Does a Texas-based taco concept have anything to offer Chicago? While Chicago may already have an insane number of incredible taquerias, Velvet Taco in the Gold Coast manages to offer something different with tacos influenced by world cuisine. Whether you’re a fan of a Chicago style hot dog, Indian food, or even seafood, there’s a taco waiting for you at Velvet Taco.
Velvet Taco has a comfortable, minimal design with lots of hardwood and exposed brick with a few bold color accents and fun taco paintings. Communal seating makes up the bulk of the restaurant, but there is another option if that’s not your thing. Stools line the windows of the two floors, which offer a clear view of the “Viagra Triangle.” This should be a great spot to stop by in the summer when the accordion windows are opened.
The place was packed on a Saturday night with a younger crowd, but people of all ages should feel comfortable. I imagine this place is going to be a hit with both tourists and area residents who don’t currently have a lot of fast food options—you can’t go to Tavern on Rush every day. Even better is Velvet Taco stays open till 2 a.m. during the week and 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday, which should make it a haven for bar crawlers.
There was a decent-sized line at 7:00 p.m., but it went very quickly. The woman working the counter was extremely helpful offering her taco choices. Once the order was placed, I was given a number and five to ten minutes later, the food started coming out. Staff came around to ask how the food was, clear out the trash, and later a manager made the rounds of the tables seeing how everything was. I couldn’t ask for more from a fast food place.
Though this isn’t your average taco shop, Velvet Taco still has margaritas, and they’re essential. Made with fresh fruit, the lime-flavored margarita was frozen and thick with the perfect balance of flavor and alcohol. I’m not generally a margarita drinker, but Velvet Taco may have converted me.
A big selection of Midwestern beers is also available. Fast food restaurants serving alcohol is pretty much the best trend ever.
If alcohol isn’t your buzz, the soda fountain offers cane sugar soft drinks from Excel, based in Breese, Illinois. The flavors are familiar—cola, cherry, root beer—but vastly superior to their Coke and Pepsi counterparts.
The taco menu is divided into chicken, vegetarian, pork, beef, fish, and breakfast/egg categories with two or three tacos under each. Plus, each week there’s a “WTF” taco (weekly taco feature). Tacos are made fresh at Velvet Taco, and they even make the tortillas themselves. These are medium-sized tacos and probably two to three per person would be fine. They’re sold individually with prices ranging from around $3 to $6.
I sampled five different tacos and was overall very impressed with the variety of flavors and styles. Some like the “Cuban Pig” or the “Bacon Burger” expertly recreated classic sandwiches like the Cuban or cheeseburger in taco form. My personal favorite was the bold, Indian-inspired “Crisp Tikka Chicken,” their currently spiciest taco on the menu.
The only one I wasn’t crazy about was the “Mediterranean Calamari.” Topped with Greek salad, olive tapenade, and feta, the calamari was overpowered and just became texture rather than flavor.
Perhaps even better than the tacos was the “Crisp tots & local egg.” One of two sides available, the tots come topped with avocado crema, goat cheese, and the egg for a burst of awesome flavor.
If you still have room, Velvet Taco has Red Velvet Cake on the menu. I immensely regret not trying this and will have to make a trip back soon.
Velvet Taco is the real deal, and a welcome addition to Chicago’s taco scene. I was very impressed with the overall presentation and the wide range of flavors. No matter what your tastes are, there’s a taco here for you.
1110 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610