Saturday, December 4, 2010

DIY Home Taco Bar!!!

Our "Do-It-Yourself at Home" taco bar program starts Monday, 12/6. The number to call is 773-680-7740. You've patiently waited for more details, here they are:

1. 30 taco/toastada order minimum.
2. Not available- queso fundido, sonoran hot dog, and pozole.
3. All sodas, limeade, and horchata are available. Horchata and limeade are sold in quart sizes.
4. Taco and tostada ingredients, including tortillas, will be packaged separately, allowing for a customizable experience at home.
5. Please order tacos/tostadas in groups of ten, i.e. 30, 40, 50 etc.
6. Orders may be placed seven days a week from 11:30am-7pm. Last order is picked up by 8pm.
7. We require a minimum 1hr lead time to fill your order. For example, if you want to pick up your order at 6pm, the order must be placed by 5pm. Orders may be placed days or weeks in advance. We reserve the right to quote longer pick up times depending on the size of the order.
8. Pricing is the same as our current menu, tax included- we add a 3% surcharge for packaging.
9. All payments are in cash. Payments are received at the to go window, or at the bar.
10. Orders can be placed via phone, or at the bar.
11. A separate phone number will be provided, do not call the main Big Star number.
12. We reserve the right to decline orders based on availability of product.

Enjoy Big Star at your house!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shout out to the Lil' Red Wagon!!

Many thanks to Brian Huston of the Publican for aiding us in Lollapalooza transport. Couldn't have done it without the Little Red Wagon- that's nomenclature for Brian's truck. We put her to work! Look at Matt's face- he looks pained.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Lolla prep just keeps on rolling, 4 cases a day, everyday! That's a lot of bacon my friend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lollapalooza Round One

Lollapalooza!!!! This is the first round of refried beans for Lollapalooza. That's a whole lot of beans, and just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Expected volume is INSANE. Sometimes I wonder why I sign up for these things. All kidding aside, we at Big Star are super excited for the opportunity to be involved with this event. You know I'll be breathing a big sigh of relief on August 9th. Can't wait to see you at the show.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Flavors....

Here at Big Star, we are working on new and interesting licuado flavors to add to the drink menu. Certainly, the avocado milkshake will be back. We are also working on a cherimoya milkshake- that'll be fun.

With the farmer's market getting into the swing of things, we will start seeing nature's bounty transformed into one delicious drinkable concoction or another.

But, please, pretty please, don't forget about the dulce de leche licuado. That would make Dave Posey sad.

See you all soon for some liquid refreshment.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Let's talk about salsa, and I don't mean the music. Salsa is the sauce that makes our dishes at Big Star sing. A little smokiness, a little acid, a little heat, salsas are certainly a multi-purpose condiment.

At Big Star we like to keep things fairly simple. All of our salsas use roasted tomatillos as their base. The base is then customized with different blends of dried chiles, in the case of our salsa chipotle, or fresh chiles, in the case of our salsa verde. Each salsa is finished with a good deal of lime juice to brighten.

Use them to make your taco experience a little more personal.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Welcome patio season!

My apologies for the lack of recent blogs. Spring is upon us, and I will take this rainy spring day to reflect upon last week. You see, last week we opened the Big Star patio. After a couple of days in the pain cave, and everyone asking, "How are you going to pull this off?", I've got a little time to share with you.

We all knew it was going to be tough, but I don't think anyone knew exactly what we were in for. Paul labeled the weekend "Death by Honkytonk", an appropriate title. After I cut 100 quarts of limes for garnish of all sorts, it really sunk in. If I thought we were busy, I hadn't seen anything yet.

Tuesday night we stuffed the cooler full of prep, but by Wednesday night, our stores were completely decimated. It really took the wind out of my sails, but we had to press on. The forecast for Thursday and Friday said sunshine and warm temps, we were in for an uphill battle.

We had to make it happen, and make it happen we did. I want to use this post to give a huge shout out to my kitchen staff. They performed admirably when the odds were firmly stacked against us. Everyone pitched in, nobody complained, and we came out on top. Thanks guys! I'll also give a little thanks to the rain, ahhhhh rain. I think there is some sunshine in the forecast though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shift drinks......

Ahhhhh, after a long, hard night cooking for all the patrons of Big Star, I know what my cooks and I look forward to- Shift Drinks!!!

A long standing practice in most restaurants, shift drinks are a way to say 'job well done'. Not too mention, a beer and a little whiskey goes a long way towards soothing frayed nerves, and fostering comraderie amongst our employees. It's a side of the restaurant the public rarely ever sees.

So I raise a glass of liquid refreshment to all, and say thank you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Michael's favorite dish....

Melted cheese, chorizo, and rajas equals magic. So says Michael Rubel anyway. He manages to eat a Big Star Queso Fundido almost every shift he works. Amazing, considering most tables of four have trouble finishing this sublime, bubbling cazuela of melted goodness.

To get to the point, fundido is a conjugation of the word fundir, which means 'to melt'. In translation, the name of this dish is 'melted cheese'. Doesn't sound very interesting. But, truth be told, the combination of chihuahua cheese, spicy housemade chorizo, and velvety rajas de poblano is something to write home about.
Intensely satisfying.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cactus? For breakfast?

Cactus, really? You can eat cactus? Yes, yes you can eat cactus.

Nopales, as they are known in the Mexican kitchen, are young, hand sized, pads from the prickly pear variety of cactus.

Ever resourceful, Mexican cooks long ago discovered that these pads were edible, and began to use them in all sorts of preparations. For the uninitiated, you must remove the spines from the pad before cooking. Obvious, right? A mouthful of cactus spines is not my idea of a culinary adventure. Once the spines are removed, nopales can be prepared in a variety of different ways, sauteed, grilled, even pickled. Yummers!

Here at Big Star, we dip the paddles in beer, and grill them on our wood grill, leaving them slightly charred and smoky. After that treatment, they are diced up and sauteed with onions, garlic, and serrano peppers. After tossing them in some smoky, housemade, chipotle salsa, they go into a freshly made corn tortilla for your enjoyment.

Next week, we will be experimenting with a Mexican classic- nopales y huevos, cactus and eggs. Breakfast will never be the same!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mole like Ole!

It's fried chicken and mole time here at Big Star. Not a bad item to put on the menu considering today's news. Alex Chilton, the lead singer and cornerstone of Big Star (the band), died yesterday of a heart attack.

Chilton was a southern boy, born and bred in Memphis, TN. What could be more southern than fried chicken? Maybe biscuits and gravy, but that is a discussion for another time. What better way to honor Chilton than to serve this fine southern delicacy here at the taqueria?

Wait a minute!! That's right, we are a taqueria, not a chicken shack. How do we make this make sense? With Mole Poblano of course. We will serve the fried chicken with Mole Poblano. Ahhh fusion....

Mexicans in the state of Puebla have been making this classic sauce for more years than I care to count. It is, perhaps, Mexico's best known and most popular mole. Not to mention, it is most always served with poultry.

Mole is loosely translated as 'concoction'. And what a concoction it is! The Mole Poblano at Big Star is comprised of 26 different ingredients, including but not limited to, mulato chiles, toasted sesame seeds, almonds, and mexican drinking chocolate. The resulting sauce is a complex, multi-layered, taste explosion. Much like Alex Chilton was a complex and multi-layered artist. Thank you Mr. Chilton. Big Star will miss you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best Soda Ever?

Ahhhh, dare I say Spring is finally upon us here in Chicago, no jinx please Mother Nature. It's the time of year when we cast off the shackles of winter, and start to believe that warmer days are around the corner.

That brings me to the subject of liquid refreshment. Warm weather means more beverages. Being that we are a bar, we have lots of choices to wet one's whistle. Aside from the great drink list, massive selection of whiskeys, tequila, and beer, we at Big Star possess a non-alcoholic drink list of great depth.

Let's start with the obvious, soda. From south of the border, sweetened with pure, delicious cane sugar, we have Coke, Sprite, Jarritos Mandarin, Jarritos Pina, and last but certainly not least, Fresca.

In addition to our Mexican bretheren, we carry the full line of AJ Stephans phosphates. No corn syrup here. These flavors include, but are not limited to, raspberry lime rickey, sarsaparilla, birch beer, ginger beer, cream soda, and good old root beer.

On top of all that, my cocina (that's kitchen for the uninitiated) makes limeade, horchata, and dulce de leche milkshakes fresh daily.

For my money, or hangover, Fresca is hands down my favorite refresco of the moment. But I encourage you to stop by soon and take the soda list for a spin, because while Fresca is my darling, each and every carbonated jewel we carry is delicious. Cheers!

Friday, March 5, 2010


I have to give a shout out to the ladies that make this taqueria tick, my tortilleras, my tortilla makers.

This small cadre of ladies perform like finely tuned machines, hammering out a couple thousand fresh tortillas for the eager taco scarfing masses that frequent Big Star everyday. Simply put, no tortilleras=no tacos.

Pictured is Maria Salcedo, the grand dame of the crew. Her husband custom made a couple of tortilla presses (also pictured) for Big Star, for which I am very grateful. Always smiling, I hope I possess her spirit when I am her age.

Thanks Maria, Mari, Monse, Carmen, and Griselda. Much overdue.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


"Licuado, what's that?" These words were uttered by every staff member at today's pre-service meeting.

Knowing they are completely confused and bewildered, "It's simple",I say. Then I go on to explain that licuado, essentially meaning liquified, is the Spanish word for milkshake. The milkshake. That is a concept most Americans can wrap their heads around. Or so I thought.

I kind of threw a wrench into the works when I told them that the shake is made from avocados. Woops! I know, I know, not your average milkshake ingredient. But after making and tasting a few, it should be!

The resultant shake is luxuriantly thick and creamy. Not overly sweet, somewhat floral in flavor, the licuado looks like fresh sea foam. Reminiscent of the Shamrock Shake anyone? Needless to say, the shake is super refreshing. It makes us all yearn for warmer days here in Chicago.

I like mine with some freshly grated cinnamon on top.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Al Pastor.....

Tonight's Al Pastor spit. A combination of sliced pork shoulder, onions, and Big Star's secret (soon to be not so secret) marinade. Once the pork shoulder is delivered, we salt the pork with kosher salt, slather it in a generous amount of the marinade, and let it sit for 24-36 hours.

Following its initial marinating time, the pork is then skewered, onions and all, roasted before an open flame, and basted in pineapple juice. Yum, right??

How did I get here?

I'm the chef de cuisine of Big Star Taqueria in Chicago,IL. I was born in the United States. I have no relatives from Mexico. Up until a couple of years ago, my knowledge of the Mexican culinary pantheon was limited to the late night offerings at the local Taco Burrito King- no disrespect!

My culinary training was heavily influenced by French and Italian technique. My restaurant background is mostly new American, other than my stint at Little Caesar's in high school. How did I end up being the chef of a taco joint?

Simply put, I took a chance. I had faith in my intelligence, and culinary abilities, so I went for it. The learning curve was steep, but the research was super fun. Who wouldn't want to get their hands on as many tacos as they possibly could in a few months time? Needless to say, I ate a lot of tacos, a veritable ton of tacos. I read so much Diana Kennedy that my girlfriend started getting jealous. "Sleeping with Diana tonight?" was uttered more than once.

Testing was hard. My boss, Paul, was my toughest and most valued critic. He spent a few good years under the tutelage of Rick Bayless, a heavy hitter to say the least. Again, I went for it, I trusted my instincts. Tasting and testing went relatively smoothly, I was expecting the worst.

Opening day came quickly, and passed even quicker. I'm still standing..., and learning everyday. I don't consider myself any sort of expert on Mexican cuisine, but I possess a much greater knowledge of the Mexican kitchen than I did a couple of years ago, and continue to claw for more knowledge everyday. In a very long winded way, I'm trying to express to my fellow cooks that you can do anything you want if you put your mind and energy into it. There are no limits to what you can learn. I want to give a picture of our daily life here at the taqueria. Thanks for reading my little story, enjoy the blog.