The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

The Great Taste of Taza

By John DiGilio in Food on Dec 1, 2011 8:00PM

2011_12_DiGilio_Taza.jpeg Chicagoans can be full of a lot of things. Let it be said that falafel is one of them. (We know what you were thinking . . .) We are, after all, a fun and gregarious bunch. Fortunately, Windy Citizens are also hearty and adventurous eaters. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern joints, for example, are becoming downright ubiquitous. You can hardly walk a block in the Loop without running into a ball of mashed garbanzos or tripping over a shawarma. Mediterranean cuisine can be both delicious and healthy. By all accounts, Chicagoans seem to really dig it.

We've been on a bit of a falafel kick as of late, trying everything from the major chains to local mom and pop places. Recently, our falafel fascination took us to Taza Cafe in the Loop. With a location almost as small as its name is short, we were both shocked and excited to see a line that stretched from the counter to the door, folding once upon itself. Busy Chicagoans do not queue up for something that isn't good. So we stood salivating in the line, eagerly awaiting our turn to order. The guys at Taza work fast to crank out hot, fresh food. So it was not long before our patience paid off. Was it worth the wait? You bet!

We ordered their gourmet falafel sandwich with hummus, salad, and sauce in a pita pocket. It was wonderfully light and tasty. The cooks use only 100% vegetable and extra virgin olive oils and they use them sparingly. The falafel balls were neither greasy nor over-spiced, as they can be in so many other places. To our sandwich we added a Jerusalem Salad and a cup of homemade lentil soup. The salad, which included diced tomatoes, mint, parsley, and cucumbers was dressed in a refreshingly bold tahini dressing. The soup was equally as delicious and again, every bit as light and fresh-tasting as our other two dishes. With chunks of carrot, onion, and celery, it was a colorful addition to the meal.

From the first bite to the last, it was obvious to us why Taza Cafe attracted such a bustling lunchtime business. They say their name "means fresh" and we certainly found that to be a fitting description. "Light" is the other word we would use. The meals at Taza are light in your tummy and on your wallet. Combo plates come in under $10 each, with sandwiches and salads alone priced below eight dollars a pop. You can eat well and eat cheaply at Taza. Given the tasty choices they offer, what more could you ask?

Taza Cafe is located at 176 North Franklin Street.