I love a simple menu with a clear focus. And that’s what you get at Bullhead Cantina, the Rogers Park incarnation of “Paco” Ruiz’s popular whisky and taco bar in Humboldt Park—tacos, more tacos and not a lot else. Not that you need more choices when so many tacos options abound, with equal billing given to both vegetarian and meaty fillings. Meat-lovers will enjoy fresh riffs on traditional standbys, such as carnitas cooked in banana leaves or brisket melted into tender shreds, while vegetarians will love such unusual combinations as braised kale with stone-corn grits, sweet potatoes with lime-avocado cream or citrus-infused roasted beet tacos.
I discovered this place as part of my morning walk. Like many other like-minded winter hibernators, hordes of us walkers, joggers and shorts-wearing rebels were on the streets paying homage to the call of “spring forward” announced by our atomic clocks. Busting my boots through the stubborn slivers of thin ice still clinging to the remnants of winter puddles scattered on the sidewalks, I noticed a fresh restaurant occupying the ever-changing tenancy of the corner just northwest of the Red line Morse stop. Quickly, hopefully, I glanced at the menu. While perusing its contents, it dawned on me that I was realizing a dream I didn’t even know I had, one of a local taco joint appearing in my neighborhood where one could peacefully drink margaritas made from fresh limes and munch on artful tacos wrapped in homemade tortillas.
Bullhead Cantina, I discovered, is the second location of Chef/owner Francisco “Paco” Ruiz, Kendall College alum, who apprenticed in Italy and ran a tequila bar in Bucktown before shifting gears to whisky, tacos, craft beers and cocktails. Still, there are plenty of margarita options on the menu. We tried the original version, always a good starting point—a thirst-quenching mug of fresh-lime mix and tequila, and look forward to trying the smoky mescal and pomegranate varieties on future neighborhood “walks.”
My reason to return was the Kale and Grits
Hands down, my favorite taco and reason to return was the kale and grits, and I say that with an entirely straight face. Bullhead also seems to do a great job with braised meats – we liked the carnitas, brisket and pulled pork tacos, all lovingly braised low and slow and bathed in flavorful sauces and rubs. But more than anything, I’d say we just liked the variety. There are frequent taco specials planned– such as the corned beef and pickled cabbage taco rumored to debut on St. Patrick’s day and fish and chip tacos for Lenten Fridays during the coming weeks.
Bullhead Cantina, 1406 W Morse Ave, Chicago, IL, Cash only.