Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, plans to introduce a new version of its taqueria brand Wednesday in a space that housed Michelin-starred Tru. Tallboy Taco returns, moving from River North to a space near Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Streeterville. I
In addition to housing highly-decorated Tru, Tallboy Taco’s space at 676 N. St. Clair Street was also previously home to short-lived LEYE Japanese teishoku spot Mr. Maki, which closed in August 2019 after four months. It’s now shared with the group’s Ramen-San Deluxe, which highlights popular menu items from sister restaurants Ramen-San and Sushi-San.
The restaurant seems well situated to lure hungry people still working in the area — neighbors Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and hospitals are busy places due to the pandemic. A casual and convenient taco lunch could be a welcome respite for employees. The restaurant’s proximity to an audience of hospitalists is reminiscent of the approach taken by Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall, which opened in early August in the Illinois Medical District and aims to fill a dining void for health care workers. The pandemic has kept hospital busy. So if Downtown Chicago is devoid of tourists, health care workers, patients, and their families will still need to eat.
Tacos seems to be a safe bet during the pandemic. Just like pizza, the food travels well and isn’t dependent on dine-in service. Chicago has already seen an infusion of several new pizzerias in the last few weeks. Taquerias could soon follow. A LEYE rep says they’ve been working on tacos for the past few months. Compared to the River North location, the menu has been completely overhauled by LEYE chefs Kevin Marquardt, Ash Ghassemzadeh, and Tim Hockett.
Featuring an airy West Coast color palette of white, cool green, and light wood, the interior space has booths and tables with stools for diners. Basket lamps hang from the ceiling, and leafy green plants lend an organic feel a dining room that is otherwise entirely hard surfaces. Those who would rather eat outside will find several white picnic tables on the front sidewalk. The indoor dining area, like all Chicago restaurants at the moment, is capped at 25 percent capacity, and the patio is limited to 50 percent. Disposable and digital menus will be available.
Though it bears the same name and unfussy vibe, the new Tallboy Taco features a new menu of all-day breakfast tacos, rotating seasonal ceviches like ahi tuna (avocado, lime, yuzu) and watermelon (cotija, mint, sea salt, lime), and a selection of six tacos, including 18-hour smoked brisket (onions, cilantro), pork al pastor (marinated Beeler’s pork, onion, cilantro, pineapple), and masa-crusted avocado (cabbage, avocado crema, onions, cilantro). Corn tortillas will be made on-site with white corn masa from local tortilleria El Popocatepetl.
Those who have to go back to work can wash their tacos down with horchata, chia limon, and watermelon agua frescas (boozy addition optional), but patrons who aren’t about to be on the clock can order frozen palomas, margaritas, and beer. Meal kits have surged in popularity during the pandemic, and Tallboy Taco is taking the cue with a party taco kit for four or eight, available for pickup and delivery via Caviar.