Tacos

Solid Korean fusion @enhakkore

En Hakkore – 1840 N Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL

There’s something simple and delicious about En Hakkore.  The space is small – just enough for 6 or 8 tables.  It’s reasonably quick, and the service is friendly. the menu is simple – there’s not a whole lot to choose from., and most importantly, fresh ingredients.  I had first gone a few months after it had first opened and was quite impressive.  And while this time around it didn’t seem quite as impressive, it was still a solid meal.

Paratha Tacos

Paratha Tacos

We started with an order of the tacos – got one each of the beef and spicy pork tacos.   The paratha flatbreads work perfectly as a shell – thick enough to provide the perfect support and with a nice toasty flavor.  The ingredients themselves – a perfectly spiced traditional Korean bbq pork, and a lightly sweetened bulgogi, each with a kimchi slaw that works well together.

Spicy Pork Bi Bim Bap

Spicy Pork Bi Bim Bap

Bi Bim Bap

Bi Bim Bap

The choices here are pretty simple – get a bibimbap bowl – pick white or brown rice, and pick your protein – a bulgogi beef, spicy pork, vegetarian, or sashimi bap with an assortment of raw fish.  I went with the spicy pork and added a healthy dose of gochujang to spice it up even further.   The dish itself is pretty simple, the portion size is huge for the price, and the pork has a good amount of slow heat that’ll give you a just a light sweat by the time you’re done with the dish.  The veggies, while a bit different than a traditional bowl of bibimbap, are fresh and add great color to the dish.   The egg is hard-boiled, but would have been better with a fresh fried egg.

The simplicity and visual appearance of the dishes at En Hakkore goes a long way.  Add the fact that a meal here is reasonably healthy and you got another bonus.  The strikes against it are the size of the dining room, which can be a problem if it gets busy, and that it’s not BYOB.   I’m not sure if it warrants all the 5-star reviews it’s been getting, but it’s a solid joint that will keep me going back.

 

 

Advertisements

The friendly neighborhood @TacojointChi

Taco Joint – 158 W Ontario St. Chicago, IL

As someone who loves to eat, living in River North definitely has its perks, but if there’s a weak spot, it’s a dearth of fairly quick, inexpensive eats that aren’t a barebones Pizza joint or a chain restaurant.  I think that’s why Taco Joint was such a refreshing addition when it opened a few years ago.   By no means is it the best tacos I’ve ever had, but they have the makings of a solid urban tacqueria – good vibe, good music, a unique menu that doesn’t stray too far from the norm.

Chips and guac

Chips and guac

The guac at taco joint is alright – topped with a bit of queso fresco and a good consistency but missing a saltiness or a sweetness to really stand out.  The addition of plantain chips to the chip bowl is an awesome little perk – if you’re out with a group, reach for those first…

Flautitas

Flautitas

Before we hit up tacos, Sara and I split an order of flautitas – fried taquitos filled with a lightly spiced chicken and topped with a spicy green salsa and queso fresco.  Usually this is a solid dish, but this night, the flautitas were just a bit overcooked.  Still had some great flavor and a nice precursor to the tacos.

Lomo

Lomo

Carnitas taco

Carnitas taco

Chorizo Taco

Chorizo Taco

There’s a good variety of choices with the tacos here – the tortillas are thick enough that they can accomodate a reasonable stack of filling/ingredients without having to double up, like a number of places are doing these days. The lomo taco had grilled ribeye which was a bit overcooked, but had an excellent char flavor.  The chilis and salsa had just a touch of heat.

The carnitas taco is my go-to taco at Taco Joint and IMO the most unique on the menu.  It’s a duck confit taco with the meat cooked just to a slight crisp.  The ancho-peanut sauce adds a perfect smokiness that blends with the duck and the toasted pumpkin seeds are the icing on the cake, adding an interesting texture to the dish.

Finally, the chorizo taco – a pretty standard issue – a good helping of flavorful, finely chopped chorizo with some frisee, and a pretty mild salsa.

Taco Joint is a place that will have a soft spot for me – it’s not authentic, and there’s not much that hasn’t been done before, but it’s just different enough that it sets itself apart, and what they do is executed well.  The ambience is good – they play great music with a pretty laidback vibe.  And for me, the location and convenience ensures that I’ll keep coming back.