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Carbon-Live Fire Mexican Grill, Bridgeport/Chinatown

Carbon-Live Fire Mexican Grill, Bridgeport/Chinatown
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  • Carbon-Live Fire Mexican Grill, Bridgeport/Chinatown

    Post #1 - April 2nd, 2007, 1:32 pm
    Post #1 - April 2nd, 2007, 1:32 pm Post #1 - April 2nd, 2007, 1:32 pm
    I spotted Carbon this weekend—mainly because, if you’re driving across 26th Street (near the tragedy that is Ricobene’s), you can’t not spot it. One of the two artists who worked on the building, Patrick Uranin, was putting the finishing touches on it when I drove by today.

    Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
    Image

    I’ll never not question the wisdom of opening up yet another Mexican fast food place in this city, particularly one so close to Pilsen. The chauffeur’s delayed response to my shrieking, “Stop the car! New taco! New taco!” notwithstanding, I was in the restaurant eating a Fire Grilled Steak Taco in minutes.

    Initial impressions? Decently gas-grilled (not charcoal, as the name heavily suggests) beef with fresh onion and cilantro, and a fair, fresh medium salsa. Not offensive, but certainly no competition for the beloved Lencho’s taco at Maxwell Street.

    I returned for lunch today to give it another shot. The chicken in the Tequila-Lime Marinated Fire Grilled Chicken taco had the tell-tale shade of “cooked earlier, reheated just for you” translucence to it, and bore a faint, sweet, chemical flavor. I’ve searched high and low in the neighborhood for a good, Baja-style fish taco, so I was fairly impressed to see the Tortilla Encrusted Fish on the menu. The lady at the counter said it’s tilapia, and “tortilla encrusted” on the premises. It had a nice, thick, crunch to it that pretty much wiped out any thought of the fish it encased. No shredded cabbage or creamy lime sauce, as promised in the menu description.

    Chicken Taco vs. Fish Taco
    Image

    They also have some promising-sounding seasonal salsas (mango avocado, black bean and papaya), but those weren’t on hand today. If the corn and pineapple salsa I sampled today is any indication, they’ll be fresh but very mild.

    Elote is on the menu, but it’s not the charred, crispy, slathered corn on the cob—it’s a side of creamed corn (“our signature Mexican corn hash) in a cotija—ish cheese/cream sauce with some chipotle or cayenne thrown. It lacked char and heat, but as “creamed corn”, not so bad.

    Elote a la Carbon
    Image

    I’ve saved the snarkiest bits for last, because I’m not usually the type to pick apart a new restaurant’s food creed. But this place kind of opens itself up to some mockery for the following “We pride ourselves on…” bullet-pointed notes on their take-out menu:

    * “Our name is pronounced Car-bone” and “Carbon means charcoal in Spanish”. It wouldn’t be quite as silly as it is if the restaurant actually used charcoal in any form, but it is. Silly, I mean. To spell it out so succinctly, and yet…

    * “Burritos and Tacos with emphasis on protein versus filler”

    * “Hand-made corn tortillas, prepared on premises”, which is menu-ese for “someone, somewhere else made these tortillas by hand, probably, but they were pulled out of a plastic bag and warmed up on a griddle by our very own employee.”

    Carbon
    300 W. 26th Street
    Chicago
    312.225.3200
  • Post #2 - April 2nd, 2007, 2:10 pm
    Post #2 - April 2nd, 2007, 2:10 pm Post #2 - April 2nd, 2007, 2:10 pm
    crrush,

    Thanks for taking one for the team.

    Got to admit, they made an investment in their exterior. Too bad you can't eat design.

    Very just of you to go back for seconds.

    Sincerely appreciate the warning.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #3 - April 2nd, 2007, 3:12 pm
    Post #3 - April 2nd, 2007, 3:12 pm Post #3 - April 2nd, 2007, 3:12 pm
    crrush wrote:* “Burritos and Tacos with emphasis on protein versus filler”

    It's those new armadillo shell tacos. :roll:
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #4 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:48 am
    Post #4 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:48 am Post #4 - April 3rd, 2007, 4:48 am
    crrush

    Thanks. You def saved me a trip here. I generally immed stop for new tacos al carbon, and am not far from this place.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #5 - April 3rd, 2007, 7:44 pm
    Post #5 - April 3rd, 2007, 7:44 pm Post #5 - April 3rd, 2007, 7:44 pm
    Thank god you can't eat design. If you could this place would poison you. I drive this stretch of 26th between Wentworth and Canal a couple times a week. For as long as I can remember -- at least a decade -- a mural of St. Jude (patron saint of lost causes) graced the wall over what is now Carbon. "St. Jude, pray for us, " implored the caption as the holy man looked mildly south over Bridgeport. I have no idea who put the mural there or why but I loved its weird beauty. It struck me as someone's sincere expression of despair mingled with hope and faith and superstition -- an emblem of much if what is great and odd in Catholicism (and in ethnic Chicago and in the human condition).

    And now we have a crappy restaurant and its stupid stylized logo. It's no surprise that folks with such a brutish aesthetic sensibilty can't make a decent taco. These people have wrecked a cool little corner of Chicago. It makes me angry and sad.
  • Post #6 - April 4th, 2007, 10:30 am
    Post #6 - April 4th, 2007, 10:30 am Post #6 - April 4th, 2007, 10:30 am
    edk wrote:... For as long as I can remember -- at least a decade -- a mural of St. Jude (patron saint of lost causes) graced the wall over what is now Carbon. "St. Jude, pray for us, " implored the caption as the holy man looked mildly south over Bridgeport. I have no idea who put the mural there or why but I loved its weird beauty. It struck me as someone's sincere expression of despair mingled with hope and faith and superstition -- an emblem of much if what is great and odd in Catholicism (and in ethnic Chicago and in the human condition).

    And now we have a crappy restaurant and its stupid stylized logo. It's no surprise that folks with such a brutish aesthetic sensibilty can't make a decent taco. These people have wrecked a cool little corner of Chicago. It makes me angry and sad.


    As one who has long been (by spells) devoted to Saint Jude, I'm especially sorry to have not seen the mural you describe,* though -- as I think your description indicates so clearly -- one need not have any direct connexion to such things to be able to appreciate them.

    Barbarians come in many guises; these days, a number of them dress as restaurateurs...

    Antonius

    *Anyone have a photo of the old mural? I'm not sure how I missed it but I did...
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #7 - April 4th, 2007, 10:56 am
    Post #7 - April 4th, 2007, 10:56 am Post #7 - April 4th, 2007, 10:56 am
    I've had the fish taco a few times last week.

    The fillet's dipped in crushed tortilla chips which is fried in-house. per crrush, indeed the tortilla, tho touted by the various signs as house-made, were obviously from El Milagro. the staff did promise they will start making their own. *who knows*

    my fish tacos did have shredded cabbage + the cilantro/onions + limey cream dressing everytime...
    Image

    the extremely lightly marinaded chicken breasts were cooked fresh as well...
    Image

    the salsas were all mild, from the verde to the pico de gallo... but they're all made in house:
    Image

    i like the fish tacos. i don't know why. it's hard to not like mealy fish coated with double-fried crunchy tortilla. and it's better than going to Ricobenes. at $2.25, the fish taco isn't a bad buy. i don't come here looking for al pastor or any exotics. it's within walking distance so i figured i'm excused. It's no Lenchos, it's not even Tito's Taqueria (on Blue Island), but them places don't have fried tilapia.
  • Post #8 - April 7th, 2007, 11:11 am
    Post #8 - April 7th, 2007, 11:11 am Post #8 - April 7th, 2007, 11:11 am
    TonyC wrote:it's better than going to Ricobenes.


    Maybe, but can you get breaded deep-fried carpet squares there like you can at Ricobene's?
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #9 - April 27th, 2007, 1:00 pm
    Post #9 - April 27th, 2007, 1:00 pm Post #9 - April 27th, 2007, 1:00 pm
    I was driving east on 26th street coming out of a viaduct (concrete cave) then traveling under a gray expressway....BAM! It was like something dropped out of amazing stories! The outside is weird and artistic, I liked it. It sorta looked like something for a music video. I quickly pulled to the curb and parked.

    Its like an oaisis in the cold concrete jungle. I walked in and immediately felt like I was in a good place. There was some good smelling cooking. I had to wait in what seemed like a short line but it turned out to be worth the wait. I asked the cashier what to get as this was my first time. she suggested i get the fish taco and some ellote. I sat at the copper counter and watched my order being prepared. kinda like watchin yur car go through the automatic car wash. the taco was only 2.25 and it was crunchy tortilla covered talapia!! i had onions cilantro cabbage and lime sauce. it was the STUFF!!! cool taco joynt, out of place should be on north avenue. a jewel! I ate at the copper bar on cool square plates. all in all i was there 20 minutes and it cost 5 bucks. i will be back
  • Post #10 - April 27th, 2007, 1:31 pm
    Post #10 - April 27th, 2007, 1:31 pm Post #10 - April 27th, 2007, 1:31 pm
    edk wrote:For as long as I can remember -- at least a decade -- a mural of St. Jude (patron saint of lost causes) graced the wall over what is now Carbon. "St. Jude, pray for us, " implored the caption as the holy man looked mildly south over Bridgeport.


    I missed this exchange. I had no idea there was a St. Jude mural underneath. That is kinda sad, although I can't hold it against the artist who painted over it. I think it looks kinda cool. Not that St. Jude isn't. You know. Cool.

    I'm still not sold on the food, but I might give it a third and final try.
  • Post #11 - July 10th, 2007, 6:03 pm
    Post #11 - July 10th, 2007, 6:03 pm Post #11 - July 10th, 2007, 6:03 pm
    edk wrote:...folks with such a brutish aesthetic sensibilty...


    Antonius wrote:*Anyone have a photo of the old mural? I'm not sure how I missed it but I did...


    Image

    The artist with the brutish aesthetic sensibility got in touch and asked me to post the picture of the St. Jude mural. :) Awfully nice of him, I thought, and interesting to see the various ways people reach LTH.
  • Post #12 - July 11th, 2007, 2:20 pm
    Post #12 - July 11th, 2007, 2:20 pm Post #12 - July 11th, 2007, 2:20 pm
    That is where the old Hungry Hound used to be, and I have spent a lot of time at the Hungry Hound, but I never paid much attention to the mural, I actually always thought that he was the hungry hound, and he was holding a hot dog!
  • Post #13 - May 11th, 2008, 2:31 pm
    Post #13 - May 11th, 2008, 2:31 pm Post #13 - May 11th, 2008, 2:31 pm
    Actually my great grandfather was the one to have the mural or saint jude put up. Its a major disappointment that a rather ugly painting was put up over ours. thanks for a picture of the old mural btw.
    crrush wrote:
    edk wrote:...folks with such a brutish aesthetic sensibilty...


    Antonius wrote:*Anyone have a photo of the old mural? I'm not sure how I missed it but I did...




    Image



    The artist with the brutish aesthetic sensibility got in touch and asked me to post the picture of the St. Jude mural. :) Awfully nice of him, I thought, and interesting to see the various ways people reach LTH.
    crrush wrote:
    edk wrote:...folks with such a brutish aesthetic sensibilty...


    Antonius wrote:*Anyone have a photo of the old mural? I'm not sure how I missed it but I did...




    Image



    The artist with the brutish aesthetic sensibility got in touch and asked me to post the picture of the St. Jude mural. :) Awfully nice of him, I thought, and interesting to see the various ways people reach LTH.
  • Post #14 - February 27th, 2009, 7:19 am
    Post #14 - February 27th, 2009, 7:19 am Post #14 - February 27th, 2009, 7:19 am
    Several months ago i got a flyer menu for this place. Said they delivered and sometimes I want Mexican without any movement involved. Having just overcome a taco-stand, street taco addiction, I'm trying to cut back a little and health up my options.

    Since that day, I have ordered from Carbon almost a dozen times. Their menu is very simple: steak, corn-flake battered fish, marinated grilled chicken, or grilled veggies in either burrito or taco on flour or corn. I've had all of em'. The grilled asada is flank steak I believe and it comes to my door step not only hot, but perfectly charred with a nice medium-well temp. One time the steak was a little chewy, and was probably sitting in a foodwarmer, but I chalked it up as a fluke. Not much of a burrito guy usually, but for the money, they stuff the shit out of that thing with steak, onions and cilantro. Cheese (nah) and Sour Cream (sometimes) are available as well. Tons of homemade salsas as well.

    The chicken is always perfectly tender with a nice fruity brined/marinated quality. Never dry or cartilagey..

    The fish, even delivered, holds up well and is nice and cripsy. I only get those in taco form, baja style with the creamy lime dressing and cabbage. Best fish tacos I've had outside so.cal and ensenada. Usually get a side of these with my burrito. I'm a pig., but can't not have the fish tacos.

    There Guac is under seasoned and gives me brutal burps, so I stay away and just order a big bag of half corn/half fresh fried flour chips with an assortment of their salsas. Their corn pinapple salsa is very good when it's fresh. The flour chips are greasy and comforting and a must. Their Elote is passable, and their brownie and lemon bar are decent if you just want easy sweets

    The people on the phone, the managers and the delivery guy are cordial and informed. This is the only delivery, "fast food" type place i've actually called after eating and complimented them on a job well done. (Haven't dined in yet, because if I'm going out for mexican, then....well... ) One time one of the daughters delivered the food, and the name Ricobene came up on my caller id. Turns out one of the Ricobene's broke off and opened this joint. From what she was telling me, it sounded like a classic Chicago family fast food feud. Love it.

    I really do love this place for fresh, delivered, mexican "fast-food". It destroys garbage joints like Chipotle and Baja Fresh. x

    I stand behind their product and service and don't mind giving them 18 bucks for a meal for two.



    Carbon
    300 W 26th St
    (between Calumet Ave & I-90)
    Chicago, IL 60616
    (312) 225-3200
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  • Post #15 - February 27th, 2009, 7:31 am
    Post #15 - February 27th, 2009, 7:31 am Post #15 - February 27th, 2009, 7:31 am
    cheffjeff wrote:It destroys garbage joints like Chipotle and Baja Fresh.

    Carbon
    300 W 26th St
    (between Calumet Ave & I-90)
    Chicago, IL 60616
    (312) 225-3200


    I HOPE I know what you were trying to convey here, but that was hardly a compliment.

    Thanks for the heads up, I'm gonna check it out for sure. Is it possible they use SKIRT steak, and not FLANK?
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #16 - February 27th, 2009, 7:34 am
    Post #16 - February 27th, 2009, 7:34 am Post #16 - February 27th, 2009, 7:34 am
    you are correct. definitely skirt...

    so early, newborn baby, thinking hard..
    New Episodes of Sandwich King Premier 1/5/14 @ 10am!
    Brand new Talk Show "The Kitchen" premiers 1/4/14 @ 10am!
    twitter: @jeffmauro
    Facebook
  • Post #17 - September 19th, 2009, 9:51 pm
    Post #17 - September 19th, 2009, 9:51 pm Post #17 - September 19th, 2009, 9:51 pm
    I had lunch at Carbon today. My virgin trip after hearing wonderful, out-of-this-world praise from a trusted reviewer/friend of mine. Oh boy did it live up to the hype.

    I got a steak taco, a fish taco, a side of elote "hash," and an "authentic" horchata to drink. It was a nice, warm day, so this was perfect, much-needed refreshment. The steak was SO buttery and tender, yet with a pleasant smoky char. The fish taco was even more of a winner for me. The flavor of crushed tortillas in the crust brought me back to memories of lake-side fish fries (we would dredge perch in cornmeal and fry, fry, fry...), all that yummy corn flavor! Though I admittedly couldn't detect much tilapia (they could very well have used gold fish and I would have devoured it), the nostalgic and comforting flavor of hot and crunchy corn-coated fish was one giant foodgasm -- wrapped in a flour tortilla. In both cases, it was all about the proteins. The steak was served simple enough, as it should be. But I found myself scooping out an unnecessary amount of cabbage off the fish. Who wants all that?

    I find it amusing that they refer to their elote as a "signature hash." Really? Had they sold it as creamed corn, it would have gone down a lot smoother. There really was no Parm, lime action in the cup o' corn. Nonetheless, I'm a corn lover, so it was nice to have alongside.

    Be back REAL soon.

    -M@
    Twitter: @Mattsland
  • Post #18 - September 19th, 2009, 11:09 pm
    Post #18 - September 19th, 2009, 11:09 pm Post #18 - September 19th, 2009, 11:09 pm
    The fish tacos at Carbon in March are still near the top of my list of worst items consumed this year, part of an unforgivable late winter meal of poor ventilation, incorrect serving temperatures, and surly service. It's been six months so I'll give 'em another shot in light of this report.
  • Post #19 - November 22nd, 2009, 7:38 pm
    Post #19 - November 22nd, 2009, 7:38 pm Post #19 - November 22nd, 2009, 7:38 pm
    GinaO wrote:That is where the old Hungry Hound used to be, and I have spent a lot of time at the Hungry Hound, but I never paid much attention to the mural, I actually always thought that he was the hungry hound, and he was holding a hot dog!

    There was distinctive artwork inside the Hungry Hound as well. Here's an excerpt from Hot Dog Chicago: A Native's Dining Guide (1983).

    Professors Bowen and Fay wrote:Indigenous artwork consists of a painting of a boy, sprawled on his stomach crying his eyes out. And the boy is being straddled by a huge Hound of the Baskervilles who cradles in his mouth a fully-dressed, Chicago-style hot dog. It's a hungry hound indeed who will take hot dogs out of the mouths of babes.
  • Post #20 - January 9th, 2011, 9:11 pm
    Post #20 - January 9th, 2011, 9:11 pm Post #20 - January 9th, 2011, 9:11 pm
    Drove by a new location of Carbon tonight at Marshfield and Chicago, just west of the Kennedy.

    This is the same group that has Carbon on 26th Street. i love that place and love that it is now coming to West Town. cannot wait! They have the best, authentic tacos in Chicago....steak is great, the fish taco is the best anywhere. Value is great as tacos are only $2.50 each.

    Watch out Big Star. Not as fancy or big name chef, just better food!
  • Post #21 - January 10th, 2011, 9:17 am
    Post #21 - January 10th, 2011, 9:17 am Post #21 - January 10th, 2011, 9:17 am
    Sniff, sniff!

    Anyway, some thoughts on Carbon on 26th here.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #22 - January 10th, 2011, 9:29 am
    Post #22 - January 10th, 2011, 9:29 am Post #22 - January 10th, 2011, 9:29 am
    restaurantgolfer wrote:Value is great as tacos are only $2.50 each.


    That places them among the most expensive tacos in town.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food

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