Chicago Tacos: Del Toro
Well, what do we have here? Is that an actual burrito sitting up top of this column exclusively dedicated to the glory of tacos?! Why, yes. It's the burrito de carne asada ($4.50) from Del Toro—a stylish bar and restaurant in Pilsen. Please, let me explain.
If I have to be completely honest, this is one of the first places I've ever visited where the burrito bested the tacos. It's not that I hate all burritos, it's that I prefer eating things smaller than my head. (I kid, but only slightly.) While I can appreciate the generosity of a burrito stuffed with beans, rice, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream, and whatever else happens to be in the kitchen at the time, it's not something I crave often. But as you can probably notice, this burrito is slim and proportioned. Featuring just grilled skirt steak, beans, chihuahua cheese, lettuce, and tomato, it's manageable enough to pick up, and balanced enough that you can discern all the elements. It's also remarkably affordable, so no one will scoff if you order a second.
What about the actual tacos? None of them quite work as well as that burrito, but there are a couple worth checking out. It's genuinely hard to make a grilled fish taco where the meat doesn't get mushy, but the fish taco ($3.50) here solves that problem by being extra thin and crispy. Even with the salsa, the fish maintains its structure.
I also liked the taco de carne asada, which features nice and juicy hunks of freshly grilled steak, even if the meat was a touch mushy. This is definitely a taco that needs salsa, and though none are on the table, the waitress was more than happy to bring over a good tomatillo salsa.
I had high hopes for the puerco adobada ($3.00), a marinated pork filling that, unlike al pastor, is supposed to be griddled. While I liked the marinade, the pieces were slightly dry. As for the veggie taco ($2.50), the mushrooms, red pepper, and squash were fresh and crunchy, but there was nothing to tie them all together.
Del Toro is the kind of place one likes to get comfortable and stay for awhile. Some excellent margaritas certainly helped, but the atmosphere is also both casual and lively. You can order a few dishes, talk a while, and then order more if you'd like. I genuinely wanted to love the tacos more than I did, but I felt like I was trying to make them be better than they actually were. The burrito, on the other hand, required no effort to enjoy.