Reinvention. Madonna did it many times with fabulous results. Once or twice not so fabulous. But the taco? Can anyone really reinvent ingredients put between a tortilla? Enter Antique Taco in Wicker Park. Reinvention done fabulously.
And I discovered this little corner place on a drive with a friend to grab a pizza at Piece, also in Wicker Park. As we were driving down Milwaukee, we saw many a new little restaurant had popped up in the area. We noticed Antique Taco, and always up for adventure, we threw our plans for a pie out the window and sauntered in.
The interior is decorated with yes, you guessed it, antiques. The windows that surround the space are ceiling to floor, giving it an airy openness, even though it isn't at all large. There are tables and benches as inside seating, all from antique markets that owner Rick Ortiz and wife Ashley have collected themselves. They also have a small outside seating section along North Wood Street. We stepped inside to peruse the menu and decide on a meal. Quite the daunting task, as everything looked beyond amazing.
We placed our order at the walk-up counter, and then sat outside as it was a perfect evening to do so. Desperately in need of a cocktail, we ordered the Agua Fresca with Vodka. They of course have margaritas, and they looked quite good, but tequila broke my heart once and vodka saved it. So the vodka cocktail it was. Agua Fresca is seasonal pureed fresh fruit, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. The fruit of the day was guava and strawberry, and the result after adding vodka and chili pepper on the rim of the glass was bliss. Refreshing would be an understatement. You can get the Agua Fresca sans vodka, too.
While we were sipping our libation, we munched on the Habanero Popcorn, tossed with olive oil, cheddar cheese, habanero and fresh cilantro. They need to bag this up and sell it to take home, it was that good. For our main course, we had, what else? The tacos. We shared the Crispy Fish Tacos, laden with smoked cabbage, scallions, and sriracha tartar sauce, and the Sweet and Spicy Chicken Tacos, which were garnished with cucumber and jalapeno pickle, honey yogurt and purple onion. The flavor pairings that chef/owner Rick Ortiz chose are divinely unique. However, tacos are not all this quaint little restaurant has on the menu. They have Tortilla Soup, a Taco Salad that sounds anything but ordinary, a Corn off the Cobb Salad, Chili Cheese Curds (which I will be trying out on my next visit), a Masa Biscuit and Lobster Gravy, plus all kinds of other foodie delights including a Horchata Milkshake with banana, cinnamon, almonds and vanilla, along with Abuelita's Pop Tart with Mexican Chocolate and Marshmallow. I don't know who Abuelita is, but she sounds like my kind of girl.
Rick Ortiz and his wife Ashley created a great niche market with their "tacos meets antiques" boutique restaurant. We didn't even notice upon entering, but they actually sell antiques, like vintage tea towels and mason jars, of which they serve their drinks in. Same old, same old taco joint it is not. It's only been on the block about a month, but I'm willing to bet it will be there on Milwaukee for quite some time.
1360 N Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Tues - Thurs 12:00PM - 10:00PM
Fri - Sat 12:00PM - 12:00AM
Sun 12:00PM - 8:00PM
Editor's note: Antique Taco recently opened a second location in Bridgeport at 1000 W 35th St, Chicago, IL 60609, (773) 823-9410.