Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
After my weird culinary travels across the globe at Burrito Buggy, it occurred to me that I really haven't covered much Mexican food for Lunch in the Loop. Sure, I did Rick Bayless' Frontera Fresco at the beginning of this year, but that's been about it so far. And man, do I love me some burritos. My girlfriend thinks I love them a little too much, and whenever I put one up to my mouth, she points at me (or the burrito, I never can tell) and says, "Don't." But I do it anyway, much to her dismay. She puts up with so much.
Taco Burrito King is just around the corner from my office, and considering it has the word "king" in its name, I thought I'd put its claim of taco and burrito monarchy to the test. In my face.
I don't usually consider nachos a viable lunch option, but my coworkers love the Super Nachos ($6.75), which are pictured here with ground beef. The nachos come covered in a generous stripe of guacamole, sour cream, and tomatoes, and if you think about it, they look like the Mexican flag. Coincidence? I think not! And beneath the stripes of food justice, you have a bed of chips covered in meat and bright orange cheese sauce.
If I had to make any comparisons, these are basically ballpark nachos with the works, plus some bonus guacamole. The ground beef tastes like taco-kit seasoned meat, and the cheese sauce is uniform and processed (which I admittedly love). The guacamole is simple but freshly made, and inevitably, the whole thing turns into a sloppy mess as you eat it. I'm still on the fence about what happens when guacamole and the processed cheese sauce mix, as the flavors don't quite mesh. But since I'm such a fan of guacamole, I'm just happy it's there.
In this case, I eschewed the tacos for the burrito. And whenever I order a burrito, it always has to be steak, no question whatsoever. The King Steak Burrito ($6.25) is about the size of my forearm, though it's pretty standard fare—the steak doesn't have any discernable char, but it's fairly beefy. While there's nothing particularly outstanding about the mix of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, refried beans, and sour cream, the burrito still fills the occasional aching need. And it's gigantic.
The chicken enchilada plate ($8.50), which comes with a side of rice and beans, is also hefty. The corn tortilla wrapped chicken comes doused with just the right amount of red chili sauce. The chicken is moist and tender and the sauce has that slightly bitter chili flavor that you expect with enchiladas. Again, no reinventing of the wheel here, but the enchiladas are a worthwhile break from sandwiches and salads.
The al pastor torta plate ($6.50) is your basic large torta with a side of rice and beans. The first thing I noticed was that there wasn't a spinning spit in back, so it's really cooked marinated pork. The pork isn't caramelized or charred, and the marinade isn't particularly memorable either, so I'd skip the al pastor and stick to steak.
So does the food live up to its bold kingly claims? I'd say that's exaggerating a bit, but Taco Burrito King is one of those places that will give you a standard burrito, and they have ballpark-style nachos in case you crave that orange cheese sauce like I occasionally do.