#8. Arturo's Tacos
2001 N. Western
Torta de Milanesa
$3.95 (no extras)
Situated just across from the Blue Line at the busy Milwaukee- Armitage-Western intersection and the de facto boundary of Bucktown and Logan Square, Arturo's is a neighborhood institution that means different things to different folks. Not quite properly described as a diner, it is a take-out joint for some and a family destination for others, a place to linger into the wee hours of the morning with a Negro Modelo or to get in and out quickly with a good meal. If this all sounds a wee bit romantic -- well, it's hard not to be when you're enjoying a good late afternoon torta on a beautiful late summer's day.
The Food: Ah, the torta. Sometimes regarded as the red-headed stepchild of a Mexican menu by those who can't fathom Mexican cooking without a tortilla -- there are no tortas at Taco Bell or Chipotle -- it often surpasses the burrito as the signature dish of an authentic taqueria. If you've never tried a torta, just take one look at the picture below to see what you've been missing. Almost literally bursting at the seams with its breaded steak, Arturo's torta makes quite a strong first visual impression.
This torta was distinguished by its proportionality and texture. The bread was appropriately thin and had just the right about of crispness to it. The steak had been crushed to the point where it was wafer-thin -- at one point, I heard the distinct sound of a piece of beef being beaten into submission in the cocina. And the sandwich was dressed up with just about the right amount of sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato.
Still, there are room for a few nitpicks. The torta was a bit undersalted, and I say this as someone with a fairly salt-averse palate. It could have used a slightly more generous layer of beans. And although it neared textural perfection, the bread was not quite boulangerie fresh.
Overall a fulfilling (and very filling) A-minus/B-plus effort.
The Experience: The clientèle was more diverse than the Burger King Kids Club, and almost perfectly reflected its surrounding neighborhood: roughly forty percent English-speaking and sixty percent Spanish-speaking, and a mixture of hipsters and yuppies and families. Service was extremely prompt upon sitting down but less so after the food had arrived, which is perhaps typical of this sort of establishment. Arturo's has a relaxed and easy-going vibe, accentuated by the large amount of sunlight streaming in from the windows on two sides of the building, and a high ceiling painted to look like the sky, complete with images of clouds and seagulls (or were they doves?). All in all, the sort of place that makes you want to indulge and have an afternoon beer; I regret not having one today.
#8. Arturo's Tacos
Posted by Nate Silver at 5:54 PM