Come for the tacos, stay for the chapulines

Grasshoppers feature at Ogden Avenue Mayan-style taqueria

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By Melissa Elsmo

Food Writer

Enrique Ortega and his cousin, Edergil Figueroa, owned a Wing Stop restaurant in Chicago before opting to leave behind the corporate food world in favor of independent restaurant ownership. 

Taco Bout It, their two-month old Mexican eatery at 8819 Ogden Ave., brings authentic Mexican fare with an artistic flair to Brookfield and the surrounding western suburbs.

 A Mexican background gave Ortega and Figueroa the passion required to bring their taco hot spot to life and a chef-consultant helped the duo hone their unique perspective on tortilla wrapped treats.

"Neither of us have a culinary background," says Ortega. "We are both just foodies and our consultant helped us create a menu based on our personal preferences."

The tiny, well-appointed, counter service, blue corn tortilla-centric spot is turning out thoughtful tacos, burritos and cemitas for adventurous eaters. Easy to digest, authentic blue corn tortillas bring a wow factor to Taco Bout It menu items while keeping an approachable and familiar flavor profile. 

"We're serving Mexican food, but it isn't typical Mexican," says Ortega. "We're authentic with a twist."

And the twist includes grasshoppers.

Yep, grasshoppers.

Farmed grasshoppers are a rich in protein, good fats and have a minimal environmental footprint when compared to cattle or poultry raised for consumption. In fact, these little buggers could be the next superstar in the sustainable food movement.

"At first we thought our grasshopper taco would just be a hook for our restaurant," says Ortega, "but you'd be surprised how many people are willing to try it." 

Taco Bout It delivers a 100-percent grass-fed Oaxacan chapulines (grasshoppers) cooked to crispy perfection in guajillo sauce and topped with a rustic mango-red pepper salsa, and sprinkled with goat cheese. 

While the garnishes offer colorful elements to entice eating, the dish reverses textural taco expectations. While the slaws and salsas added to most tacos bring texture and crunch, Taco Bout It's, chapulines bring crunch to the taco while the garnishes bring softness and complexity.

Ortega and Figueroa insisted their authentic grasshopper taco not only look pretty, but taste good, too. And the grasshoppers have been a draw. Ortega speaks highly of a customer who comes in for three grasshopper tacos each week. Taco Bout It is eager to meet his grasshopper craving and yours, but they also offer an array of less bug-focused tacos.

Ortega is especially fond of Taco Bout It's interpretation of a traditional shrimp taco. Their camaron taco features beer-battered, extra-large shrimp topped with a fresh-made mango salsa and lime aioli. The hearty burrito featuring the same fried shrimp is enhanced by the addition of Taco Bout It's signature black beans and coconut rice.

"Everything at Taco Bout It is made fresh, in-house, daily," says Ortega, "and our customers can really taste the difference between our freshly made products and pre-made food items."

Other intriguing menu items include the peanut butter-and-jelly taco, featuring chicken doused in chili-spiked peanut sauce enhanced with sweet jelly and topped with collard green slaw. 

Traditionalists will enjoy the steak taco offerings, while vegetarians will clamor for Taco Bout It's elote lolis (corn on the cob), eggplant and cactus quesadillas, and chile relleno tacos.

Ortega expects his burgeoning business will continue to grow as more local folks "taco about" their contemporary Mayan offerings.

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