New to the 'Scene'
The first Velvet Taco to open outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area was destined to be in the Viagra Triangle. The taco shop with a funny name has plenty of sexual puns in it's menu descriptions. I recently found out that if you can look past them, you may come to like this fast casual taco shop.
Newly Opened in the Gold Coast neighborhood
Lets get the fine print out of the way first. I tried Velvet Taco after they reached out via email and invited me to come on in and give my opinion. Sure why not, I'd heard of Velvet Taco thru my travels to Texas and took note of the Chicago opening when I first heard the news.
The Menu Board (click pic to enhance)
Velvet taco specializes in "chef driven" taco creations. The word fusion gets thrown around here and there when it comes to tacos but these would be a prime example of them. Broken down by meat on the menu board each taco is basically a specialty dish, from a cuisine other than Mexican, that gets put into a tortilla. The offering of a fried piece of paneer allows for most all of the options to be ordered Vegetarian. You can also replace the tortilla with a lettuce wrap. You just walk in and walk up to the counter and place your order and get a number which they find you by when your tacos are good to go. There's two floors and the upstairs consists of a handful of large communal tables with lots of light shining in thru the windows overlooking State street. Liquor is available and as should be the case with an import from Texas, they make a formidable frozen margarita.
Aside from tacos they have a few other eating options including a "backdoor" rotisserie chicken. Served as a to-go item you just walk up to the backdoor and purchase one of their fire roasted rotisserie chickens whole. It comes with two sides of elotes, six housemade corn tortillas and a trio of salsas. The pre-taco option of crisp tater tots served with herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado crema, real bacon bits, and a local egg on top is a winner. They stay open late so I expect this dish to be popular with the after-bar crowd though I still loved it during the day when sober.
Onto to the taco options. They have 15 of them including two frittata breakfast style offerings. While those are available all day I chose to go with six different lunch/dinner options. Pictured in order below from left to right are the Rotisserie Chicken, Crisp Tikka Chicken, Cuban Pig, Crisp Pork Belly, Bacon Burger and the Fish n' Chips. Delivered on the ever so trendy taco racks.
First up you have to try and be open to enjoying this place and understanding of the fact that if you go in expecting credible Mexican flavors you may leave disappointed. That said the only Mexican taco option, the Rotisserie Chicken, was a winner in my book. They made the usually boring chicken taco much better without frying it or any ingredient in it. Hand pulled chicken from the birds they roast in the open air kitchen is topped with white queso, roast corn pico de gallo and a smoked poblano salsa. The corn tortillas are made on site. This one was simple and that's all it had to be.
Rotisserie Chicken (L) Crisp Tikka Chicken (M) Cuban Pig (R)
Other options were hit and miss. I liked the overall flavor profile of the Cuban Pig but thought it was a little dry. Adding on salsa took away from the intended tastes so maybe a little bit of pickle juice or something else can step that up. The Crisp Chicken Tikka taco was seriously spicy yet I kept taking bites. I should note these aren't one, two or even three bite tacos. They're large and two should be good for the average eating being. The Pork Belly taco was an ode to the Chicago style hot dog, as it's only available at this location, but they must not of got the memo that a Chicago dog uses an all beef wiener. The bacon burger actually took on the exact flavors of a well made bacon cheeseburger as did the fish n' chips with it's intended taste. The latter of which was my favorite with a perfectly fried piece of beer battered cod topped with a perfectly paired curry mayo and some malted fries hidden inside. Elevated fast food in a neighborhood that could use the option of it. Can you dig it?
Fish n' Chips taco
1110 N State St
Chicago, IL 60610