The weather is getting colder by the minute, and sometimes it’s tough to work yourself up for a girls’ or guys’ night out, especially during the week. But if you can force yourself off the couch and over to the West Loop, go to Latin-food haven Bar Takito and just try not to emit an audible, “ahhhh” when you get in the door.
The restaurant’s fire-engine red chairs and splashy, vibrant wall art warm you right up. And the crowd is always festive — how could it not be? This isn’t just a taco bar; sure, it serves up a spectacular taco, but it has a much broader menu that hops all around Latin America. Shared plates offer up inventive Peruvian ceviches and Colombian arepas – delicious corn cakes stuffed with grilled meats – that will make you completely forget the weather. Come on Thursdays, and live music takes the whole atmosphere up several notches.
Regardless of when you go, you’ll want to start with a cocktail like la paloma, made with some serious tequila and served in a clay pot for a unique upgrade from the usual martini glass. But if you’re not sure, ask the staff. The chef makes the rounds on the floor, offering suggestions, and the staff knows the menu backwards and forwards.
And, about that menu: It’s large and small plates, all meant for sharing. And a good thing, too, as you’re bound to be intrigued by a few of the plates. You can almost taste the tender, savory lamb barbacoa with salty queso fresco, but those ceviches are calling your name. Like the Peruvian-Asian fushion of the Suzuki bass ceviche — the bass is paired up with Peruvian purple potatoes and giant grains of choclo corn, all swimming in fragrant lemongrass broth. But really, there’s no reason not to order both. And tacos come in orders of four, so everyone can relish the coffee-braised beef, encased in a beer tortilla and cooled down with mild queso Oaxaca on top. No, you confirm: You’ve never been to a taco bar like this.
As your table fills up with amazing, sizzling bites, your little group gleefully tucks in, only pausing to argue about which plate is the best of the bunch. Take all the energy you’ve derived from the incredible food and groove to some salsa music under the red glow of the “Bar Takito” sign on the ceiling, and you can pretend that it’s a Saturday in summer – just for a night. Make it count though, because you still have to make it through the cold trek home.