In Chicago’s north side neighborhood of Albany Park (3658 W. Lawrence Avenue), there lies a hidden gem of a restaurant, T&B Grill, which means “Tacos and Burgers.” Founded by chef/owner, Ambrosio Macines, it is aimed at taco and burger lovers, combining the culinary arts of Mexican and American cuisine.
Travel and Leisure awarded the restaurant the number five spot (out of 25) in their May 30 story on “Where to Find the Best Tacos in the U.S.” T&B Grill also has earned enviable Yelp and Google ratings of 4.5 out of 5.
After building his career at such respected restaurants as Vivaldi, Maya del Sol, Chez Joel and David Burke’s Steakhouse in Schaumburg, Mancines opened T&B Grill in 2015, taking two straightforward and favorite food categories—tacos and burgers—and sculpting them into a unique assortment of dishes that are elevated in quality and creativity, earning rave reviews from Chicago’s food enthusiasts.
Mancines is a gutsy, yet humble chef, who has forged his own path and opened a casual restaurant that is anything but ordinary, and to do it in a Chicago neighborhood that has only recently become recognized as a burgeoning foodie destination. “T&B Grill is a BYOB place where first-time guests are pleasantly surprised by what we do with tacos and burgers, and almost all of them come back for more,” said Mancines. “Like other terrific Mexican chefs, I make everything from scratch. I’m always thinking up new recipes that draw from many different cuisines. Yes, T&B Grill serves burgers and tacos, but they are really different and very, very good.”
Yes, Chef Mancines is 100% correct: The burgers and taco are really different, but also really, really good. The food is served in a space that is small and cozy. When you walk in, you enter an entirely different atmosphere of colorful walls and murals from local artists, rustic wooden floors, accompanied by the sound of laughter and conversation among fellow eaters. T&B Grill is BYOB and the restaurant offers several homemade drink mixes, served by the glass or half-carafe, so guests can combine them with their favorite liquor to make delicious cocktails.
Mancines always cooks from scratch. For his popular burgers, he uses a half-pound of meat, which is always freshly ground in-house. He incorporates beef, bison, turkey and black beans (an excellent selection for vegetarians and vegans!). All burgers are served with perfectly fresh handcut French fries. My friend, the certified meat eater for this review, ordered the T&B burger (bison, jalapeno aioli, grilled shrimp, pepper jack, guacamole, served on a pretzel bun). He absolutely loved the tenderly cooked, juicy meat, as well as the eclectic blend of flavors of the dish. His burger came with a side of cilantro and parmesan fries, which was not on the menu: I think I ate more of the fries than he did!
I was tempted by the veggie burger, but then settled on ordering the grilled veggies tacos (black beans, sweet corn, squash, zucchini, red onions, roasted tomatillo salsa). The dish was fantastic with a fresh medley of assorted vegetables that were roasted and seasoned to perfection.
Along with our main dishes, we sampled extra gooey and cheesy mac n cheese with fresh veggies (also comes with shrimp, crab or bacon). Everything we ate paired nicely with my friend’s genius BYOB pick of the evening, Charlatan American Pale Ale. It was smooth and crisp, and the flavors were brought out by our food selections. Our grand finale, a blissful dessert, or postre, consisted of a chocolate soufflé, served with vanilla bean ice cream, black truffle and strawberries. It was a lovely end to our wonderful meal.
All of T&B Grill’s desserts, just like the rest of the menu, are made in-house. Besides the chocolate soufflé, the dessert menu boasts crème brûlee (saffron, caramelized brown sugar and berries), tiramisu (coffe de olla, mascarpone cheese, dark chocolate), beignets, and seasonal ice creams and gelatos. It was very challenging to pick the perfect dessert for the evening – we wanted to try everything!
Besides dinner, T&B Grill offers weekly daily specials, always with affordable prices for such high quality food, such as Taco Tuesdays, Wednesday Mini-Burger Night, Thursday Make Your Own Sundae, Friday and Saturday BYO Margarita Bar, and Sunday Date Night for Two. (See website for details on these specials). There is also a weekend brunch menu available with menu items such as a grilled veggie omelet (tomato, zucchini, squash, red onion, garlic, and Chihuahua cheese), a smoked salmon omelet (smoked salmon, capers, red onion, spinach, and garlic), and two Benedicts (smoked salmon and pork belly). All entrees come with wheat toast, roasted potatoes or fresh fruit.
Photos: Jennifer Lunz