Since I can remember, I have always utilized my time much like that of a sausage casing: 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound container. Yesterday’s taco trek was no different. To be fair, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how I prepare, I will always be a little late. There might be three routes to work, the one I choose will have the accident or construction. Yesterday, last minute, we decided to head out to watch our amazing hockey team win its way into the Stanley Cup. We did this last Monday, too, and both days decided to try the colorful taquitos de papa at De Colores. Monday: Closed. Yesterday, we departed from our ridiculously far Western Suburb and entered Dante’s 14th Circle of Hell: The Stevenson. What should have been a 35 minute trip took almost an hour. Tom debated about whether or not we had enough time, because in order to get our spot at the bar, we needed to be there by 5:15. I think he knew I wanted to go, so we went anyway…in my head I was thinking “How long can it take to make 4 little tacos? We have plenty of time.” This is the kind of thinking that gets me in trouble.
De Colores is located at 1626 S. Halsted, just around the corner from the stabbng that happened at another bar a couple of days ago. This is where I explain what weirdos Tom and I are: he reads me the paper, or at least the interesting parts, and some how that generated an investigation in to the place where the stabbing occurred, and we decide it looks like a great menu, and end up in Pilsen. It’s tremendously circuitous logic, but it works for us. Either way, I’m not calling it the “Corazon” of Pilsen. It’s too close to UIC. It’s literally two blocks from gentrification, and really far away from the bar we visited months back with the pool of blood in the corner.
Either way, we park the car, and dash across the street in the 50 degree bitch-slap rain. Upon entering, I notice a faint musty smell and think “Jesu Christo, this isn’t going to work.” Everything should either smell like good food, or lilacs and gardenias. End of story. This place doesn’t. It’s not bad, it just could use an open window or a glade plug-in.
Either way we sit and order beverages: a margarita for me, a Tecate for Tom. They couldn’t make me the hibiscus raspberry margarita because they were out of raspberry, so it was a traditional for me. “Chips and salsa?” “YES, PLEASE?” Who would say no? He brought us our chips and salsa, and disappeared. Not really, but sat in the back with another employee and didn’t come near us. We waited, and waited, and waited some more, until I was about ready to get my purse and leave when he finally returned to take our order (including drinks because mine was gone-di). They serve an excellent and boozy margarita. I still had a winning game to watch. I switched to Victoria. We ordered the taquitos de papa and some guac and resumed our sit-in. Once again, he disappears but at least we have some really tasty salsa to comfort us from the abandonment.
According to the news clippings on the wall, it is a red pepper salsa that left a nice little kick in our mouths. It was fairly fantastic. Finally he returned with our food, and boy was it pretty. Four little fried tacos arrived in a bowl, covered with julienned bits of carrot, beet, pickled onion, and yellow squash. I might have looked a little askance at the setup, because there was no way in hell this really pretty taco was going to give the carne asada at Tio Luis a run for its money. Tom sets up the pics and we divvy up the first round: one for me, one for him.
Words that seldom leave my lips: “I was wrong.” And I was. It was sooooooo freaking good, and I have never had anything like it before. It is a deep-fried taco, filled with superbly creamy mashed potatoes and covered with really crunchy veggies: the kind I eat rarely. Silence reigned over our end of the bar whilst we contemplated and summarily decimated our first round of tacos. Halfway through, Tom remembered that our bartender instructed us to put some of the green salsa and we applied it, not very liberally, because we learned that De Colores is not shy on spice – in the very best way. Holy Cow! Our really amazing taco just upped the ante. It’s like Mexican comfort food, which seems really redundant because for me, all Mexican food (except maybe the rattlesnake) is comfort food. It is though. Diving into one of these little babies is like climbing into a bed at the Westin, you just fall into pillows of comfort. In this case, the comfort is provided via pillows of mashed potato taco in a crispy, deep-fried shell. I wish I could have one right now.
I will admit: I am not Mexican, nor any blend of South American or even Spanish. I am white and Irish. My first taco came from Taco Bell. My mom, 100% Irish to the core, only eats meat and potatoes with salt and pepper and maybe a little garlic. She’s a good cook, but it’s meat and potatoes. She could make gravy from a stone, but it’s meat and potatoes. My dad and I used to sneak out to Taco Bell together, because I am so old, I can remember when we got our first Taco Bell on the South Side. Either way, I later discovered that a lot of places serve taquitos de papa, and I balked incredulously at the cook at our next establishment when he told us how common they are. I have been eating tacos for the better part of 30 years and this is how little I know about my craft? I feel like a fraud.
The last two tacos disappeared rather quickly. I took half of one (remember I am DAINTY) and left the rest to Tom. I had some guacamole to sample.
In terms of guacamole, I prefer a creamier version, not the chunky kind. Again, having turned 30 before my first taste of avocado, I am not claiming to be an expert, but I don’t like it when bars and restaurants use the avocado sparingly and instead fill the bowl with tomatoes, onions, and peppers, with just a bit of avocado, almost like a salad dressing. I prefer my guacamole to showcase the avocado, and make it the star, not the understudy. Sadly, as good and as tasty as the guac is, they did just that. I think it’s just a matter of personal preference, and this wasn’t mine, although that really didn’t deter me from eating a bunch. I am – er- well-rounded enough to include room for ALL guacs.
Sadly, we began the wait for our bartender to appear so we could get our check. And we waited some more, and some more after that. When we asked for the check, he seemed surprised, and almost a little hurt. We explained we had other places we needed to be, especially for the hockey game, but that we would definitely return soon, as we’d heard the mole is outstanding. We paid the bill and made our way, frogger-style, across Halsted to our car.
Tom had asked me if the waiting was going to figure into my review, “You bet.” As we crossed the street, and got into the car, I said “You know, I think it’s just a cultural difference. He left us alone to eat and enjoy each other’s company, and we did just that. It’s not his fault that I cram too much activity into a small time slot.” And he was right, what could be more important than sitting, relaxing, conversing with my wonderful husband, and enjoying delicious plates of food? Not much. Thanks for reminding me, De Colores.
We didn’t save room for dessert, but the Blackhawks won, and that was just as sweet.