Monday, July 10, 2023

Big Star Mariscos

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Mexican Seafood in West Town

There’s not many restaurants in Chicago that are more polarizing than Big Star. Some love it and others do not. The “new age” taqueria is about to turn 15 years old next year. Love it or lose it, it’s become one of the city’s most well known taco spots since it debuted back in 2009. It was one of the first of it's kind as far as these new school taquerias go. There weren't a ton of spots like Big Star when it opened but fast forward to today and they're everywhere. It’s popularity allowed them to expand to a second location in Wrigleyville and they also opened a seafood focused bar and restaurant last year in West Town. Of course it came with buzz but like all of the trendy spots that buzz was eventually replaced with buzz from newer spots. I was surprised to find a mostly empty house on a weekend visit when the sun was and out and people were about. 

Recently Opened in West Town

Even though mariscos is in the name of the restaurant it’s not all seafood. I understand why in that we’re in the Midwest and some people won’t eat seafood but the menu feels a little watered down because of that. In fact we first visited over the weekend around 2p and we couldn’t order half of the seafood options bc they were only serving the brunch menu. A brunch menu consisting mostly of stuff that wasn’t seafood. Items like breakfast tacos and what not. It was pretty annoying when you consider that mariscos is more commonly lunch in Mexico in large part bc you eat it when you’re at the beach and what not. Basically we went there with intent to try two of the more interesting seafood options and were told we had to come back after 3p for either of them. We did so in part bc we had our minds set on some grilled shrimp and Pescado Zarandeado but it’s a bit of a head scratcher that they don’t do seafood for lunch on the weekend unless you just want tacos or some ceviche.

Camarones Borrachos at Big Star Mariscos

The two previously mentioned dishes are the reason to check out Big Star Mariscos. First up is the Camarones Borrachos. The name translates to drunken shrimp due to the use of tequila or beer when cooking them. The menu describes these as Mexican white shrimp (shell on) with a chipotle-mezcal salsa served with garlic rice, green onion, cilantro. The shrimp come grilled and are tossed in a spicy garlicly sauce with a nice zing. My major complaint is the shrimps weren’t easy to peel. I had trouble getting the shell disconnected from the meat but the flavor was there and the rice was pretty good mixed with the sauce. Pescado Zarandeado was the other other dish that caught my eye. It's a product of the Nayarit, the Mexico State clamped between the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Pacific Ocean. The name comes from the zaranda which is what they traditionally used to grill the fish which is split in half and cooked over a live fire. I doubt Big Star grills theirs over wood or charcoal but they do a pretty textbook version otherwise. Seabass is rubbed with a guajillo adobo and served with caramelized onions, smashed cucumbers, cilantro and their made on-site corn tortillas. It’s a dish meant to split but we found it easy to eat the entire thing between just two of us. I would come back just for that and maybe a margarita in the sun it just sucks I cant do that before 3p.

Pescado Zarandeado 

Big Star Mariscos
551 N Ogden Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 521-5169


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