WICKER PARK — Now you can make your own soft tacos at Chef Rick Bayless Wicker Park Xoco outpost, which was renamed to a bistro on Tuesday, a change that included the addition of classic Mexican dishes.
All 11 of the new Mexican dishes, such as barbacoa — braised beef cooked in pan juices — and shrimp mojo de ojo, with garlic and rice, are served with homemade corn tortillas, so customers can scoop the ingredients into a taco, or just enjoy their meal as a standalone dish.
Bayless, who was working behind the open kitchen on Wednesday, said the changes were made in response to the neighborhood wanting more options and "an evolution" of the menu.
Alisa Hauser says Wicker Park residents love their comfort food:
Despite a very desolate street outside the eatery — common for a midweek during the winter — the restaurant and bar were packed on Wednesday evening, the first full day with the new menu.
Xoco Bistro server Paco Zamora said very few folks were ordering tortas, which were the main focus of the previous Xoco menu. "Everyone wants to try the new dishes," Zamora said.
Bayless' first full-service restaurant outside of his Clark Street trio of Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and Xoco in River North, Xoco opened in August at 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave. on the southeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Honore Street.
Zamora said the concept of allowing people to make their own tacos has been well received.
Shrimp mojo de ajo features shrimp cooked in slow roasted garlic, olive oil, lemon and chipotle over plantain rice.
The shrimp is slow roasted in garlic so that it caramelizes the sugars and gives it a sweeter flavor, Zamora said.
"Many people are scared of garlic but it does not have a garlicky taste," Zamora said of the dish.
Chef de cuisine Andres Padilla said the idea to add more dishes to the menu started about two months ago and involved "a lot of brainstorming."
When asked if the changes were prompted by slower than anticipated crowds during the first few months, Padilla said Xoco has seen "fairly steady" business during the week but agreed with a reporter's observation that Wicker Park's Milwaukee Avenue seems to wake up on the weekends.
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