2013 W. Division St. 773-687-9620
Rating: !!!! (out of four) Already hot
Since opening about a month ago in the former Sabor Saveur space in Ukrainian Village, Takito Kitchen has tried to shine in an already taco-saturated neighborhood. Setting the casual-but-stylish restaurant apart is chef David Dworshak, formerly of Carnivale, and an intriguing cocktail list of tequila- and rum-based concoctions that are as colorful as the spray-painted mural on the rear wall. Eager for Takito to shake up my taco monotony, I settled in at a communal table at the rear of the narrow space.
Chips 'n' dip: Just before I could lose it over the absence of guac on Takito's menu, the trio of house-made salsas ($5) arrived at my table. Varying in heat levels from mild (chili-cucumber) to moderate (tomatillo-pistachio) to fairly spicy (tomato-hibiscus-ghost pepper), they present an added choice of whether to scoop them up with the accompanying crumbly masa crackers or crisp rice crackers.
Margaritas: While the standard Takito margarita (all margaritas $10) served on the rocks with half a rim of salt was spot-on, an adventurous drinker might opt for the Caliente margarita laced with chipotle and morita chili powders. If the weather ever warms up, the cucumber margarita with agave and lime could be a heat-beater.
Beyond 'ritas: Takito's cocktails are deceptively simple-sounding. The Por Que No ($10) looks sweet on paper because of the blueberry and peach flavors, but lemon juice adds acidity and the Sombra mezcal lends it an overall smokiness. There also are some standards on the tight menu, including a michelada ($8)—a Mexican beer cocktail with tomato and chilis—and a paloma ($10) made with grapefruit juice and Casa Noble blanco tequila.
Tacos: Having been on a fish taco kick since Lent, I dug into the battered redfish tacos ($11 for three)—but not before I took an Instagram photo of them. The hibiscus tortillas don't add much flavor, but their lilac color against the bright orange of the carrot-jalapeno slaw and the buttercup yellow-hued coconut sauce is picture-perfect. Fortunately, they taste as good as they look. There are meatier options, too, such as chicken tinga ($10 for three) or lamb chorizo ($11 for three).
Beyond tacos: The Mexican-leaning shared plates menu gets even more creative when chefs leave the tortillas behind. A carne asada sope ($12) is an umami bomb of sauteed mushrooms, potatoes and Brunkow cheese, perked up by a springy green onion kimchi. I'll be back for some of the smaller plates, such as Japanese sea bass ceviche with black garlic ($7.50) and coconut rice with basil ($4).
Reporters visit restaurants unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. email@example.com | @redeyeeatdrink