As a resident of the Near West Chicago Suburbs, I have been curious for years about the Chinese/Tiki palace that is Chef Shanghai at DesPlaines and 26th Street (North Riverside). Finally, with an excuse to go there (Mom's nite out), a group of 10 met there on a Monday night.
This place is a throwback, for sure. I loved the decor, very kitschy Tiki with some great pieces. Probably not changed much since the early '70s. The menus are tattered, and rather than update the page listing the tropical drinks, the prices have been blacked out. Would have been ok if they had written in new prices somewhere, but no. ALso, no idea what was in the drinks, as no description was given. After our group sat ignored for 30 minutes, we sought out the waitress. Her English was fine, but she really could not (or would not?) help us with the drinks. All we really wanted to know was vodka or rum, fruit juice or coconut? Everything, according to her, was rum with juice. O.K., we muddled through the orders, and waited.....a long time. Finally, the almost elderly bartender appeared pushing our drinks slowly on a cart. Nice guy, and he mixed a fine Blue Hawaiian. Pina Coladas were nice, too. Food was almost not pursued, but the waitress assured us that "We bring you food quick", so we opted for the usual appetizers of potstickers, shrimp toast, and egg rolls. My friend ordered steak kabobs (appetizers) and was brought a generous plate of 4 large teriyaki flavored kabobs plus a tiny grill which the waitress then lit. "You heat up meat" she said. Yum!
The thing is, we saw about 6 other patrons the entire time we were there, so the lack of service was perplexing. We realized later that the separate bar area was more popular, filled with local type guys watching the Olympics. That explains why our drinks took so long. Anyway, fun, strong drinks and decent if unspectacular food.
On to the Taco Stop, a favorite since it opened a few months back at 9304 Ogden, Brookfield. This is a new location for the owners, as they used to be located in the Broadview Strip Mall (Target, Home Depot). For a little taco stand, I was pleasantly surprised. No, you won't find adventure here-just tacos, flautas, burritos, the usual fare, but it's all homemade and done nicely. The grilled steak in their tacos or burritos is chopped a little too finely for my taste, but that is my only complaint. Otherwise, they make their own tamales (chicken only,) and flautas. Tacos al pastor are nice, too, if a little greasy, and one can order Lengua tacos, too. Fluffy, fresh-tasting rice doesn't hurt, either. Yes, they serve horchata.
If you are in the neighborhood, perhaps visiting the Zoo or making your way to Trader Joe's down the road, it's worth a stop. Just be sure to NOT park in the lot meant for the adjacent restaurant. The Taco Stop's friendly owners will gladly regale you with tales of what could happen if you do!
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