Location -1865 N. Milwaukee Ave. (773) 252-5687
In one word – Bland
Food – Watch your back, bland hospital food. You’ve got some competition from Irazu.
I was cruelly disappointed when I went to Irazu with a group of six last Saturday, excited to try some tasty Costa Rican food for the first time. I think I first sensed impending disaster when the Guacamole with Chips ($6.50) arrived and it had the consistency of tooth paste. Word of mouth had led us all to Irazu to sample their burritos, not their guacamole, so even though guacamole is usually a fail-safe appetizer, we didn’t give up hope. Almost everyone in the group ordered Steak or Chicken Burritos ($5.50), except for my Trusty Sidekick who had steak tacos ($1.95 each), and me—I tried their Vegetarian Burrito ($4.95), which Irazu’s menu claims is award-winning. In my opinion, this is false advertising. There’s no kind way to say this, Irazu, but when it comes to burritos, you come up extremely short in both girth and flavor. First of all, our burritos were pretty small. When you only need one hand to pick up and eat your burrito, it is not a good sign. Secondly, there was very poor ingredient distribution—I had to hunt to find any avocados among my yellow rice. Finally, the burritos were so flavorless that our table had to keep swapping the salt and pepper shakers between the six of us so that everyone could season each bite themselves. Think that sounds ridiculous? Well, try asking for hot sauce and you’ll get the surprise of your life: hot sauce is an extra $.50. What!? Even the complimentary salsa at the table didn’t offer any relief from the blandness, as it was neither bright nor firery—only watery. Listen up, Bucktown hipsters eating at Irazu—just like you, I heart burritos. But even evil corporations like Chipotle can deliver a better, tastier burrito experience than this (GB NOTE – Some of us LOVE Chipotle, hungry yuppie, don’t hate on us).
Drink – BYOB
Irazu’s legendary Oatmeal milkshakes ($3.00) also came highly recommended, so we tried one. Don’t. Perhaps it wasn’t well mixed, but the shake separated immediately into think sludge on the top, gritty water on the bottom.
Service – The service could have been better and could have been worse. When we were seated, our waiter immediately brought us a bucket of ice for our beer. However, as the meal went on we got less attention. Water glasses were only re-filled once, and we spent about ten minutes trying to flag down someone to bring us napkins.
A couple other FYIs—it’s cash only, though there’s an ATM on site. A standard 18% gratuity is added to parties of 6 or more. Because the space is so tiny, reservations are not accepted, so expect a wait.
Scene – From the outside, Irazu looks pretty sketchy. The first thing you’ll notice—thick, iron security bars on the outside of all the windows—is anything but welcoming. The inside of the restaurant is tiny. The dining room is snug with only a handful of tables, and the décor is plain, aside from a really lovely mural painted on the main wall. That mural and some good people watching are Irazu’s best features.
Dress – Wear your best hipster wear to truly fit in with the in-crowd here. In other words, you’ll be dressed to impress in jeans and your favorite ironic graphic tee.
Cost – With tax and tip, it was $10 per person. Definitely cheap eats.
If you like, try… hospital food. Seriously.
Ok, restaurants with a similar menu and feel are El Famous, La Pasadita, Tio Luis.
p.s. Dear Readers, I appreciate the fact that Irazu came highly recommended and seems to have a large, cult-like following in Chicago. You tell me—is my review unfair? Did I just come to Irazu on an extremely off off-day?
Written by hungry yuppie