LINCOLN SQUARE — Neighbors wondering what's behind the papered-over windows at Taco in a Bag will have their curiosity satisfied Wednesday, when the newest addition to Lincoln Square's dining scene throws open its doors.
"We're not just taking Fritos, we're making our own chips," said Brown. "We're thinking outside Tex-Mex with Cuban, chicken parm and a vegetarian take on the Coney Island hot dog. It's definitely different."
Patty Wetli previews the much-anticipated spot:
On Wednesday, Taco in a Bag reveals what's been going on behind papered-over windows. DNAinfo/Patty Wetli
"Definitely different" also sums up the pair's approach to decor. Taco in a Bag's brightly colored exterior — a cross between comic book and graffiti art — is repeated on the inside.
"This place is very unique to Pat and my sensibility," said Brown. "It's like a PG-13 Saturday morning cartoon" or the McDonald's series of commercials featuring Grimace and the Hamburglar.
The Taco in a Bag "mascot." DNAinfo/Patty Wetli
The showpiece is a "Taco Thief" mural that runs the length of the restaurant's main wall, created by Pilsen-based artist Cesar Perez (aka, Czr Prz).
"He's a straight-up street artist who does Banksy-style stuff," said Brown. "I had him do a digital painting and we blew it up."
No opportunity for a goofy touch has been overlooked, from the bottle-cap stools — the guys are big into sodas — to the restaurant's private-label bottled water dubbed Magic Unicorn Tears.
"Because why not," said Bertoletti.
Taco in a Bag's decor aims for a Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe. Mural designed by Chicago artist Cesar Perez. DNAinfo/Patty Wetli
The silliness even extends into the bathroom, where, short of spoiling the fun, let's just say a surprise awaits patrons.
"We wanted to do something different than anyone's seen before," Brown said.
He appreciates the style won't be to everyone's taste and might even offend some. (Prizes in the restaurant's claw machine include inflatable boobs, be forewarned.)
"It's not for everybody. But we did this exactly how we wanted," he said. "No one's come up and told me I'm an idiot yet."
The guys at Taco in a Bag take their soda seriously, right down to the bottle-cap seats. DNAinfo/Patty Wetli
While Brown brainstorms marketing stunts to get people in Taco in a Bag's doors — creating fake Tinder and Grindr profiles, a future eating challenge involving a five-pound Taco in a Trough — it's Bertoletti's job to keep them coming back.
A Kendall College culinary grad, Bertoletti is the primary cook — he hesitates to use the word chef — behind Taco in a Bag's unique menu creations. (Brown pitches in on assembly.)
His kitchen bona-fides are evident in the restaurant's housemade sauces and unusual flavor combinations, like the Southern Dandy taco, which features country sausage gravy, sweet potato, collard greens and peanuts.
Owners Pat Bertoletti and Tim Brown have put their stamp on even the smallest detail at Taco in a Bag. DNAinfo/Patty Wetli
"Food is really my favorite thing in the world," Bertoletti said.
He grew up in Palos Heights, the youngest of five children, and spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning from his parents and grandparents, including a "bad-ass" grandfather whose recipe for stuffing Bertoletti declares "the best."
"I love cooking for other people," he said.
The Big Jim Reeves, the original Taco in a Bag: chorizo country gravy, tomatillo sour cream, pepper jack, green onion. DNAinfo/Patty Wetli
Come Wednesday at 11 a.m., he'll be cooking, fingers crossed, for lots of other people.
Taco in a Bag's hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, closed Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The restaurant is BYO, with a strong emphasis on cane sugar sodas.
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