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South Side Cheap Eats/First Look: Carbón

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 27, 2007 3:30PM


Bridgeport, like many neighborhoods around the city, has a glut of Mexican restaurants with varying quality. So when we noticed on a cab ride home one night that Carbón (300 W. 26th St., 312-225-3200, open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., 7 days a week), a “live fire” Mexican grill, had recently opened in a vacant-for-years storefront mere steps away from neighborhood mainstay Ricobene’s, we were skeptical.

Carbón serves fire-grilled tacos and burritos, veering away from fried food for an added health benefit. The owners here have done an amazing job of renovating what is a really tiny space (seriously, Carbón is housed in a place that isn’t much bigger than your average hot dog stand) located directly underneath the Dan Ryan, making it palatable to the eye and emphasizing comfort. Small tables abound, a scrubbed copper counter gives solo diners a full view of the goings on in the tiny kitchen, and any vestiges of the old cheesy beef joint that was this location’s previous tenant are long gone. On our visit, business was brisk, with customers sitting down to soak in the place.

2007_03_carbon2.jpgCarbón claims their Mexican food is “authentic.” If you’re talking about Frontera Grill-style authentic, that’s probably true. That doesn’t mean the food isn’t tasty. To the contrary, the quality level and limitations of Carbón’s menu ensure that they aren’t overextending their reach. They keep it simple, serving tacos and burritos with options of steak, tequila-lime marinated chicken, fire-roasted vegetables and tortilla-encrusted fish with shredded cabbage and creamy lime sauce. Tacos ($2.25 each, cheese is a quarter extra) and burritos ($4.95, or $5.50 with cheese) are served with a small side of elote. We added a small bowl of Mexican rice for .95 and made this a meal.

Salsa is made in-house and comes in four flavors, including a grilled corn and pineapple variety that we imagine would go perfectly with Carbón’s chicken and vegetable tacos and burritos. They also have seasonal options, which seem to be all the rage these days. Consider us converted. All the redesigning and artifice would be nothing more than smoke and mirrors if the food isn’t any good. We anticipate becoming a frequent customer of Carbón.