Image from Big Star
Paul Kahan, of Blackbird, Avec, and the Publican fame, seems to have some pretty awesome friends. Kahan, Justin Large (formerly of Avec), and Michael Rubel (the genius behind the Violet Hour), joined forces to open Big Star, a "honky-tonk taco shack" in Wicker Park.
The location was previously home to the hipster-haven Pontiac Cafe, converted from a gas station and loved for its great outdoor patio.
Big Star has maintained the fantastic patio but with a mix of tables and barrels for smaller groups. No frills decor. No website. No credit cards. Just good tacos, whiskey, beer, and margaritas. At reasonably low prices.
Boasting wait times average 1.5-2 hours, Big Star has quite the following.
On a Monday night, there was still a wait, but significantly less than on the weekends. We snagged seats at the bar and fearing rain, we decided to eat at the bar rather than wait for a table outside.
We ordered ridiculously good guacamole with hot, freshly made chips ($5), queso fundido with warm tortillas ($8), and tacos for all ($3 each).
Oh. My. Goodness. Those tacos were SO good!
The vegetarian tacos were smoky rajas poblano and onions with a strip of fried cheese (queso para freir) wrapped in a warm homemade tortilla. It was so fingerlickin' good that we ordered more for the table.
To drink, the menu showcases a number of whiskeys, bourbons, beers, and margaritas. I had the Big Star margarita which has mezclan so it was smokier than a classic margarita. I was impressed to see Michelada on the menu- tecate, salsa, lime, and a salted rim. It was great!
Our server was a bit slow and forget to bring the beer from the tap to the person who ordered it more than a couple times. But she was nice enough given the crowd.
Not ready for the night to end, we made our way around the corner to Piece for New Haven style pizza and in-house brewed beer. If you aren't familiar with New Haven style pizza, it has plenty of red sauce, extra parmesan, garlic, and olive oil on a thin crispy crust (no mozzarella).
We had the Golden Arm, a German-style Kolsch beer, won the 2004 Bronze at the World Cup Beer competition. The beer names had a certain, ahem, theme: Top Heavy, Dark & Curvy, Full Frontal, and Fornicator... Not sure what's going on with the naming of the beers at Piece, but they seem to win quite a few awards.
It was a fun low-key night spent with friends!
1531 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60622
1927 W. North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622