Deep Fried Chicago: Antique Taco
Part of the new guard of composed taco restaurants, there's plenty that Antique Taco could do wrong. The rough-hewn wood and namesake antique decorating scheme could quickly turn kitschy and forced. Then there's the menu itself. In the wrong hands, the farm-to-table ingredients could be overwrought into unnecessary takes on taqueria dishes in a city teeming with other options. But as we've found time and time again, Antique Taco doesn't do much wrong at all. On the contrary, everything coming from the open kitchen looks and smells amazing. Though I can't speak to the tacos, the assortment of fried dishes is easily one of the best I've had in a while.
The Guac & Chips ($6.00) would make a great start to any meal here. Well salted, the guacamole's combination of avocado, onion, tomato, and respectably spicy jalapeño is creamy and balanced. The pickled red onion, though tart, didn't add much beyond color, although a little more salt and lime juice would probably remedy that. The delicately salted chips were crisp and not the slightest bit greasy. Plenty remained after the guac was long gone, which simply means they can be dipped into anything and everything within arm's reach.
The Chili Cheese Curds ($6.00) are just like chili cheese fries, if that dish featured beer battered squeaky cheese, chorizo based chili, oniony crema fresca, scallions, crunchy tortilla strips, and pickled red onions. Topping the coney sauce-like chili with the curds instead of the reverse is an inspired choice that left the cheese crispy throughout. Though the dish could use a little more kick, it's easily the best plate of cheese curds I've had in a long time.
I'm always thrilled to find deep fried desserts, and Abuelita's Pop Tart ($5.00) doesn't disappoint. When I first broke through the tart's flaky crust, I thought the hunks of partially melted Mexican chocolate were an oversight. However, after a few bites of the fudgy chocolate mixed with the cinnamon topped vanilla ice cream, I'm a pop tart for dessert convert. Toasted breakfast pastries are so 90s, anyway.
Antique Taco is definitely something special and a welcome addition to Wicker Park. And if the tacos are half as good as the fried options, forgoing the long lines up the street is going to be that much easier from here on out.