Restuarant: Big Star |
Address: 1531 N. Damen Ave. |
Phone: 773-235-4039 |
Whiskey. Tacos. Tostadas. Shakes. In Chicago, Big Star is now as synonymous to Tex-Mex as Dulcelandia is to Chicano Candy-land.
Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Publican, Avec + dickEverest of James Beard nominations) is back on the grindilla. Once again, teaming up with ole boys Terry Alexander and Donnie Madia to continue the discipleship of straightforward dining dissemination for the masses. As imagined, the krew focuses on quality ingredients and plates of goodness. Everything else seems like its just a fucking waste of time to the Big Star team: wall decoration, seating assignments, debit cards, and website were all afterthoughts here.
The booze drew me in like white on rice.
I ordered a Single Barrel Four Roses whiskey, poured neat-n-shit and panned the crowd for bar stools to open up. Then I took a couple investment banker alcoholic style gulps to warm my bones and prepare my appetite for the blast.
CAUTION: Racial Swinestists. They don't even spell slurs right.
I noticed that there was a service window that peered into the kitchen and I jumped on the opportunity to get a glimpse of the lab. My biggest question: are there actually Mexicans in the kitchen at Big Star? At first glance, it looked like they were. I mean…they were brown. However, I do get my Costa Ricans or Colombians jammed up. It all became clear when they went over to the pork spit and began shaving meat into corn tortillas. Yup, Mexican fah sho. That kind slicing technique can’t be taught at Kendall College.
Back to the dining. We started with the frijoles because that shit came out first.
I was immediately impressed with freshness of the frijoles charros. I don’t give a fuck if you’re in Bhutan or Lithuania, 9 times outta 10, a solid recipe starts with tomato, onion and garlic. Flavors of soil and sun emitted from the bowl. I could taste the blood, sweat and tears with every bite. I swear to God that Micheal Jackson wrote “Earth Song” for this cup of beans.
Mike...taking one for the beans.
As the third glass of bourbon flowed into my veins, food began to hurricane in like a Katrina Part II, fueled by poor black folks and jazz music. With the double tostadas, I really couldn’t see where the food stopped and the plate began. I was honestly afraid of what might happen when I stuck my hand in…but fuck, daddys gotta eat.
The wood grilled chicken thigh, chayote, black beans and poblano cream melded well, creating multiple layers of flavor profile. The coriander and red onion went DEEP, but I had my sexing situation sussed out for the evening, so no worries there. Then it was on to the pescado which consisted of wood grilled basa, cucumber, onion, radish, cabbage and avocado. Both of these dishes were complimented by the extra thin, deep fried, fresh corn tostadas and, of course, my full glass of bourbon.
And hole the hell up for a minute (needle slides off wax). How did I not know about this bourbon and Mexican food thing? Bakersfield, speak the fuck up!!! Its Limp City over here. I mean, I feel deflated like Teen Wolf when he would change back to Scott Howard.
The swamp is a frightening place.
The Mexican Liberation continued.
As yall know, we Chicago Gluttons stay close to our 3rd World, indigenous roots and fucks with the pork and lamb heavy. As more food arrived, I pulled a Tiger Woods, cheating my way around the bar to get bites offa everyone’s plate. I grabbed some salsa from the red topped squeeze bottle and clocked in.
I began my journey with the braised lamb shoulder. The thinly sliced radish paired surprisingly well with the powerful marinade of the meat. Then I hit the braised pork belly, which was supported by tomato guajillo sauce, cilantro and queso fresco. The char on the pork created a caramelized skin that you see on most Guatemalan village boys.
While tasty, the poblano taco was a consolation prize to get to the finish. The taco flavor was monotone due to a lack of roastiness from the pepper. I will say, however, that it was hotter than the new Beyonce/Alicia Keys collabo.
The breadwinner was the taco al pastor with spit roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, onion and cilantro. The savory/sweet contrast was executed perfectly. Damn the Health Care debate, lets get a “daily consumption of tacos al pastor” bill written into U.S. law…when obesity gets out of hand, we’ll just force more people to audition for The Biggest Loser.
After one last glass of W.L. Weller House Selected Single Barrel and the perfect level of marinated meats up in my belly, we stumbled out into the brisk night swearing that our next visit would be only hours away. At CG, we shy from frugality, but we aint got no James Cameron Avatar type duckets either. Big Star’s fare, just like Mexican street food, is for the people. And just like Paul Kahan & Co. would tell you, food made with any other purpose is just a fucking waste of time.