Tacos and burgers? Albany Park's T&B Grill makes the menu mash-up work | Bleader

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tacos and burgers? Albany Park's T&B Grill makes the menu mash-up work

Posted By on 03.02.16 at 02:30 PM

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click to enlarge Sliders and fries at T&B Grill - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Sliders and fries at T&B Grill

"Mexican-American fusion" is not a phrase that generally inspires confidence, evoking visions of dumbed-down Tex-Mex that runs the gamut from chile con queso to fajitas. Albany Park's T&B Grill, however, has a more tightly focused menu than you might expect: it offers half a dozen tacos, about the same number of burgers—and that's about it apart from a few sides and specials and a couple desserts. Even the drinks menu is limited to a few sodas, though you can BYOB with no corkage fee.

click to enlarge One of the murals that decorate the walls - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • One of the murals that decorate the walls

Far from feeling austere, the brief menu suits T&B Grill well—and could be responsible for the fact that nearly everything we tried was excellent. The variety of burgers and tacos means there's no lack of options; in addition to the standard beef burgers and requisite veggie burger (made up of black beans, corn, and veggies) there are turkey and bison patties. What makes the burgers stand out, though, are the toppings: T&B Grill isn't shy with them, piling on three or four at a time in a mash-up of cultural traditions. The Spice Burger, for example, has habanero aioli, a fried egg, pickled jalapeños, and Swiss cheese.

Every burger on the menu, toppings and all, is available as a slider for $4.50. Each comes with a scaled-down portion of the fries that are included with the regular-size burgers; for a small upcharge you can get truffle or sweet potato fries. We ordered three sliders: the T&B, a bison patty topped with chorizo, grilled shrimp, guacamole, and pepper jack cheese; the turkey burger, with garlic spinach, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, and chipotle aioli; and a beef patty stuffed with jalapeño cheddar and topped with jalapeño chips and jalapeño aioli. This allowed us to try all three types of fries, which could have used a slightly harder fry but were otherwise pretty respectable—even the truffle fries (I'm not a fan of truffle oil, but a light touch is used here). The sliders themselves were surprisingly juicy, considering how easy small burgers are to overcook, with the exception of the dry, underseasoned turkey burger. The standout was the namesake T&B burger, in which the ridiculous number of toppings somehow all make sense together.

click to enlarge From left: chorizo, fish, duck, and shrimp tacos - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • From left: chorizo, fish, duck, and shrimp tacos
The tacos, served on house-made jalapeño-cilantro tortillas that impart a subtle but welcome flavor, are also jazzed up with some of the same aiolis that come with the burgers. It could be argued that aioli has no place on tacos, even when it's spiked with lime juice and chile—but we've already established that this is a fusion restaurant. More importantly, the aioli is delicious, adding a rich, spicy element to the grilled fish taco and the spicy shrimp taco that's counterbalanced by various pickled vegetables and slaw. The duck taco strikes a similar balance, tender duck confit topped with achiote sour cream sauce, pickled white cabbage, and carrot. But the chorizo and avocado taco, a special of the day, was one-note compared to the other tacos and could have used some crunch and acidity. Crab mac and cheese was also a disappointment, bland and oddly fishy. A few mediocre offerings in an otherwise impressive lineup isn't bad, though—and dessert, a generous square of creamy tiramisu drizzled with chocolate sauce and garnished with strawberries, made us forget the small missteps.

click to enlarge Tiramisu - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Tiramisu

T&B Grill, 3658 W, Lawrence, 773-961-7016

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