Swallow your shame at Taco in a Bag | Bleader

Friday, June 19, 2015

Swallow your shame at Taco in a Bag

Posted By on 06.19.15 at 12:30 PM

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Pizza in a Bag

There's something about the walking tacos at Lincoln Square's Taco in a Bag that invites comparison to Patton Oswalt's "failure pile in a sadness bowl" rant about KFC. Owned and operated by champion gurgitators Pat "Deep Dish" Bertoletti and Tim "Gravy" Brown, aka Glutton Force Five, Taco in a Bag traffics in an undeniably alluring sort of drunk/stoner fuel that can result in a different kind of crapulence. It may soften your hangover, but the shame might make you feel worse.*

TIAB was born a food truck, which went stationary after the crew won a free yearlong lease at West Dundee's Spring Hill Mall on the Food Network's Food Court Wars. For some reason the teens and retirees at the mall didn't take to the walking taco, but their loss is Lincoln Square's portable nacho gain.

OK, the KFC comparison isn't really fair. The GFF are frying up their own tortilla chips, so even if they're not directly pulled out of the oil to order they're fresh and light. And the guys are using quality ingredients in interesting combinations, say, pulled pork, mustard slaw, dried cherries, green onions, and walnuts (the BBQ Beast) or braised thicken thigh, queso fresco, roasted garlic-infused sour cream, and cilantro (the Angry Bird). Some are better than others, but for $7 or $8 some are actually really good. The Chicken Parma-Jon is the pinnacle of the form, its chips, contained in a sturdy, deep foil-type bag, mounted with a sizable lump of very juicy braised chicken thigh, plus fried peppers and onions, rich tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, parsley, and a toasted fennel-Parmesan crust. The sum of its many parts, it all integrates nicely into the chips, which maintain their integrity under what amounts to a pretty heavy topload.


Clockwise: the Big Jim Reeves, the Chicken Parma-Jon, Cheeseburger Nachos
  • Mike Sula
  • Clockwise: the Big Jim Reeves, the Chicken Parma-Jon, Cheeseburger Nachos

That's pretty much true of all the bags, which makes them an improvement over other "failure piles" like poutine, where the key ingredients tend to degrade under the toppings. The Pizza in a Bag is commendable too, with bolognese, mozzarella, parmesan, and deep-fried pepperoni slices that amount to meat chips. On the other hand the Cheeseburger Nachos approximate a McDonald's Big Mac in the worst way. It's gloppy, sloppy, and oversweetened by an excess of knockoff special sauce. That's really the only total failure I accounted for, having enjoyed the signature Big Jim Reeves, a Tex-Mex expression combining tomatillos, sour cream, pepper jack, cilantro, green onion, and chorizo country gravy, and the Norberto, an odd but compelling mix of braised chicken, pepper jack, avocado-jalapeno salsa, and dried cranberries.

And after all, you don't necessarily need to feel bad about yourself after a visit to Taco in Bag—there are vegetarian bags available, including a reverse-engineered coney dog approximation, and two salads in a bag, served on romaine instead of chips. But apart from those, one should always offset the effect of walking tacos by walking and eating anyway. That's what they were made for.

*All walking tacos examined for this review were consumed in the clear light of sobriety.

Taco in a Bag

Taco in a Bag, 4603 N. Lincoln, 773-250-2437, tacoinabag.com

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