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Random Mon May 24 2010

When the Gas Costs More than the Meal

Picture 151
What am I doing at a Taco John's in Bourbonnais?

I got the call from friends of mine who love this upper Midwestern "West-Mex" chain restaurant, which is a much classier version of Taco Bell that is known for their potato oles--a smaller, crisper tater tot. And because my friends are true Americans (define that any way you want), they're willing to drive over sixty miles each way for Taco John's; the home of the Bears' training grounds is the closest one to Chicago. I came along for a thoroughly fun afternoon escape from the city.

Taco John'sI had a grilled, stuffed taco. "Grilled" implies I skipped over the common, fat-laden traps of Mexican dining; however, "stuffed" whips me back to the boarding platform of the hardening arteries express. But for someone who visits TJs (are we chummy enough to use nicknames?) once a year, I can splurge. My taco was a normal variety--seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese in a corn shell--that was then folded into a large flour tortilla, doused with a frying oil and then stuck on a grill for a few minutes. It stopped there--no pizzas or crepes were involved---and it was delicious, a perfectly seasoned match of crispy and chewy. The potato oles make no sense as a standard side dish at TJs--too starchy to properly contrast its main dish, and coupled with the jalapeno-flavored nacho cheese dipping sauce, would have been a better side for a sloppy joe being served at the sports bar across the street. TJs also throws potato oles into burritos, which may be a bigger error, but I can only stomach one value meal at a time, so that examination will be deferred to my next trip.

While some may balk at the effort to get there, Taco John's is worth the trip. We stumbled back into the car, giant sodas in hand, our starchy dreams fulfilled. Feels good to be an American.

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Suzogoodie / May 24, 2010 10:31 AM

Thanks, Robyn. I, too, love Taco John's and am from that area so I go there whenever I am in town. Next year, I recommend you try the super potato oles. Yes, it's bad for you but I don't want to live longer in a world without it.

LaShawn Williams / May 24, 2010 8:02 PM

Totally forgot about Taco John's; I hit this spot up a few times when I was in college. Don't know if "potato oles" were on the menu then. :-)

Mike Gebert / June 1, 2010 11:29 PM

I hadn't particularly heard of these before but when we drove out to Wyoming last summer, after a certain point in Iowa they were suddenly one of the most ubiquitous chains out there, alongside Subway and DQ. There's a world we Chicagoans know little of...

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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