1531 North Damen Avenue; 773-235-4039
Terry Alexander, a partner at Big Star, says he and his crew had five different ideas for Wicker Park’s old Pontiac space. The concept they settled on may sound like an over-stylized train wreck: a cash-only honky-tonk with skylights and boutique whiskeys, hipster bartenders spinning olde-tyme country records, and tacos smaller than an alderman’s conscience. But when the train is driven by visionaries like Alexander (Violet Hour) and fellow partner Paul Kahan (Blackbird), everyone hops on. And what a ride: The pork belly tacos in tomato-guajillo sauce and lamb shoulder tacos with queso fresco are both spot-on—and a relative bargain considering the impeccable quality of the ingredients. Terry, we’ll never doubt you again.
TIP: Get your tacos to go, hike to the Wicker Park fountain, and eat them with Algren’s ghost.
PRICE KEY: ¢ $10 to $19 $ $20 to $29 $$ $30 to $39 $$$ $40 to $49 $$$$ $50-plus
[Cost per person for dinner, excluding wine, tax, or tip]