I may be partial, but brunch in Chicago is the best. No matter what cuisine, atmosphere, or location you’re looking for in a brunch spot, you can find it here. And sometimes, a diamond in the rough appears out of nowhere, and blows your expectations out of the water.
Taco Joint, a small, authentic Mexican street food restaurant, decided to test the brunch waters and offered a brunch deal on Groupon. Taco Joint was met with such a great response that Taco Joint’s brunch service is here to stay for good.
Taco Joint has two locations in the city—one in River North and one in Lincoln Park. I was thrilled when the Bitches were invited to brunch at Taco Joint, and was even happier to share it with my friend Christine who was visiting from out of town—there’s nothing like treating out-of-town friends to a complimentary brunch.
Christine, one of my nearest and dearest friends, is currently at graduate school at my alma mater (HOO HOO HOO! HOOSIERS) and she came into town to visit me over Labor Day weekend. The long weekend offered us the opportunity to catch up, meander around Chicago, and try this brand-spankin’-new brunch.
After a busy morning, Christine and I arrived at the River North location around 1:30 p.m. for a late afternoon brunch—not being a morning person, this time is ideal for brunch. The sunny weather made for a steaming hot patio, that is not shielded by umbrellas. Side note, for the remainder of patio season, make sure to bring your sunblock.
Initially, Christine and I were seated inside, at a high top table along the edge of the restaurant. The lighting in the restaurant is dim, and the decor is eclectic but dark. The retractable door to the front of the restaurant afforded us a significant amount of light, but not enough for photos. As I began snapping photos of the interior, I knew Christine and I needed to brave the heat on the patio to snap photos of our food. So, we gathered our things and made our way to the patio with its unrelenting sunshine.
The blazing heat meant one thing: we needed to partake in the bottomless brunch option to ensure we stayed hydrated—or at least, that’s what I told myself. But perhaps in the future, Taco Joint could invest in some sort of umbrella or awning for the patio next season.
To start the bottomless beverage service, I ordered a Bloody Maria and Christine opted for a mango passion margarita on the rocks. My Bloody Maria was spicy and potent with chili pepper dusted on the rim, and Christine’s margarita was freshly squeezed, and had a nice salty rim. While the presentation of the beverages was simple, the drinks themselves set this brunch up to a great start.
Another aspect to this brunch that set it apart from others was the service. Our waiter was knowledgeable, kind, and offered a variety of suggestions to make our brunch experience the best it could be. He was also helpful when it came to my allergies, and was sure to check on everything to ensure I had a “soy-free day”—I liked, and appreciated, his attention to detail!
Both Christine and I were craving savory entrees, but wanted to make sure that we gave a sweet entree a taste, too! The food came out quickly, but that’s part of the deal with Taco Joint—delicious street-style Mexican fare that comes out fast and hot.
Christine ordered the chicken chilaquiles with pulled chicken, black beans, salsa, a fried egg, and hash browns on the side. The chilaquiles looked delicious—a simple presentation, with dashes of cilantro and jalapeno peppers atop the perfectly fried egg.
The pulled chicken was flavorful, and went well with the hand-made fried, and crispy tortillas within the dish. I asked Christine if she would order it again, and while she said yes, she also said she would want to try other dishes since this one was so delicious!
Being that we were at a taco joint (pun intended) I decided to order the taco platter, which came with my choice of three types of tacos, Mexican rice, and black beans on the side. I decided to try the ceviche taco, rajas taco, and the al pastor taco.
The tacos were delicious, and all of them different yet delectable. Of the three, I enjoyed the al pastor the most, with its tangy salsa, pickled onions, and grilled pineapple—it was the perfect combination of sweet and spicy.
Next up to share were the sweet carnitas pancakes; three buttermilk pancakes with pulled pork, and a hash brown on the side. To keep with the taco theme, I found it easiest to tackle this entree by eating this dish as if the pancake was a tortilla.
I was stunned by how much I loved these pancakes. They were, may I say, a bit to wrap my head around upon arriving to the table. But, once I tried a bite, I was hooked. The pancakes were fluffy, yet held together well. The pulled pork contents were flavorful and plentiful. The hash brown was also delicious, adding a nice salty, buttery, fried finish to the entree.
As Christine and I baked in the sunshine, we ordered another round of beverages. Christine decided to try the red sangria, and I opted for a frozen hibiscus prickly pear margarita. My margarita was incredible! Honestly, I had had a prickly pear beverage before, and I didn’t love it. I went out on a limb for this one, since our waiter raved about it so much, and I couldn’t of been happier with my choice. If you like margs, and enjoy a fruity take on the classic, try the hibiscus prickly pear—you won’t regret it!
Christine remarked that her simple red sangria was the best way for her to end her brunch—flavorful, and potent.
Taco Joint was a spot that I was a bit apprehensive about when first opting to try the brunch, but this turned out to be one of the best brunches I’ve had this year. The dishes were simple, flavorful, and quick to arrive at the table.
The Bitches say: A. Besides the intensely hot patio, this was a picture perfect brunch. Everything we tried at this brunch was delicious, and for a brand new brunch of 2016, this is a top-contender to make our Best Bites of 2016. Bravo, Taco Joint!
Taco Joint River North
158 W. Ontario
Chicago, IL 60654
Taco Joint serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.