It seemed only fitting that since I just recently started working in the actual city of Chicago, we should find a good spot to grab some happy hour drinks, and what better place than Big Star. Of course I’ve heard a lot of about Big Star and how delicious their tacos are, but seeing as how I’m such a plain/picky eater, I didn’t think I’d enjoy any taco that didn’t have just cheese and lettuce on it. Yes, I gained my love of tacos from eating at Taco Bell over the years… I have recently become a little more adventurous in my taco choices after going to a place called Taco Diabl in Evanston, so I figured I had to try Big Star now, and this was the perfect opportunity.

Big Star Chicago (Tacos)

I decided I was going to walk from the office to Big Star even though it said it was going to take 30 minutes to walk 1.2 miles or so. I don’t know why I thought I could do it faster, but I set out on my way and did indeed take 30 minutes to get there. It’s a simple walk, literally just 2 streets, but it’s a long walk on those 2 streets, and it was pretty hot outside. Upon arriving at Big Star I found that Celeste and Sheila were able to secure a prime table out on the patio, which was key. I could not ever imagine having to sit at a booth inside the actual restaurant, it’s just not that kind of place.

Celeste and I ordered up a pitcher of the Classic Margarita and Sheila ordered some other sort of red margarita that was not very delicious. It took Nick a few minutes to get there since he had to swing by our condo on his way home from work to let [Peter] Parker (our dog) outside in order to buy us enough time to actually hang out and enjoy happy hour. We waited until he got there to order food, but once he did, the tacos didn’t stop flowing until we left.

As I said before, I’m pretty picky when it comes to my tacos so when I saw the choices on the menu I was actually a little disappointed that there might not be anything I’d like. Nick and Iman have always raved about the Al Pastor tacos at Big Star so I decided to go with their recommendation and just start off with 1 at first. In actuality, I’m pretty sure as a table we only ordered Al Pastor and Taco’s De Pescado, which is tilapia. The Al Pastor tacos came out and I was a little intimidated by the pineapple. I can do the onion and cilantro, but the pineapple just seemed weird to me. After taking my first bite though, I was instantly a fan. And not to sound like the opposite of the anti-foodie, the sweetness of the pineapple actually worked extremely well against the onion and cilantro… I instantly ordered another. By the end of the night I think collectively we ate like 15 tacos and a salad, drank a pitcher and a half of margaritas and one glass of whiskey… 1st happy hour of working in the city was a huge success and we will definitely be doing it again… as long as I’m not talked into working with Nick on a Saturday again.

At some point during the night on Friday Nick asked me if I could help him out at a job on Saturday. Now I’m the furthest thing from an electrician so I knew I was his last option, so of course I agreed… plus the money was good. So after installing 8 ceiling can lights and running a cable line for a TV, we called it a day and went home to get ready for Northfield’s Ribfest, where I was to be a judge in the rib cooking contest…

Northfield Ribfest 2013

Again, as the pickiest eater out of anyone you’ve ever met, it made no sense that I was a judge in a rib cooking contest, but I figured it why not? It was a free meal and I got to try out a bunch of different rib recipes in a short amount of time. Our friend Neal works for the Northfield Park District which is how I was able to get on the panel, so if anyone else wants to judge next year let me know and I’ll put in a good word for you.

The contest itself had 27 different entries, 90% of which were local Northfield residents who had been out there smoking and cooking ribs all day at the park. The other 10% were catering companies that have just started coming out of the woodwork to participate. I didn’t really think it was fair that these actual chefs were coming out to cook, but that wasn’t one of the judging categories. Each plate of ribs was judged in 4 categories: tenderness, sauce, presentation and overall preparation. There were 2 groups of judges consisting of 5-7 people and then another group of 4-5 people to judge the finals. Each of the 2 initial groups were to judge half of the ribs and then determine the top 3-5 from each group, which the final judges would then pick the winners from.

In our group it wasn’t even close. There was one clear winner out of the 14 different ribs we tasted, and that person ended up taking first place overall in the end, so at least I kind of know what I’m talking about when it comes to BBQ. The rest of Ribfest was fun. We have a group of friends that live right there so we hung out with all of them and their family/friends, got free beer from our buddy that works there, and I got to get [Peter] Parker out of the house and around some people for a while. We even got to witness the elusive “Kelly” as she stalked her prey, the boat shoes wearing, salmon carrying, single white male… it was a sight to see. If you’ve never seen it in person I suggest you do, but be careful, you don’t want to startle her while she’s in her element.

On a side note, we also went to Coast Sushi in Evanston on Thursday night, which is no longer BYOB, but you can pay $5 per person if you do bring your own bottle. The food was delicious, service was decent, but I thought it could have been better considering how dead it was. I really hope it does better on the weekends as we don’t really want to see it close up shop.

So that was our weekend. Another solid summer weekend in Chicago. Hopefully it won’t be the last nice weather weekend we get… Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the Bears won on Sunday and I’m on track to beat Nick in fantasy football…

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