//Written by Joy Cho//
How did I spend Valentine’s Day? Getting single tacos in Wicker Park. More specifically, I was getting the best tacos in Chicago at Antique Taco. I first heard about this antique store/taco joint combination on Food Network, and kept hearing about it after I arrived at UChicago. It’s true that there was a lot of hype surrounding Antique Taco—but I honestly had one of the best meals I’ve had in Chicago.
It’s easy to just pass by Antique Taco if you’re just strolling along North Milwaukee Avenue and not paying much attention. Nothing is flashy or overly conspicuous. As soon as you step inside though, you’re met with rustic but classy wooden tables and backless chairs. Ordering seems like a cinch–you order up at the counter and the food is brought to you—but it might take you a while to pick your tacos. Every one of them, from the Grilled Ribeye to the Market Mushroom (a tasty vegetarian option), is equally enticing. No joke.
Antique Taco had a special promotion for Valentine’s Day, where you could purchase individual tacos (“single” tacos) instead of the usual pair, allowing for more room to try new flavors. After much deliberation, I went with the Crispy Fish Tempura taco (their specialty) and the Garlic Shrimp taco, after a close call with the Sweet & Spicy Chicken.
The names of the tacos may sound pretty standard and almost mundane, but the flavors will blow you away. I’m not even kidding. The tacos weren’t huge, but each of them was so packed with different textures and flavors that I was entirely satisfied after eating just two tacos.
The Crispy Fish Tempura taco lived up to its name: it was filled with a generous amount of plump fish, and the fish was actually crispy. The Sriracha tartar sauce provided a unique and less rich spin on an ol’ classic, adding a nice Asian-inspired kick to the taco. The smoked cabbage provided a refreshing textural contrast, and the sesame and chives were pleasant finishing touches. All the flavors, as different as they were, complemented each other and melded together perfectly. I could not ask for a better, more well crafted taco, period.
Nothing could beat the fish taco at this point, but the Garlic Shrimp taco came pretty close. I was impressed with the hodgepodge of ingredients that somehow came together in astounding harmony. The shrimp was well cooked, plump and succulent, and was paired with seasoned purple potatoes, black bean, and edamame. I especially enjoyed the crispy Brussels sprouts, which I would never expect in a taco but provided a subtle crunch and unique flavor to the dish. My first bite was a little intimidating, with so many ingredients, flavors, and textures mingling, but I soon was able to piece together the different components and promptly gobbled it down.
Just one note to add: don’t forget to stop and savor the tortillas. If I’m not mistaken, nearly all the tacos are made with corn tortillas made in-house, which serve as an ideal canvas for the various taco creations. I repeat: give the tortillas, not just the fillings, some love. They deserve it.
To recap, Antique Taco far exceeded all the hype and blew me away with their rustic and comfortable ambiance and most importantly, their ridiculously innovative and flavorful tacos. The next time I go, I’ll make sure to try the guac & chips, empanada, and horchata milkshake. Oh, and of course, two more tacos. Just look at their online menu; you’ll be drooling and determined to try pretty much everything they offer. Yes, it’s really that good.
|Address||11360 N Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60622|
|Hours||Closed on Mondays|
|Price Range||Around $8 for two tacos|
|Other||2014 Chicago Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant|