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Antique Taco: Modern Mexican With Vintage Flair

By Melissa Wiley in Food on Sep 24, 2012 6:40PM

If Johnny and June Carter Cash had walked a different line and decided to open a Mexican restaurant, it would have been Antique Taco. Fortunately, Rick and Ashley Ortiz have done so in their stead, infusing this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue with rockabilly verve and some of the freshest tacos north of the border. Serving homemade tortillas filled with the tasty likes of garlicky kale, pickled escabeche, cilantro cream, and seasonal mushrooms, Antique Taco is unapologetically modern, its menu replete with locally sourced ingredients and the bright, bold flavors that prove so irresistible to contemporary palates. Only its vintage curios bespeak simpler times.

We tried the crispy fish with tempura, smoked cabbage, scallions, and sriracha tartar sauce as well as the grilled ribeye with house steak rub, heirloom salsa, cilantro, onion, and queso enchilada. Both arrived as heaping pairs on flirty, mismatched floral china for $8 and made for a satisfying late weekend lunch along with a side of guacamole and chips ($5). We also sipped on a cranberry-lemon agua fresca and a glass bottle of Sprite (both $2.50), because glass pop bottles are pretty hard to find outside old timers’ garage sales nowadays.

Equally rare are 21st-century taquerias where Hank Williams Sr. would feel wholly at his ease, but Antique Taco succeeds in fulfilling the erstwhile honky-tonk fantasy. The fact that Roy Acuff is playing “Great Speckled Bird” over the grill cloth speaker and Pabst Blue Ribbon is available at the distressed robin’s egg bar just helps our daydreams along. So pull up a reclaimed stool and settle in for some slow-going nostalgia. Toss back a cold one and grab a fistful of habanero popcorn or bite into Abuelita’s homemade pop tart filled with spicy Mexican chocolate. Slow down for some delectable yesteryear. It’s better than you remember.

Antique Taco is located at 1360 N. Milwaukee.