other interesting shake flavors, including Pinolillo (Corn Meal) and Tamarindo. Definitely an adventure for the tastebuds!

Palmito Salad

Oh, and by salad, I don’t mean just any ordinary salad. I ordered a large (and boy was it large) Palmito Salad: Heart of palm steaks on a bed of cabbage slaw, tossed with beets, avocado, tomato, radishes, cilantro, splashed with vinegar, lime and olive oil. The salad was perfectly dressed and the dish in its entirety was a refreshing and adventurous journey. The vinegar and lime cut through the hearty heart of palm steaks and the slaw provided a fun crunch with every bite. I would order this dish again in a minute, but it’s imperative you go with someone else so you can steal a few of their delicious sweet plantains.

Picture 25Final Thoughts: In a meal that’s like a rainforest on a plate, without any of the more slippery animals, Irazú immerses you in the warm embrace of the jungle. Excellent portion sizes at good prices, this BYOB (no corkage fee!) is a particular Chicago experience you can’t miss.

Bullhead Cantina

WHAT: Bullhead Cantina (Taco and Whiskey Bar)
WHERE: 1143 N. California Ave.

OUR RATING: Do It!

(bullheadcantina.com)

(bullheadcantina.com)

Interestingly, this particular eatery is west, rather than south, of the metaphorical border that is bourgeois Chicago. Yet its distinctive blend of hole-in-the-wall roadtrip interior design, artistic taco selection and hipster tunes beating through concealed speakers means that you will be enjoying more than just snacks at this cantina.

We decided to visit the Humboldt Park’s Bullhead Cantina on Thursday, because we’d heard that their epic 12 taco sampler, an array of three different taco morsels from their extensive menu, was only $12. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the steak, brisket or tilapia, but who cares–this place is a winner. We had two guests with us, so we ordered two platters, and were able to try six different varieties of taco:

(yelp.com)

(yelp.com)

Beer Grilled Chicken – A Mexican classic, except this one is tossed in PBR with a hint of lime along with lettuce, tomato and sour cream. We recommend you drizzle it with a chimichurri sauce or the spicy lime sauce for a less traditional combination. Of all the tacos we tried, this is perhaps our least favorite, but the sauce makes up for most deficiencies in the preparation of the chicken.

Grits & Kale – While not your typical taco filling, or a filling for anything, really, these creamy stone ground grits were accompanied by sautéed kale in white wine, garlic and harissa, and a pineapple bourdon reduction. The grits were mouth-watering, but our biggest concern with these tacos was the severe lack of kale. The lack of veg in these impelled us to add a bunch more lettuce and pickled cabbage which accompanied our twelve tacos.

(chicago.seriouseats.com)

(chicago.seriouseats.com)

Taco de Avocado – The butter of the Incas is presented in a new light here, along with tomato, gypsy pepper (first time we’ve heard of that!), lettuce, grilled onion, and a topping of cheese and chile sour cream. It’s a rich one, but the eloquent spicing of the avocado creates a new type of experience worth the extra calories.

Marinated Grilled Portobello – These mushrooms were grilled to perfection, and laden with avocado, grilled red onion, roasted corn, rustic tomato sauce and finished with sour cream. Their texture was riveting and their smokiness intoxicating – especially when paired with their house chipotle sauce. This isn’t like anything you could get on Portobello Road.

(chicago.seriouseats.com)

(chicago.seriouseats.com)

Grilled Sweet Potato – We’ve seen these new-age tacos before, but these came with pickled cabbage, grilled red onion, roasted corn and a creamy lime and avocado sauce. Well, at least that’s what the menu said. However, we didn’t receive any corn and really, while perfectly tasty, these were particularly underwhelming.

Roasted Beets – The table favorite, these beets were tossed in a citrus reduction with grilled red onion, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, chile powder and shredded cheese. Decadent, simple, savory and sweet in all the right places.

What really made these tacos special was the hand-made corn tortillas, which were just the perfect thickness to hold up against all the food and sauces packed into them, but still melt in your mouth. After going through them all and still having fillings leftover, it was almost painful when we didn’t take our waitress up on her offer for more of these, but our stomachs were quite full enough already.

(yelp.com)

(yelp.com)

What we missed out most on, perhaps, was their huge whiskey selection, and we would definitely come back for their every day special, which for a measly $6 gets you one of their scrumptious tacos paired with a PBR tall boy and a shot of the whiskey of the day. And if we weren’t lucky enough to come back here on a Thursday, we would jump at the chance to try their steak and brisket tacos. We would probably drop the beer chicken, sweet potato and grits, but we’d never part with those beets and avocado.

(bullheadcantina.com)

(bullheadcantina.com)

Make sure you bring cash, because this place is so focused on the food, they forgot to bring along the credit card scanner. Service was brisk and consistent, although starters were seemingly offered as freebies (they are NOT), so make sure to check the menu before acquiescing to the server’s gracious offers.

You don’t always think of tacos, whiskey and Hot Chip going together, but Bullhead Cantina does this effortlessly and makes the trek out there completely worth it.

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