I talk to people. As a customer service representative, it’s becoming a bit of a specialty of mine. And I genuinely love to help people. After handling several thousand calls, ironing out various order kinks and exchanging trivial pleasantries, I have even started to recognize some of the names and voices coming through my headset. Those names and voices belong to our restaurateurs, the people on the other end of our service, working hard to make sure that the orders we send get executed to perfection.
One of these restaurateurs runs a small powerhouse taqueria (Taco Fuego) near our main office in Chicago, and one cold night I decided that I should stop by and say hello. And while I was there, I figured, hey, I might as well try one out their signature item – the Taco Fuego.
Ask anyone in customer service about Denise and you will be treated to a big smile. “Denise! How is Denise? Did she call in?” Denise works at said powerhouse taqueria and when I arrived I was treated to her warm greeting followed by an even warmer meal. She helped guide me through their menu to a few choice selections with one condition – that my centerpiece be their famed Taco Fuego. Denizens of GrubHub, you may have seen the warning attached to the Taco Fuego online, cautioning mere mortals against idle consumption. But how hot could it be?
Denise started me off with a plate of tortilla chips and a sampler of their salsas: mild, hot, avocado, tomatillo and mango. The mango was sweet and refreshing, but the clear standout was the avocado, which is made from a fresh blend of avocado and jalapeno. After forcing myself to stop, I dug into the main event, the Taco Fuego. Denise paired this with their refried beans – creamy, delicious, and the perfect companion to the heat of the taco. My first bite of the Taco Fuego was bliss. A fantastic mix of meats, fresh onion and cilantro topped off with the deadly Fuego Salsa.
I finished the first bite and wondered what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t all that hot. But then it hit me – my face warmed, my tongue prayed for the saving grace of a milkshake. “It used to be hotter, back when we used ghost peppers,” Denise told me. I wished I could stop eating, but the flavor was simply too good. I ate the entire taco, going so far as to scrape up the escaping bits with a fork.
As if the reward of the Taco Fuego flavor wasn’t enough, I was then treated to a dessert of churros, a Spanish doughnut that Denise’s crew cooks to perfection – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and coated with a heavy dusting of cinnamon and sugar. I wanted another order immediately after finishing. It was as if Valhalla and Nirvana had crashed into each other and, instead of exchanging insurance paperwork, decided to make a pastry.
But, you know, the real treat of the evening was talking to Denise. And after trying their food, that’s saying something. I sat and ate for about 40 minutes, the whole time talking of work, play, GrubHub and, of course, food. She told me about each of the items I was eating, explaining the flavors and the spices, and I smiled, knowing that I can now put a face to a name.
1648 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL