Sky Full of Bacon

#20: Arturo’s, who you gonna believe, my sign or your lyin’ nose?

Whilst roaming Bridgeview and environs for my upcoming Time Out piece on the middle eastern food in that obscure suburb, which might be in this week’s issue, I spotted a highly promising sign:

The fact that it was on a former Pizza Hut might not be taken as so promising, but after all, the best middle eastern place I found down there was in a former Arby’s, so anything could happen. What was promising was the promise of “real charcoal.” A taco made of truly charcoal-cooked meat is a wonderful thing, full of charred edges and smoky beefy flavor, but I don’t know of any such place in Chicago, indeed one of the things I pine for here is a place like the one I visited in Playa del Carmen:

where incredibly fresh arrachera, skirt steak, was grilled over coals and served up by the ton.

This place may or may not be related to other places called Arturo’s around town, notably one near Milwaukee & Western, which I’ve never had a burning need to try, belonging somewhere in the middle, apparently, of local chains.  I suppose that’s an oversight, but there’s a lot of Mexican out there and Arturo’s gave off a Los Dos Sombreros vibe, seemed aimed squarely at the need-a-gutbomb-at-2-am crowd.

But we went in, and I ordered tacos, two steak and one pastor:

We can dispose of the pastor instantly, it sucked and certainly never came anywhere near a pastor cone.  The tacos tasted pretty good… I could almost believe in the charcoal cooking, there was definitely char and a smoky taste, but I kept waiting for it go beyond what you could produce on a good gas grill with juices dripping down and sizzling back up… and it just didn’t do it.  Maybe, I thought, it’s been reheated, which would be a major error with freshly grilled beef, but could dampen the flavor.  There was flank steak on the menu, maybe that would stand a better chance of being freshly cooked.

But I took the opportunity of visiting the bathroom so I could snoop on the kitchen.  And all I saw back there was a standard gas grill, no signs of charcoal grilling like actual flame, ashen grates, serious internal smoke ventilation systems, big bags labeled “hardwood lump,” whatever.  I tasted little and saw nothing to support the claims of the banner on the top of the building.  Maybe they’re grilling it out back on a barbecue and then holding it; that would reconcile the taste with the signage and with what I observed.  But I just don’t know.

Arturo’s isn’t bad by any means, but it isn’t the place I’d hoped it would be—and more importantly, that they said they were.  That’s a sin that makes it hard for me to want to go back, much as I’d love to have my suspicions overturned.

Arturo’s Mexican Restaurant
7260 W 79th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 458-8004

To see more in this series, click Restaurant Reviews at right and look for the numbered reviews.

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