Another Texas-based restaurant concept (III Forks, Max’s Wine Dive, Cantina Laredo, etc.) has entered the Chicago market, and this time, the Lone Star State has sent some pretty fabulous and unique tacos to the Windy City, differentiating itself from the other taco joints around town.
Located in the Gold Coast, and in a former Subway sandwich shop, Velvet Taco is a two-story counter-service restaurant, serving tacos on house made tortillas, local craft beers, and house made margaritas. All of the sodas offered at Velvet Taco are made with pure cane sugar, rather than corn syrup, and two worthy side dishes and a delectable red velvet cake are also served. Seating is downstairs on the main level, and upstairs in the more expansive dining room overlooking Rush Street. In warmer months, the street facing windows slide open to allow for semi-al fresco dining.
The menu is broken down by the type of protein or filling, and include, chicken, pork, beef, fish, egg, and vegetarian options. Tacos range in price from $3.50 to $6.75 each, and any taco can be modified to suit diners’ tastes and dietary preferences, including a choice of corn or flour tortilla, or a lettuce wrap. Fillings are exceptionally flavorful and often spicy, and include crisp tikka chicken, fried paneer, fish n’ chips, and grilled flank steak. Servers are more than willing to make recommendations and to guide guests through the somewhat overwhelming options.
On my recent visit, my Sister-in-Law and I started with the house made margarita, which is house made using sorbet, and is served frozen like a slushy. It was delicious, strong, and went down a bit too easily. It will make the perfect summer drink.
We then shared the absolutely outstanding crisp tots and local egg – perfectly cooked tater tots topped with herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, a spicy avocado crema, and a wonderfully fried egg. I loved the spiciness of the crema, and the crispy tots nicely soaked up the runny yolk, without becoming soggy. Velvet Taco has late-night hours, and these tots are sure to become a post-bar staple.
After perusing the menu, I decided to order two tacos – the falafel and the Mediterranean calamari. The falafel is served with two house made falafel patties, tahini crema, arugula, tomato, avocado, red onion, and pea tendrils, all inside a lettuce wrap. This taco was definitely of the fork and knife variety, as the thin lettuce wrap did not hold up to the amount of ingredients within it. Nonetheless, the flavors were spicy and delicious. This taco makes an excellent vegetarian option.
The Mediterranean calamari taco, however, was my favorite. The calamari were lightly coated with tapioca dust, as well as feta cheese, a light Greek salad, tzatziki sauce, and Kalamata olive tapenade. This taco is typically served in a flour tortilla, but I opted for the lighter lettuce wrap (though the photo, below, is of the flour tortilla version), and it suited this taco perfectly, as the flour tortilla may have gotten a bit soggy from the filling. I really enjoyed the flavors of this taco.
Kate opted for the WTF, or Weekly Taco Feature, which on our visit was essentially a lobster roll in taco form – Maine lobster salad, with arugula, avocado, tomato, and micro celery leaves, piled into a house made flour tortilla. Kate thought that the lobster was covered in too much mayonnaise, and that the tortilla was too cold and chewy. While she was happy that she tried it, it was a miss for her.
She also ordered the Annatto shredded pork taco, with more of that glorious avocado crema, grilled pineapple, pickled onion, queso fresco, cilantro, and a corn tortilla. Kate enjoyed this taco much more, and really liked the flavors, but once again her tortilla was a bit cold; perhaps because we were busy chatting rather than eating!
We were too full to try the house made red velvet cake, but will be sure to return to give it a go, in addition to more of the other taco offerings. Right now, Velvet Taco is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week, including late night on the weekends. However, with the egg tacos on the menu, hopefully they will open a bit earlier to catch the breakfast crowd, as well.
Velvet Taco is a perfect casual dining spot by oneself or with a group of friends. We spotted a few kids during our visit, as well, though the menu is geared towards more adventurous palettes. The tots and margaritas are a must order, as well as the flavorful and unique tacos.
1110 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois
While my meal was complimentary, all opinions expressed herein are my own.