According to outdated 1950’s doctrine, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. According to my darling, the way to my heart is tacos. After a particularly rough day with a disrespectful teenager, he decided the best medicine would be some tacos at Tamale Station (http://thetamalespaceship.com/menu-station) and a beer or two at Happy Village.
I have a temper. It’s best described in the Veruca Salt song, “Seether.” I never let her loose, but when she blows, batten down the mutha-effin hatches. So all day long, I provided (at best) mediocre customer service, barked at my boss, and then drove through Chicago Rush hour to get my dearest to go to a place called “Happy Village.” C’mon. I call bullshit.
On the way there, I asked him to find out if Tamale Station is BYOB. Siri was being a total bitch. After a masterful parallel park job only one short block away, we arrived to our storefront, which had about 15 signs saying “BYOB.” Siri was back from her break, and she told us there was a liquor store about 3 blocks away. Tired and crabby, I decided I would rather get this over with. Tacos are not going to cure this shitstorm of a mood.
Tamale Station is very small, just really a counter and a few tables. There are also several patio tables outside, but even at 5:30pm (which I believe is considered early bird time in Bucktown/Wicker Park), there was a line. Like most people we waited, but it turned out we could just take two menus and head right to the patio.
According to Time Out, the taco du jour would be the barbacoa taco. I would personally like to thank Time Out for introducing me to this and a few others. I seldom stray from my carne asada and el pastor, and I am the poorer for it. We ate a barbacoa one at La Lagartija and it was tremendous.
As we perused our wrestling fighter mask menus, I decided on tacos (2 for $7) and tamales for him. I am so sorry to admit, I keep trying to like tamales, and I just don’t. Kind of like owning a pet snake, it ain’t ever gonna happen. Our friendly waiter arrived to take our order and we asked his advice on some important matters: “Favorite tamale?” “Urbano,” “Beans or guac as a side?” “Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s really tough. Beans.” “We’ll take both.” On impulse, I added the fish tacos and we also included the seasonal tamale which was duck confit, with plum mole and dried cranberries.
While my darling and I were discussing our current teenager issue, our guacamole arrived. I can tell from this order alone, we did what we always do, we over-ordered. We were both hungry, but this was a seemingly normal portion of chips and guac that lasted like the fishes and loaves. We actually never reached the end of it.
Knowing that we were sharing, the kind people at Tamale Station placed one taco of each kind on the plate, so we each had a barbacoa and a fish taco.
Herein lies my own personal struggle: Time Out has introduced me to some fabulous tacos, but to date, only one restaurant was really the full package. I love the carne asada at Tio Luis, but the el pastor was a little dry. Takito had a great fish taco and an unbearable, inedible crab taco. I never go for tacos just for the sake of getting tacos. I want the chips, the salsa, the guac, the beans, literally the whole enchilada (super bad pun intended). La Lagartija (fortunately close to my employer) really has been the only place that did everything well. De Colores came pretty close, but the other places had one amazing thing and the others were…meh.
Until now. The barbacoa taco was really good. The fish taco was even better. Holy guacamole! And our guy was right about the beans…just plain lovely. I told Tom I was fairly certain Shakespeare was referring to taco eating when he wrote “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.” He said it was love, but I’m pretty sure he meant tacos. Not a word was spoken. I did venture into tamale land – I just don’t like tamales. Tom tried the urbano first, knowing that the seasonal duck confit one was going to kill it. He pronounced it very good, until he ate the duck tamale. That thing performed an Irish goodbye down his gullet. One minute it was there, the next minute it had completely and utterly disappeared down his throat.
Final analysis: I’ve had a better barbacoa taco at La Lagatija, but I think they only have them on Saturdays, while the fine folks at Tamale Station serve them daily, true humanitarians that they are.
It turns out my husband knows me pretty damn well. Filled with amazing tacos, I suddenly found myself in a much better mood. As it so happens, there are two Happy Villages in Wicker Park: one is a bar and one serves amazing tacos.