I like a steak taco that doesn’t look like it’s been hacked to death by Edward Scissorhands. But, rather than cutting skirt steak nicely across the grain in reasonably sized slivers, most of the Chicago taquerias go all samurai and chop their taco meat into a pile of tiny fleshy bits. If you’re lucky, you’ll get those bits fresh (as is the case at Tio Luis and Taqueria El Asadero—my current favorites), but it’s more likely you’ll get them shoveled off from a steaming pile in the corner of the grill and re-griddled to a jerky dryness.
Not so at Carbon (pronounced car-bone, as in what it might sound like if automobiles had sex), where the steak taco is instead filled with juicy, thick, Texas-chili worthy caramelized hunks of steak glistening in their own peppery juices. Though the menu says they’re “fire grilled,” that’s gas and not charcoal fire, if you’re keeping score. Honestly, I really don’t know if it matters here considering the slight smokiness was in perfect balance with the sweet succulent meat juice.
The whole shebang is served on a decent warm corn tortilla with the usual complements of onion and cilantro. There’s shredded cheese if you want—adding it turns the whole taco into a sort of Mexican Philly cheesesteak after you fold it up.
One hack for the taco that I’ve tried to make it really interesting is to skip the house salsa offered and get a side of the creamy tequila lime sauce usually reserved for their fish tacos and use it as a dip. The taco may no longer be remotely authentic, but it sure tastes good.
300 W. 26th Street, Chicago IL 60616 (map)