Buy Chicken Tikka Tacos, Fight Childhood Hunger

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano on January 10, 2013 10:37am 

RIVER NORTH — Patricio Sandoval, head chef at Mercadito, wants the same kind of high quality, veggie-packed dishes he serves in his restaurant to be available to kids across the country.

While he can't FedEx the tacos he makes at his boutique Mexican eatery at 108 W. Kinzie St. to kids across the nation, he's found another solution: a campaign he calls "Tacos for Strength."

Now in its third year, "Tacos for Strength" invites guest chefs to design a special taco for Mercadito's menu each month. Five percent of the sales from each month's specialty taco are donated to Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit that connects kids with healthy meals.

"It's a really cool way of raising money for an excellent cause, and I think it's a great way of collaborating with other people," said Chef Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia, whose Indian-inspired tacos are the first featured in 2013, available through the end of January. "It's always great in our line of work when we can have other chef's ideas presented to us. It just makes us better. So from their perspective, having 12 chefs make suggestions of how you can look at a a taco, and what a taco can be, is a really cool and exciting prospect."

Zimmerman's taco features chicken marinated with cumin and coriander, and a salsa-like topping of cilantro and red onion and cucumber raita sauce.

The dish is for sale in Chicago and at Mercadito's outposts in Miami and New York.

Mercadito Chicago has raised over $7,000 for the cause since launching the campaign in 2011. Last year, the tacos brought in $3,147 for Share our Strength.

In Chicago, Chef Zimmerman's tacos are available for dinner (four per order) for $16.50 or for lunch (three per order) for $12.50.

"With the Tacos for Strength program, we see the best of top chefs’ cuisines reflected in their taco recipes, but we also see their imagination come into play when they take a different route and experiment with the foods they like to eat in their free time," Sandoval said in a statement. "Chef Zimmerman is known for his inventive American cuisine so it’s fun to see what he can do in a different direction with his Indian-inspired taco."

The full 2013 guest chef lineup features local culinary stars like John Des Rosier of Inovasi and Tru's Rick Tramanto.

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