If there's one thing I've learned from writing this column, it's that restaurants need to respect the tortilla. Chicago may be blessed with a collection of some of the best tortilla factories anywhere, but if you use day-old versions, your tacos are going to suck. There's no way around it. Places that serves a steady stream of tacos usually have no problem on this front. Where this does become an issue is at restaurants that may have only one taco option on a very big menu.
Thing is, it doesn't matter if I'm at an Irish pub or a barbecue restaurant, if I see a taco on the menu I have to order it, which explained why I was at Brand BBQ Market in Logan Square with a plate of pulled pork tacos in front of me. As the name suggests, this is a barbecue joint. It's also one that happens to be famous for its unusual offerings; while I'd pass on ordering a slab of ribs, the excellent burnt ends mac n' cheese completely deserves its notoriety. I had hope.
My spirits were further raised when the tacos arrived and I could see some slight charring on the tortillas from being warmed up on the grill. (Note: this is a good trick that other joints should copy.) The tortillas were also soft and pliant, meaning I could actually go ahead and focus on the filling, which turned out to also be better than expected. Slightly smokey and tender without completely falling apart, the pulled pork was an excellent base. Some crunchy chopped onions added some much needed freshness, while some of the acidic barbecue sauce helped cut through the fat.
Not exactly a reinvention of the wheel, but definitely one of the better one-off taco experiences I've had in Chicago. Other places should take note.
Brand BBQ Market
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