Farm-to-Taco at Takito Kitchen
The latest taco spot in tortilla-happy Wicker Park, Takito Kitchen sets itself apart from the fray by grounding their Mexican-inspired menu in local ingredients. It’s Mexico by way of Chicago, with dexterous chef David Dworshak fusing the two seamlessly and deliciously. I’m more than a little bit taco obsessed, which is perhaps partly why some stranger recently took a photo of me and blasted around the interwebs calling me the “ultimate hipster.” I would gladly eat tacos everyday if that was more socially appropriate, and I can never have too many taco-centric restaurants. So when Takito Kitchen opened its doors recently, promising a more chef-driven approach to the art of tortilla-friendly cuisine, I was eager to check it out. And then they debuted farm-to-table prix fixe dinners, wherein monthly specials featuring particular farm-fresh ingredients are organized in a three-course degustation on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It’s a tasty foray into the world of Takito Kitchen, sampling a variety of dishes and getting to the root of what the restaurant is all about. At the end of the prix fixe, it’s very clear that Takito is not like your average Wicker Park hipster haunt.
(Pork in a banana leaf with snap peas, goat cheese, radish, olives, and cilantro)
Right away, the restaurant makes it very apparent they’ve got grander ambitions than no-frills tacos and guacamole. The tiny open kitchen is lined with jars of pickles, with a tiny herb garden by the expediting station for garnishes. Some of the most prevalent farms featured on the menu are Brunkow, used for cheese in tacos and on salads; Three Sisters Farm, used for polenta and incorporated into masa dough for tortillas; Mick Klug Farm for fruits and vegetables; Genesis Growers for dried chiles; and Urban Till, used exclusively for greens and herbs. The prix fixe is the ideal way to experience this breadth of farm sourcing, available for $35 per person through September.
My recent farm-to-table meal at Takito Kitchen was strawberry-themed. The luscious berries are at their seasonal apex, woven throughout the menu in multiple iterations, making my dinner brighter than Dorothy’s ruby slippers. I started things off with their seasonal margarita. Takito sports an impressive margarita menu, and like the prix fixe, their seasonal option changes often to showcase the freshest farm picks. The tipple of the night was a strawberry margarita, as lustrous as a Miami Vice and as luscious as a bowl of fruit punch. Dinner began with an ambrosial salad brimming with more green (mustard spinach and asparagus) and red (strawberries) than a Christmas tree, spiced with chile-ramp vinaigrette, and flecked with slivers of cheddar and crunchy niblets of sweet freeze-dried corn. For the main, Maple Creek Farm pork was cooked inside a banana leaf until so tender it fell apart just by looking at it. Steamed with chiles and onions, the piquant medley was prime for shoveling into warm tortillas and mouths. The perfect counterpoint to all that fatty, spicy meat is the dainty side salad of goat cheese, snap peas, sliced radishes, olives, and cilantro. Dessert was a real stunner; a rhubarb flan speckled with strawberries and mint. The texture on the flan was sublime, smooth as silk and denser than the typically eggy, soufflé-like flans too often found on Mexican menus.
(Rhubarb flan with strawberries and mint)
It’s not every day you stumble upon a taqueria serving prix fixe menus. Granted, Takito Kitchen is a lot more ambitious than a taqueria, but it’s still an impressive feat to see a tortilla-centric restaurant take farm-to-taco cuisine so seriously.
Takito Kitchen 2013 W. Division St., Chicago, IL 60622 773-687-9620 and http://www.takitokitchen.com/