#10. Picante Taqueria
2016 ½ W. Division
3 @ $1.80 each = $5.40 (no extras)
I thought that Picante Taqueria would make a good pairing for Chipotle, because these are the two restaurants in the bracket that were created more or less unapologetically by white people and for white people. In Picante's case, the denomination seems to be South Side Irish, judging by the accents (Chi-KAA-go) and the fact that you can sometimes buy White Sox tickets with your burritos. Picante even riffs on the fact their clientele is a bit melanin-challenged, by offering something called the "White Boy Tacos" -- a Taco Bell style creation featuring a hardshell tortilla and ground beef. I had to defer on the Whiteys for the time being because today's item is chicken, but surely they'll provide a good nightcap on an evening to be named later.
The Food: Pretty, pretty, pretty good. Picante must know that white boys like their chicken, because they took a lot of care in preparing it. The flavor of the meat is excellent, seasoned with the right amount of salt and pepper and maintaining a strong grilled flavor. The meat also tasted like it must have been marinated in something, because there were some overtones of citrus. It was all white meat too, diced up into presentable little chunks.
The tortillas were also a strong point, especially after Chipotle's grievous error of serving flour tortillas. They had a fair amount of character, with a fresh corn taste and a little but of flakiness to them; the only issue was that they tended to adhere a little bit to the wax paper that the tacos were wrapped in. The green salsa was also above-average, and complimented the chicken particularly well. On the other hand, the garnishes were a little weak. They were fresh enough and everything, but I've gotten used to having my tacos with onions and cilantro, and you had to look hard to find either of those ingredients on these tacos; instead they were loaded up heavy on tomatoes and lettuce.
The Experience: "Is that to go or to go, sir?". Picante's address is 2016 ½ West Division, which tells you everything that you need to know. It's literally a hole in the wall, not even big enough to maintain its own address. As a consequence of this, there is no indoor seating area at all. Instead, there is a set of seven or eight tables outside if you want to go al fresco. In the summertime, this might be considered an asset -- you do get a nice view of Division Avenue -- and on a comfortable, breezy afternoon like today, it was all well and good enough. But God forbid that Picante advances in the bracket, and we have to do another review in November or something. How much to hold this against Picante is hard to say -- the Burrito Bracket is mostly about the food -- but surely it has to result in a deduction of a couple of points.
Picante also has something of a reputation for inefficient service, and I think that's probably a fair characterization. When I got there today, the clerk told me to come back in 10 minutes, because he had just arrived and had to set up the register. He was nice enough about it -- in fact the Picante people are always very sweet -- but this was in the middle of the day and from the standpoint of efficiency, it was certainly not a plus. In addition, the wait times from the kitchen tend to be longer than average, perhaps because the kitchen is as cramped as the rest of the establishment and so it's hard to prepare multiple orders at once. Picante manages to be at once off-putting and endearing.
#10. Picante Taqueria
Posted by Nate Silver at 5:40 PM