Tuesday February 20th 2018

“Ambrosio Brings Ambrosia to Albany Park”

Highly Recommended ***** If you grew up in Chicago, Lawrence Avenue near  Kimball (the end of the “Brown Line”) was not known for culinary excellence. Yes, Cooper and Cooper was there and many delis got their start on Lawrence Avenue, but, as the area changed ethnicities, so did the type of restaurants that took up residence. The years have flown by and Lawrence Avenue has undergone many changes. Part of the street is filled with ethnic dining, and most of it , while clean and affordable , is pretty much standard fare that fits the neighborhood.

But, for those who enjoy fine dining, yet, at affordable prices, Chef/Owner Ambrosio Mancines corner grill, T & B Grill, is indeed a step above what one might expect. It is a burger and taco “joint” but after dining there, I would have to say JOINT in this case means wonderful experience. Dining with us tonight, Jane’s brother Larry and his wife, Bette, who are in from California for the month. They are unfamiliar with Lawrence Avenue and as we drove East from Cicero Avenue, to ou destination at 3658 West Lawrence Avenue, I could feel that they might be unsure if joining us would be all that they thought it might be.

We arrived at the destination, and seeing the corner entry, I sensed they might think that this could not be what I had been telling them “A great taco and burger spot”! We parked the car (easy parking on the street) and entered. We had been advised that T & B is a BYO, so we brought a bottle of wine (which they were glad to ice for us) and a bottle of vodka (they have some great mixes to make the evening more special). There is a liquor store next door, so even if you opt not to bring your own, you can easily purchase what you desire there. Manager , Omar made sure that every guest (at every table, and they were full) was treated like family.

One could call this a Mexican Restaurant, but I prefer to call it one of the best burger and taco restaurants in the city, but with a Mexican heritage. Other might call is Mexican and American “Fusion”, which is a clever way of saying a great mix of flavors that creates a dining experience that will be a great conversation with others ( who will want to try it themselves).

We began our experience with a few appetizers- fresh guacamole served with chipotle and jalepeno chips (the chips are all home-made and very tasty). We also enjoyed a few Quesadillas, one shrimp and another steak. These are made on home-made chipotle and cilantro flour tortillas, with Chihuahua cheese, over fresh guacamole with pico de gallo chipotle sour cream (to die for!). Last , but not least, we had to try the Mac ‘N Cheese with shrimp and bacon (there is always room for bacon, Larry said). I am a lover of Mac ‘N Cheese, and this one is now at the top of my list. It is also available with crab and you can add fresh veggies. Everything at T & B Grill is fresh!

Since this is a taco and burger place, we then went “in for the kill”, but what to choose? The burgers are 1/2 pound, but for those who want a variety of tastes, they offer a mini version. The burgers are offered in beef, Bison, Turkey and a veggie (black beans, sweet corn, bell peppers, zucchini, guacamole on a brioche bun). They have pretzel buns as well. Their Classic is beef patty, jalapeno aioli, caramelized onions, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese on that pretzel bun, and the T & B  a bison patty , jalapeno aioli, chorizo, grill shrimp, pepper jack cheese, guacamole on a brioch bun ( my mouth is watering just remembering the tastes blending on my tongue). We also enjoyed the tacos: They offer Pork Belly, Chorizo, Fish, Grilled Veggie, Chipotle steak, duck and their T & B (spicy shrimp, habanero aioli, garlic cilantro lime slaw all on tortillas that are home- made of cilantro and jalapeno.

The sides we selected were fries, but not what most people think of as fries. We had the Sweet Potato Fries and the Truffle Fries ( truffles are mushroom-like veggies that are delicious and when crisp, you would say they are the best fries you ever had), but they also offer sauté veggies and spinach (of course, we left some items for our next visit, although I am thinking, a week-end “brunch” cause it looks terrific!)

My readers know that dessert is the key to ending a meal, so just for the key, we opted to order the Beignets ( 7 classic beignets with chocoloate, mix berries sauce and fresh berries on top), the chocolate soufflé (vanilla beans ice-cream with a touch of black truffle) and of course, the Crème Brulee (saffron crème brulee finish with caramelized brown sugar and fresh berries. Had some coffee to add the crowning touch to a wonderful dining experience. FYI- Larry drank the vodka straight, but I opted to add the special mix (berry flavors with fresh berries) that truly enhanced the full experience.

T & B offers some package meals with a per person, allowing you to have a special experience at a very affordable cost. They include appetizers, regular burger with side and dessert for $25 per person. Remember the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. his is true when driving up to a restaurant as well. Larry and Bette will go back before they leave Chicago.

T & B is located in the heart of Albany Park at 3658 West Lawrence Avenue and is open Tuesday-Friday from 3 p.m.-10 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday  11 a.m.- 10 p.m.

Carry out is available ( and we saw a great number of those orders being handled) as is delivery, but I am unsure of just how far. call 773-961-7016 or 773-754-7662 . www.tandbgrill.com

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