Editor's Note: This one is fairly self-explanatory, but here we go: Chicago Tacos explores the good, the bad, and the truly exceptional taco options in the Windy City--one taqueria at a time.
Who knew art galleries and tacos got along so well? Last week I encountered some shocking skillful food coming out of DeColores, a self-described "Galeria y Sabores" in the northwest corner of Pilsen. While the art on the walls was impressive, I was even more impressed with the colorful taquitos, which were some of the best I've sampled in the city. Perhaps, I wondered, I should look for other art gallery/Mexican restaurants to further test this theory.
To my surprise, this combo isn't exactly rare, which is how I found myself a week later at La Encantada, stuffing myself with Mexican food while being surrounded by dozens of vibrant and colorful paintings. It is much bigger than DeColores, and it also has a liquor license (a move that would enliven the BYOB DeColores). Though the actual food coming out of the kitchen isn't quite up to DeColores's exacting standard, La Encantada is still a remarkable option for a neighborhood that already has a plethora of top quality taquerias (indeed, Cemitas Puebla is just a few blocks away).
It feels a little weird to visit La Encantada and only talk about the tacos, as the restaurant has a truly admirable mole, and the enchiladas aren't bad either. Plus, only two tacos appear on the menu. Luckily, both are worth ordering. The taco de carne asada ($2.50, on the à la carte menu) comes freshly grilled, with a great balance of caramelized crispy edges and tender meat. The clean flavor of each bite is the opposite of the over-loaded greasy mess most taquerias to serve. You don't feel the least bit guilty after finishing this guy.
Even more impressive is the taco de pollo ($2), which is juicy in a way chicken tacos so rarely are. Instead of tough little griddled hunks of chicken breast, the chicken is braised in a concentrated tomato- and chile-laced liquid. The result is chicken that is tender but not dry—a tough balance to strike. Also, though the tortillas aren't made in house, they are fresh, light, and perfect for the job.
So I'm two for two on this whole art gallery and restaurant combo. Anyone else have a suggestion on where I can make this three for three?