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Chicago Taco Opens with Crowds, Long Lines in Former West Town Tavern

By Alisa Hauser | July 27, 2013 1:41pm
 Formerly West Town Tavern, Chicago Taco opened Friday at 1329 W. Chicago Ave. on the southwest corner of Throop Street and Chicago Avenue in West Town.
Chicago Taco, 1329 W. Chicago Ave.
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WEST TOWN — In lightning-fast turnover, the former West Town Tavern is the new Chicago Taco and suddenly there's people sitting on a sidewalk patio across from Eckhart Park washing down pork belly tacos with PBR.

On Monday news spread of the closure of the comfort-food haven at the southwest corner of Throop Street and Chicago Avenue, causing one fan to say, "a dark day in West Town."

On Wednesday, news spread of the restaurant's transformation into a taqueria. By Friday, Chicago Taco was open for business, with not an empty booth or table to be found, sending some to the patio despite drizzling rain.

With casual counter-to-table service similar to Wicker Park's Birchwood Kitchen, eager but patient patrons waited in a long line to place their drink and food order and receive a number.

 Chicago Taco's black bean tacos with feta cheese, pickled vegetables, peach-jicama relish and avocado-tomatillo salsa
Chicago Taco's black bean tacos with feta cheese, pickled vegetables, peach-jicama relish and avocado-tomatillo salsa
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Chicago Taco/Facebook

Conceived in two days by a pair of cooks, Chicago Taco's menu offers several variety of tacos priced at $3 each and three sweets for dessert: double chocolate brownies, lemon bars and bourbon pecan squares, all $1.

Popular tacos served during the restaurant's first night were fried chicken with grilled corn and avocado salsa, braised short rib and mashed potatoes with sherry-garlic slaw, and pork belly with pickled onions, black beans and bacon, among others (view the full menu here).

With a beer list scribbled in black marker and taped to the wall behind the bar and Post-it notes covering the half dozen offerings they'd sold out of about halfway through the evening, guests soaked in the changes as chef and co-owner Susan Goss worked in the kitchen.

"We have some bumps to work out. You never know the glitches and how things work until you do it. Growing pains," Susan Goss said.

Managing the host duties Friday, Susan's husband Drew Goss described the change from restaurant tavern to tacos as "a different style of dining" that they'd been "thinking about for awhile" and decided to implement in the past few weeks.

"Regulars were really sad, a lot of them came in tonight. It was really reassuring," Drew Goss said.

To wash everything down, Chicago Taco's drink menu is divided into beers (about six craft beers including Ommegang Saison and Revolution Porter, Mexican beer Tecate and cans of Bud Light and PBR for $4 and 3 bucks, respectively); wines (white, pink, red); and four house cocktails (Mexican Milk Punch, Salted Watermelon, Sucker Punch, Margarita) all priced at $9.

For those seeking a non-alcoholic drink, "refrescos" such as sparkling or still water, horchata, watermelon-ginger and limeade are $3.

Late Friday, the Gosses took to Facebook to thank their customers for "an amazing and positive" night.

"We are humbled by your kind words and good wishes! We learned a lot tonight and hope to have more systems in place tomorrow to make it even better!," they wrote.

Chicago Taco, 1329 W. Chicago Ave. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday for now.