Takeout dining review: Vegan eaters can get a fast-food fix at Village Taco
I think it’s safe to say that a high percentage of Ohioans grow up loving fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell. I believe it’s also safe to say that more and more people are exploring veganism.
Local adherents to a we-can-have-it-all viewpoint should know that one of those things needn’t cancel out the other. For evidence, I present wacky but strong-performing Village Taco, where you can have your plant-based meal and eat your addictive junk-food-style favorites, too.
As described on its website, Village Taco — which is subtitled “The Joint” (one of several cannabis-alluding puns) — is an entirely vegan eatery that began with “two traveling hippies selling food out of our Volkswagen van at concerts.”
Fast forward through 20 years as the hippies — John and Heidi Stone — have six kids, several pop-up gigs, a successful if short-lived tiny eatery in Alexandria (which recently closed), assume the former Hal & Al’s spot in February and then adjust to the coronavirus pandemic by becoming a well-run, “zero contact” takeout operation.
After ordering online and waiting the 20-minute or so quoted time, customers pull into the parking lot of Village Taco’s vivid blue building on the South Side — an old VW van serves as a landmark — then send a text to the number written in rainbow colors on a chalkboard near a prominently placed table. Shortly thereafter, a server will deposit food onto the table. Note: Picnic tables in Schiller Park are a three-minute drive away.
Village Taco’s menu is an amusing read peppered with odd spellings that denote vegan ingredients — commendably credible house proteins include “beaf” (made with textured vegetable protein), “chickun” (fried tofu) and “porq” (jackfruit) — and dishes that reference fast-food favorites such as a “Chili Cheeze Burrito” ($5) and “Toca Boll Taco” ($3). Tongue-twisters aside, the eatery offers impressive food with locally sourced ingredients, bold flavors and fun textures.
So don’t obsess about the multiple hard-to-read components in the Double Crunch Cheezy Gorvita Bacunator ($15)— which riffs on a specialty from Taco Bell and, nominally, Wendy’s — just enjoy this gloriously messy large gordita whose hearty chili con carne-style base is flattered by smoky fake bacon; various tangy, spicy and faux-dairy sauces; and good, fresh veggies. Bonus: It comes with crisp and zesty “Cheezy Fiesta Potatoes.”
I liked the enormous yet difficult-to-stop-eating Rollin’ Green enchilada-burrito ($14) at least as much. A massive flour tortilla delicately detailed with sauces so it resembled a serape was jammed with my requested crispy chickun cubes plus pico de gallo, sauteed peppers, pickled onions, black beans, jicama, cabbage, rice, local greens and more. Plenty of zippy enchilada sauce gilded the lily.
Want something less flamboyant? The Chips w/ Guac & Salsa ($7) and the Bean, Rice, Cheeze, Ranchera Beaf Burrito ($6) were both straightforward, inexpensive and good.
The recommended 3 VT Style Tacos with warm soft corn tortillas, requested porq with a perky barbecue-like sauce, shredded cabbage, pickled onions and more ($10) conjured clever Mexican-vegan spins on pulled pork sandwiches. Although unfortunately not warm, the Woody Plucker ($15) — a delicious special of “chicken of the woods” wild mushroom tacos with pretty local greens — was downright fancy.
I wouldn’t call the McJonny's ($14) fancy, I’d just call it my favorite new vegan cheeseburger. This upgraded take on McDonald's Double Cheeseburger made with two structurally sound and uncommonly believable soy-based patties, fairly convincing fake melted cheese and a toasted, high-quality Lucky Cat bun comes with loads of righteous fresh-cut fries.
You’ll get the same fine spuds and bun with the spicy Fried Chickun Deluxe ($13). What you won’t get with this decked-out and inhalable sandwich starring a battered, fried and buffalo-sauced firm tofu slab is any cholesterol. That sounds even better than having it all.
1297 Parsons Ave., South Side