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Taco Chino - Kimchi Tacos [Pictures]

Taco Chino - Kimchi Tacos [Pictures]
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  • Taco Chino - Kimchi Tacos [Pictures]

    Post #1 - June 15th, 2010, 7:43 pm
    Post #1 - June 15th, 2010, 7:43 pm Post #1 - June 15th, 2010, 7:43 pm
    LTH,

    Mike Sula blogged about Taco Chino's kimchi tacos, sounded tasty so off I went.

    Image

    Seems to be my week for multicultural Korean, kimchi burger at bobNGrill and today's kimchi taco.

    Years of fad fusion disappointment have tempered expectations so I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked both the Kimchi Taco and Taco Koreano, soy sauce marinated beef with a hit of Korean red pepper. Tacos are garnished with onion and cilantro accompanied by squeeze bottles of salsa verde and punchy habanero salsa.

    Kimchee Taco, Taco Koreano
    Image

    We chatted with owner Steve Lee, a contractor who got the idea of opening a taco stand after being disappointed in spice level and general decor of the taco stands he went for lunch with his employees, he specifically mentioned bathrooms. While I did not check out the bathroom, the restaurant is spacious, spotless with a mildly 'franchise' feel, though there is only one Taco Chino at present.

    Cynthia (cashier), Steve Lee (Owner)

    Image

    We started chatting about our love of hot food, Steve mentioned he could amp up the spice level of his wings, "bring it on, a handshake if you can make me cry" While Taco Chino's hot (hot/hot) were not as searingly volcanic as the time I challenged Great Sea, they were plenty damn hot, just a notch below my overall tolerance.

    Extra Hot Wings

    Image

    Image

    Unless one is looking for straight up hot spice for hot spice sake I would not suggest the extra hot wings at Taco Chino, the blast of heat obviated flavor in what I am sure, normally, is a tasty balanced product. I'd also venture unless one chatted up owner Steve Lee they would not get the same full-on heat level.

    Korean/Mexican may be the draw, but I am guessing there is a cook in the background who knows his way around a comal, there are a number of combo plates, soups, chilaquiles, tripe, chorizo, tongue tacos, tortas and weekend specials.

    There is a window sign noting Bizarre Foods filmed at Taco Chino, Sula and Andrew Zimmern stopped for kimchi tacos.

    Nice find Mr. Sula, Taco Chino, count me a fan.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Taco Chino
    4712 N Kimball
    Chicago, IL 60625
    773-866-1530
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - June 16th, 2010, 7:31 am
    Post #2 - June 16th, 2010, 7:31 am Post #2 - June 16th, 2010, 7:31 am
    looks great G WIV , :mrgreen:
    i will have to try it thanks for the post
    philw bbq cbj for kcbs &M.I.M. carolina pit masters
  • Post #3 - June 16th, 2010, 10:42 am
    Post #3 - June 16th, 2010, 10:42 am Post #3 - June 16th, 2010, 10:42 am
    Apparently the super hot wings are meant for the "Wing Challenge". Here's a conversation I had to try and get extra hot wings:

    Me: I'd like an order of the extra hot wings.
    Cash Register Girl: Did you want to take the wing challenge?
    Me: No thanks, I just wanted to try the wings.
    CRG: (confusion) Um, hold on a second. (disappears to the back, brings back Steve Lee)
    Steve Lee: So you wanted to take the wing challenge?
    Me: No, just wanted to try your hottest wings.
    SL: Are you sure? They're really hot.
    Me: That's okay, I just wanted to try them.
    SL: Do you want to taste the sauce first?
    Me: No that's okay, I'll just try it on the wings.
    SL:...
    Me: Okay, I'll taste the sauce.

    After all that, how were the wings? Pretty good for wings that are intended to be really hot. They had a flowery, islandy flavor I associate with Bahamas hot sauce (scotch bonnet?). And of course, they were really spicy.

    mike
    Stickin' together is what good waffles do!
  • Post #4 - June 16th, 2010, 11:08 am
    Post #4 - June 16th, 2010, 11:08 am Post #4 - June 16th, 2010, 11:08 am
    I've been staring at it every day while exiting the Brown Line train wondering what they were about. I'll have to stop in now.
  • Post #5 - June 16th, 2010, 11:14 am
    Post #5 - June 16th, 2010, 11:14 am Post #5 - June 16th, 2010, 11:14 am
    So annoyed...

    Didn't realize what the Kimchi Taco was, or that they had it on their menu. When i went they only had the sign for the Taco Koreano, which was fine. But the Kimchi Taco looks more up my alley. Think I'll grab one tonight. Glad to see more interesting spots opening in my area.
  • Post #6 - June 16th, 2010, 3:14 pm
    Post #6 - June 16th, 2010, 3:14 pm Post #6 - June 16th, 2010, 3:14 pm
    What exactly is in the kimchi taco? Your choice of meat with kimchi and fixin's or just kimchi? Inquiring minds want to know. Thx.
  • Post #7 - June 16th, 2010, 3:58 pm
    Post #7 - June 16th, 2010, 3:58 pm Post #7 - June 16th, 2010, 3:58 pm
    porklet wrote:What exactly is in the kimchi taco? Your choice of meat with kimchi and fixin's or just kimchi? Inquiring minds want to know. Thx.


    It's a pork (I hesitate to say al pastor, because it's different) taco topped with kimchi. I thought it was very good.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - June 23rd, 2010, 5:05 am
    Post #8 - June 23rd, 2010, 5:05 am Post #8 - June 23rd, 2010, 5:05 am
    G Wiv wrote:Years of fad fusion disappointment have tempered expectations so I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked both the Kimchi Taco and Taco Koreano, soy sauce marinated beef with a hit of Korean red pepper.
    Second visit kimchi and koreano tacos viewed sans prism of novelty, realized I had a new taco joint in my regular rotation.

    Koreano Taco, Kimchi Taco

    Image

    Koreano Taco

    Image

    Kimchi Taco

    Image

    Split an order of fresh flavored pico de gallo, nice serrano pop good supply of chips, Taco Chino charges $2.90 for pico and chips. Fair I suppose, though given the reasonable pricing on the rest of the menu, and the fact most places don't charge for chips and salsa, seems incongruous.

    Pico de Gallo

    Image

    Taco Chino summer hours: 8am to 11:30pm

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #9 - June 23rd, 2010, 11:30 am
    Post #9 - June 23rd, 2010, 11:30 am Post #9 - June 23rd, 2010, 11:30 am
    I'm not really a fan of their Al Pastor. But, don't say I didn't warn you.


    The Koreano and Kimchi Tacos are great. I can't wait to try the Bulgogi taco, which he hopes to have out soon.
  • Post #10 - June 23rd, 2010, 2:56 pm
    Post #10 - June 23rd, 2010, 2:56 pm Post #10 - June 23rd, 2010, 2:56 pm
    Thanks for the tip on this place. I was in the neighborhood and hungry at 9AM. I stopped in for a fairly good chilaquiles verde. HUGE plate for $5, pleasant service from Cynthia. The chilaquiles were very spicy and tasty, with nice dollops of beans and rice on the side, and abundant hunks of chicken. I hung out and worked on my laptop for a while. The background music made me laugh-- it was some crazy medley of classic rock. While I was there, they played the entirety of Inna Gadda Da Vita, plus a few other classic chestnuts.

    I can't wait to try the kimchi taco.

    Jen
  • Post #11 - June 23rd, 2010, 3:05 pm
    Post #11 - June 23rd, 2010, 3:05 pm Post #11 - June 23rd, 2010, 3:05 pm
    I guess I'm the first dissenter here.

    I was a visitor to Taco Chino not long after they opened and I do not think the Korean-style tacos were yet available. The standard tacos I tasted were uninteresting and I shrugged the place off as a "middle of the pack" taqueria in a neighborhood full of taquerias.

    I returned today to try both of these Korean tacos, kimchi and Koreano, as well as the wings, and I'm not sure I'll be back. The kimchi taco is a nice idea. I like the idea of having something crispy, vinegary, and spicy on a taco and it wasn't bad at all. Still, I can't imagine sending anyone there to try it for any other reason than the novelty.

    The Koreano tasted of so-so meat and so-so sauce. What flavor it did have I didn't find pleasing at all. Beyond that, the wings were a C- version of bar wings with a sriracha-like sauce. Nothing I'd ever order again.

    I could see myself getting a kimchi taco again, but only because I live less than a mile away. I can't imagine recommending this place to anyone over and above some of the excellent, exotic tacos you can get within blocks of this place.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #12 - June 24th, 2010, 8:26 am
    Post #12 - June 24th, 2010, 8:26 am Post #12 - June 24th, 2010, 8:26 am
    underwhelmed.

    After excitedly reading about Taco Chino, and their fusion concept, I thought I'd give them a try.
    I ordered some Kimchi Tacos, and Al Pastor tacos, Beef Taco and Chicken Wings and a Agua de Jamaica (dried hibiscus flower infused water).
    Nothing was anything worth returning for- especially the "service".

    At many small food establishments there are some communication gaps, but here, it was more like a chasm.
    The girl at the register couldnt grasp my Spanish. When I reverted to English- she had trouble there as well.
    After paying and waiting for our order to appear- I watched as four other patrons in line behind me- received their orders and
    were on there way. Good thing I had another lth-er at a table behind us to chat up- to distract me from a 20 minute wait.

    After enquiring why that 4 other patrons had gotten their food before ME, the girl tried to expalin that the Kimchi tacos take time cause
    they are "made to your order"- well- shouldn't ALL of my order be made that way?
    After another long 5 minute wait- most of our order appeared. (the Chicken Wings appeared 5 minutes after that)
    The flavor of the much heralded Kimchi Taco was underwhelming at best.
    The corn tortillas were fresh enough (2 per taco) but the Kimchi was not as tart as any Korean restaurant- almost "lynched" of
    any aged funk- to "Americanize" it is my best hunch. The quantity of filling was stingy to average at best.
    The Al Pastor- well- yes- the comments a few upstream shoulda warned me- but not only was it not spit roasted Al Pastor-
    it was a mushy over sauced mess of a griddled version of Al Pastor.
    Had the Jaimaica water been less diluted- I might have found it worth drinking.
    The Chicken Wings were first basket fried and enorobed in a Sirracha sauce, barely edible.

    Upon leaving a Mexican patron (who was about # 5 after me) was attempting to express
    his dissatisfaction with his order to the girl at the counter-
    she in turn called up the cook to the counter. His words and gestures (the cook) were defensive (not soothing or accommodating)
    and angered the patron -
    - to the point of his (the not happy patron) dramatically throwing his basket of 1/2 eaten food into the trash- basket and all-
    rather than have a go round to attempt to make it right.
    Had I been in my "Drama Queen" mode- I'da certainly felt like doing the same.

    The only "fusion" item on the menu is The Kimchi taco- the Chino [quote][/quote]part of the name is sorely a front.
    The only fusion going on in this place in some confusion
  • Post #13 - June 24th, 2010, 9:50 am
    Post #13 - June 24th, 2010, 9:50 am Post #13 - June 24th, 2010, 9:50 am
    Yeah, what surprised me was that after such a wait-- though mine wasn't as long as yours seemed to be-- the meat didn't come out seeming like it was fresh off the grill. That was the thing that hurt all three of the things I tried-- the meat was bland and mushy and had none of the crispiness of fresh-griddled tacos like you can get at plenty of other places even within walking distance (or, to be fair, as is visible in GWiv's picture above). It could as easily have been dished up from a holding bin, though it obviously wasn't, just by the time it took.

    The kimchi taco was all right, but the Korean taco just tasted like mall Chinese food, meat and soy sauce and green pepper, and a standard carne asada taco was simply flavorless. They need to go spend a lunch hour watching them make tacos at Las Asadas or Los Potrillos or somewhere; meat on a taco tastes good when you salt it, and when it comes off sizzling and crispy around the edges. Also, when it takes about a minute to make, not 20; whatever's taking all that extra time isn't helping.
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  • Post #14 - June 24th, 2010, 12:06 pm
    Post #14 - June 24th, 2010, 12:06 pm Post #14 - June 24th, 2010, 12:06 pm
    Can any of you please recommend some Taco places close to Taco Chino that are worth trying instead? Especially ones that serve Spit Roasted Al Pastor?

    Thanks in advance!
  • Post #15 - June 24th, 2010, 12:12 pm
    Post #15 - June 24th, 2010, 12:12 pm Post #15 - June 24th, 2010, 12:12 pm
    Mike Sula, Gwiv, and Michael Nagrant on the way up; eatchicago and Mike G on the way down. I don't know who's right, but that was a surprisingly short arc.
    "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
  • Post #16 - June 24th, 2010, 12:13 pm
    Post #16 - June 24th, 2010, 12:13 pm Post #16 - June 24th, 2010, 12:13 pm
    Katie wrote:Mike Sula, Gwiv, and Michael Nagrant on the way up; eatchicago and Mike G on the way down. I don't know who's right, but that was a surprisingly short arc.


    Taste is relative so everybody's right. (But I'm a little more right). ;)
  • Post #17 - June 24th, 2010, 12:18 pm
    Post #17 - June 24th, 2010, 12:18 pm Post #17 - June 24th, 2010, 12:18 pm
    Or, it may just be that things came out well one day and poorly the next-- and as noted, GWiv's photo looks a lot more appetizing than anything I was served.

    Can any of you please recommend some Taco places close to Taco Chino that are worth trying instead? Especially ones that serve Spit Roasted Al Pastor?


    I wish it was as easy as reeling off spit-roasted pastor places in every neighborhood. For that, you're going to have to go somewhere like Tierra Caliente or Taqueria Ricardo.

    For other kinds of tacos, this thread is full of them in the area.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
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  • Post #18 - June 24th, 2010, 12:49 pm
    Post #18 - June 24th, 2010, 12:49 pm Post #18 - June 24th, 2010, 12:49 pm
    Nice... will definitely have to try San Matias. Thanks for the thread link. I've tried Los Faroles and have had pretty good Pollo en Mole Enchiladas there.
  • Post #19 - June 24th, 2010, 2:06 pm
    Post #19 - June 24th, 2010, 2:06 pm Post #19 - June 24th, 2010, 2:06 pm
    Mike G wrote:Or, it may just be that things came out well one day and poorly the next-- and as noted, GWiv's photo looks a lot more appetizing than anything I was served.

    Can any of you please recommend some Taco places close to Taco Chino that are worth trying instead? Especially ones that serve Spit Roasted Al Pastor?


    I wish it was as easy as reeling off spit-roasted pastor places in every neighborhood. For that, you're going to have to go somewhere like Tierra Caliente or Taqueria Ricardo.


    San Matias and Santa Rita in that hood both have spit-roasted pastor. Probably others too No need to travel to Caliente or Ricardo.
    ...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
  • Post #20 - June 24th, 2010, 2:33 pm
    Post #20 - June 24th, 2010, 2:33 pm Post #20 - June 24th, 2010, 2:33 pm
    Mike G wrote:Or, it may just be that things came out well one day and poorly the next-- and as noted, GWiv's photo looks a lot more appetizing than anything I was served.

    Can any of you please recommend some Taco places close to Taco Chino that are worth trying instead? Especially ones that serve Spit Roasted Al Pastor?


    I wish it was as easy as reeling off spit-roasted pastor places in every neighborhood. For that, you're going to have to go somewhere like Tierra Caliente or Taqueria Ricardo.

    For other kinds of tacos, this thread is full of them in the area.


    Mike, am I reading the signage in your Taqueria Ricardo correctly in that they have tortillas al mano? that with their carne asada or pastor would be delicious...
  • Post #21 - June 24th, 2010, 2:56 pm
    Post #21 - June 24th, 2010, 2:56 pm Post #21 - June 24th, 2010, 2:56 pm
    I honestly don't remember if the tortillas were really handmade or not. The fact that I don't remember would seem to suggest they aren't...

    Kennyz-- right, I forgot, we went to Matias the one (supposedly) time it wasn't fired up. I didn't remember that Santa Rita actually had real pastor, I thought I looked for the cone and didn't see it. But I haven't been there in a long time, so maybe it was added since then, or even, heaven forfend, my memory is faulty; I see that there are posts where people clearly saw it in action (a pastor cone, not my brain).
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #22 - July 29th, 2010, 11:38 am
    Post #22 - July 29th, 2010, 11:38 am Post #22 - July 29th, 2010, 11:38 am
    Taco Chino mentioned in NYT article on nationwide trend of Korean-style tacos.
  • Post #23 - July 29th, 2010, 4:12 pm
    Post #23 - July 29th, 2010, 4:12 pm Post #23 - July 29th, 2010, 4:12 pm
    Mike G wrote: I didn't remember that Santa Rita actually had real pastor, I thought I looked for the cone and didn't see it. But I haven't been there in a long time, so maybe it was added since then, or even, heaven forfend, my memory is faulty; I see that there are posts where people clearly saw it in action (a pastor cone, not my brain).


    When it gets nearer to closing time they take down the spit - how near varies quite a bit, in my experience, and may be tied to how busy they are or the phase of the moon. So it's entirely possible that they were spit-less on the visit you recall.
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.

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