For me, the only necessary movie theater food is popcorn, soft drinks and boxed candy. I've experienced the upscale-food-delivered-to-your-cushy-seat theaters: too disruptive, mediocre food and overpriced. The ideal situation might be Truco Taqueria & Margarita Bar right next door to AMC Randhurst 12 in Randhurst Village for tasty Mexican street food and a cold one before or after watching a summer blockbuster.
Choose a spot in the outdoor area or inside the colorful, casual taqueria sporting Day of the Dead imagery, an open kitchen and a bar. On a recent Sunday afternoon we witnessed groups of girlfriends, a couple of families and a half dozen guy friends at one of the communal tables. Much of the bar was filled with patrons enjoying Patron and other cold drinks. The humidity dissuaded us from sitting outside, but we snagged a table by the window for people-watching while plotting our eating plan.
Truco Taqueria & Margarita Bar211 Randhurst Village Drive, Mount Prospect, (847) 577-TACO (8226), trucotaco.com/
Cuisine: Mexican street food
Setting: Colorful, casual taqueria
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Tacos $2.75-$3.50; flatbreads $12; sandwiches $10-$11; burritos $9-$12; all-day Mexican breakfast $10-$11; margaritas $9-$10
The first thing my lunch mate observed was the number of Mexican beers on draft: Modelo Especial, Dos Equis, Corona, Pacifico and Negra Modelo. Plus, domestic brews like Anti-Hero, Daisy Cutter, Tighthead, Two Brothers and others on the menu. I noticed the beautiful Mexican tiles on the staircase winding up to the second floor. The punny jokes -- "I hate tacos said no Juan ever" -- in large lettering over the open kitchen lend a playful note to the already sunny ambience. After all, truco translates to "little trick" in Spanish.
The soundtrack was '80s and '90s tunes from the likes of No Doubt and Blind Melon. It was amplified enough to hear but not so loud as to be unwelcome.
Chips and salsa as well as large glasses of ice water arrived in no time flat after we sat down. The salsa, while gently spiced, certainly tasted homemade (we asked if there was anything spicier, but the waitress said that was it). My amigo went for a frozen raspberry margarita, which he found cooling on a hot day but anemic in the tequila department. Frozen margaritas, in lime, strawberry, mango or flavor of the week, are made with Jimador tequila and orange liqueur for $9.50. Others sound seductive: The Rita with Corralejo Reposado, Salerno Blood Orange Liqueur and fresh lime juice ($9) and the Oh My Gatos! with Cabo Wabo Blanco, orange liqueur, muddled fresh cucumbers, jalapeño and fresh lime juice ($9). If tequila is your spirit, there are 200 premium agave tequilas for you to consider sipping.
I opted for a Mula that riffed on a Moscow Mule -- Tito's Handmade Vodka, Giffard ginger liqueur infused with five spice, fresh lime juice and ginger beer for $9. I found the lime too heavy-handed, muddling the other flavors. When I told the waitress, she happily returned it to the bar for a remake that let the ginger flavors shine.
There's that stellar draft beer roster I mentioned, as well as 15 brews in cans and bottles, mojitos, sangria, better than decent wines by the glass and an appealing menu of alcohol-free beverages like horchata (sweet almond rice drink), Mexican sodas like Coke and Fanta Orange, Jarritos, freshly brewed ice tea and more.
Knowing that street tacos are generally petite, we eyeballed the "Share Plates" list, which includes quesadillas with spinach, marinated steak, chorizo or chicken ($9-$11); beef empanadas going for an easy $5; nachos; flautas; queso dip and chips; and guacamole at $10, which felt a little pricey.
We went for the camaron flatbread and were thrilled with the crispy flour tortilla dotted with shrimp, diced avocado, crumbled goat cheese, purple onion, arugula and a peppy adobo salsa ($12). Arriving in just five minutes, it was about the size of a small pizza. Other envious diners asked their waiter what we were "oohing" and "ahhing" about. Other flatbread choices are costilla, with braised beef short rib, tamarind barbecue sauce, Serrano peppers, avocado and radish, and the vegetarian hongos, starring roasted mushrooms and corn, Serrano chiles, Oaxaca cheese, crispy epazote and salsa verde. Any of the flatbreads would make an ideal light shareable treat for two.
Choose from more than a dozen tacos ($2.75-$3.50), with most served on double corn tortillas. Chicken pipian verde with pulled chicken, tomatillo pumpkin seed and sesame seed sauce, queso fresco, cilantro and toasted seeds was a fabulous choice. My friend was happy with the pescadilla -- swordfish, herbs, tomatoes, onions, avocado and chipotle puree encased in a single crispy fried corn tortilla.
Cochinita pibil is a rarity, so I went for the Yucatan-style pulled pork, pickled purple onions, a bit of kicky chile Habanero and cilantro -- a trip to Riviera Maya for $3. Other tempting possibilities include beef short rib, steak or braised beef; chorizo and al pastor pork; a bevy of seafood tacos from shrimp and mahi mahi to beer-battered cod; and vegetarian blends.
But wait -- there's more than tacos. The menu offers items for a larger appetite like a Milanesa torta ($11), breaded chicken or steak cutlet capped with pickled jalapeños, avocado, tomato, cheese and refried beans on a toasted roll. There's the El Gringo burger ($10) and chubby burritos available with various proteins that can be prepared gluten-free with lettuce.
Carb-conscious diners will be happy to know the taco salad can be adorned with grilled chicken, charbroiled steak, sautéed shrimp or the requisite ground beef.
Those who love breakfast can get the Mexican version served all day, everyday: choose among chilaquiles ($11), a breakfast burrito ($10) and huevos rancheros ($11).
Featured specials the day we visited included a chopped salad with myriad ingredients for $12; two versions of carne asada ($23); fajitas ($15-$22); a seafood topped tostada; and a pumpkin seed pesto shrimp taco (each $3.50). Unfortunately, we ordered from the regular menu before we noticed the specials list.
There's a thoughtful kids' menu offering a quesadilla, tacos, hamburger, tenders and even a steak, all served with fries, fresh fruit and a drink ($6-$9).
Truco's Happy Hour, from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, is a good deal with $5 frozen margaritas and $3 Mexican drafts. Stop by anytime on Monday for $5 margaritas; Tuesdays for half-price tacos; $5 sangria on Wednesday; and Thursdays get half-off burritos and $18 Coronitas Extra buckets.
Truco turns out tasty Mexican street food, which makes sense for its location -- it's fast and flavorful if you're trying to make a movie but good enough to linger even if you're not.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.