After two decades, the owners of Wicker Park’s modern Mexican stalwart Las Palmas have made some changes, some due to the ongoing pandemic, some due to changes in the city’s food scene. This week, Las Palmas’ owners unveiled its transformed taqueria, Taquizo, with a fresh look and new menu with options like tacos de suadero, quesotacos, and more. It’s open exclusively for takeout and delivery, per Chicago’s pandemic ban on indoor dining.
The menu from veteran chef Yanitzin Sanchez (Mas, Sabor Saveur, Mercado Cocina) and partner Richard Vallejo (Mercado Cocina) features both regular tacos and quesotacos, which are rolled in crisped melted cheese for a crunchy, salty bite. In response to 2020’s quesabirria boom, owner Maria Rivera says her team isn’t making goat. Instead they wanted to highlight a taco that’s beloved in Mexico but isn’t yet trendy in the U.S. — suadero, a cut of meat found between a cow’s leg and stomach. Another new taco spot, Taqueria Chingon, also is highlighting off cuts of meat. Sanchez confits the meat in pork fat and serves it with morita adobo, cilantro, and Spanish onion inside a handmade tortilla. Other taco options include carne asada, cochinita pibil, and al pastor; there are also burritos, bowls, and grilled carne asada fries.
Rivera did hold onto a few gems from Las Palmas — namely, its selection of margaritas that earned many fans over the restaurant’s tenure. Taquizo is currently offering lime, strawberry, and pineapple-guajillo margaritas to go.
Taquizo will eventually feature two menus: its casual opening selection of antojitos (small, savory bites), tacos, and burritos will be featured in the restaurant’s front section when indoor dining returns; and an upscale menu featuring “culinary art” that’s still under wraps for the spacious glassed-in back atrium.
For Rivera, the pandemic has brought both loss and renewal. Her cousin Saul Moreno, chef and owner of Restaurante Cuetzala Gro in Rogers Park, died from COVID-19 in April at age 58. Despite the extreme challenges, this year gave River a chance to slow down for the first time in decades.
Though she was born and raised in the restaurant industry and spent years at the helm of Las Palmas with her brothers, including Marcos Rivera of Nuevo Latino restaurant Libertad in suburban Skokie, Rivera says she never felt like the business was hers. That’s all changed — she now sees the new restaurant and menu as a thank-you note to the customers that have supported her over many years.
“Everybody that comes in through those doors, I want them to leave with a big smile,” she says. “I want them to eat their food and be in love.”