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CHICAGO, IL, July 07, 2017 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Most fans of Albany Park's T&B Grill would agree that if chef/owner Ambrosio Mancines wasn't at the helm, this restaurant, with such a plain-sounding name, would probably be just that--another typical neighborhood eatery. But in Mancines' seasoned and talented hands, T&B Grill (3658 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago; 773-961-7016; www.tandbgrill.com) has emerged as a true gem for taco and burger lovers. But don't take our word for it. 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.
T&B Grill stands out as a go-to destination restaurant due to the prodigious talent and creativity of Mancines, an inspired chef who has risen quickly, albeit behind the scenes, within Chicago's restaurant arena. 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 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."
What to expect
As soon as guests walk in, they recognize they are in for a different and imaginative experience. The walls feature large, colorful murals from local artists. The wood floors and rustic atmosphere is homespun and the joyful laughs of guests permeate the room. 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 begins his menu with a collection of first-rate appetizers. His homemade guacamole is served with crispy jalapeno and chipotle chips ($7), made from flour tortillas rather than corn. Mac and Cheese lovers can indulge, choosing between Crab or Shrimp ($8.50). The Mac and Cheese is served with veggies and guests can add smoked bacon for an extra dollar. The Quesadillas are available with steak, duck, chorizo, fish or veggies ($8), or with shrimp ($9). They are served with chipotle and cilantro flour tortillas, Chihuahua cheese and fresh guacamole, and topped with pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream. The Brussels Sprouts ($6.50) work well as either an appetizer or side dish, prepared with smoked bacon and truffle balsamic glaze.
After guests whet their appetite with the delicious starters, the tacos and burgers take center stage, and both are show stoppers. Tacos are large and priced at no more than $3.50 apiece, served with homemade cilantro and jalapeno tortillas. The signature taco is the T&B Taco ($3.50), with spicy shrimp, habanero aioli and garlic cilantro lime slaw. Another crowd favorite is the Duck Taco ($3.25), made with duck leg confit and ancho pepper, guajillo aioli, pickled cabbage and carrots. The Fish Taco features a generous portion of grilled, rather than fried, fish and is served with pico de gallo, jalapeno lime aioli, black sesame seeds, pickled cabbage and ancho chile peppers. The Chorizo Taco ($3.25) is made with homemade crispy chorizo, pico de gallo, sliced avocado and chipotle aioli. Pork belly lovers will crave the Pork Belly Taco, with a generous portion of meat and served with pineapple habanero pico de gallo, and garnished with grilled pineapple and habanero aioli. The vegetarian option is the Grilled Veggie Taco ($2.50), with black beans, sweet corn, yellow squash, zucchini, red onions, served with roasted tomatillo salsa.
When Mancines turns his attention to the burgers, he doesn't come up short in any way. The regular-sized burgers are made with a half-pound of meat, freshly ground in-house. Not only is beef on the burger menu, but also bison, turkey and black beans. All burgers also are available as mini-burgers, prepared with a quarter-pound of meat ($5 per mini-burger, any style). The burgers are served with a generous portion of fresh hand-cut French fries. Guests can order Parmesan fries, truffle fries or sweet potato fries for an additional $3 ($1.50 additional with mini-burgers).
The burger collection does not lack for imagination. The signature burger, the T&B Burger ($14) is a feast, a bison burger with jalapeno aioli, chorizo, grilled shrimp, pepperjack cheese, and guacamole, served on a brioche bun. Guests seeking a burger with a kick will enjoy the Spice Burger ($12), with beef, habanero aioli, fried egg, pickled jalapeno and Swiss cheese, served on a pretzel bun. For a barbecue twist, the Chipotle Burger ($12) satisfies. It is a half-pound beef and pulled pork burger with guajillo aioli, cheddar cheese, served on a pretzel bun. Pepper lovers are wild about the Cheddar Jalapeno Burger ($12), a beef burger with guajillo aioli, grilled jalapenos, cilantro chips, cheddar cheese, served on a pretzel bun. The Turkey Burger ($10) is also a fan favorite, featuring ground turkey, chipotle aioli, garlic spinach, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, served on a pretzel bun. T&B's take on a traditional bacon cheeseburger, the Classic ($12), is a beef burger with jalapeno aioli, caramelized onions, smoked bacon and cheddar cheese on a pretzel bun. The Veggie Burger is a delight for non-meat eaters ($8.50), prepared with black beans, sweet corn, bell peppers, zucchini, guacamole, alfalfa sprouts and served on a brioche bun.
The dessert menu--all are made in-house--is surprisingly sophisticated for a taco and burger restaurant. The centerpiece is the Chocolate Souffle ($6.50), served with vanilla bean ice cream and a touch of black truffle. Other beautifully presented specialties include Creme Brulee ($6), a saffron creme brulee finished with caramelized brown sugar and fresh berries; Tiramisu ($5), with coffe de olla, mascarpone cheese and dark chocolate; fresh Beignets ($4) with choice of chocolate, mix berries sauce or fresh berries on top; and a revolving selection of seasonal gelato ($4).
T&B Grill's calendar of weekly specials makes the restaurant even more appealing. The prices are surprisingly affordable considering the variety and quality of food.
Choice of 3 tacos and dessert, $13.99 (choice of any three tacos)
Wednesday Mini-Burger night
2 mini-burgers (choice of any two from the menu) with choice of any fries (regular, truffle, parmesan, sweet potato), $9.99; with two scoops of gelato, $11.99
Thursday Make Your Own Sundae
Three scoops, your choice of gelato flavors (sea salt caramel, banana fudge, coconut fudge), with choice of topping (chocolate, caramel, mixed berries, raspberry sauce), $5.50
Friday and Saturday BYO Margarita Bar
Choice of house made cocktail mixes: margarita (lime), mojito (mint), blackberry basil, strawberry rosemary, fresh orange juice, $3.50 per glass or $10 per half carafe
Sunday Date Night for Two
Choice of one appetizer to share, two mini-burgers and four tacos, choice of fries, and choice of dessert, $29.99 for two
Saturday and Sunday Brunch Cocktail Mix Bar
BYO Mimosa, Bellini, or Bloody Mary Bar, $3.50 per glass or $10 per half carafe (choice of grapefruit, peach, fresh orange juice or bloody mary mix with garnish)
Weekend brunch at T&B Grill showcases Mancines' culinary creativity with additional food items. Omelette choices include a Grilled Veggie Omelette ($7.50) with tomato, zucchini, squash, red onion, garlic, and Chihuahua cheese; and the Smoked Salmon Omelette ($9), with smoked salmon, capers, red onion, spinach, and garlic. Omelettes are served with wheat toast and choice of fresh fruit or roasted potatoes.
There are two Benedicts on the brunch menu: Smoked Salmon Benedict ($9) features smoked salmon, capers, red onion, spinach, garlic, and champagne Hollandaise sauce; while the Pork Belly Benedict ($8) features pork belly, chorizo, champagne Hollandaise sauce. Benedicts come with fresh fruit or roasted potatoes.
For those with a sweet tooth at brunch, T&B Grill offers luscious French Toast ($10), two thick slices of French toast, mixed berry sauce and fresh strawberries, served with two eggs any style and wheat toast. For a Mexican twist, enjoy the T&B Chilaquiles ($10), guajillo/cilantro tortilla chips, roasted tomatillo sauce, and two eggs any style, served with bacon and wheat toast and choice of fresh fruit or roasted potatoes.
Brunch lovers who crave some beef dishes will enjoy the Steak & Eggs ($13), a grilled 8 oz. hanger steak with two eggs any style, served with bacon and wheat toast; or the Spice Burger ($10), a half-pound beef burger with habanero aioli, fried egg, pickled jalapenos, Swiss cheese. Both dishes are served choice of fresh fruit or roasted potatoes.
"We are thrilled that our customers have become so enthusiastic about T&B Grill," said Mancines. "We understand that quality, freshness and uniqueness are what diners are looking for these days and we hope to continue surprising them with new and different things."
About Ambrosio Mancines
Chef/owner Ambrosio Mancines is a native of Guerrero, Mexico who came to the United States when he was a young teenager. He always has had a passion for cooking. "I love to cook and that's why I had the idea to someday have my own restaurant," he said. As one of ten children, he learned to cook early and, because he loved to cook, he often cooked for the whole family, transforming traditional Mexican recipes into his own new and different creations. He started working in restaurants as a dish washer at age 14. "It's a hard but important job, but that's how you start in the kitchen," he said.
His first cooking job was at the Italian restaurant Vivaldi in Chicago, making salads, and then he moved to the new Maya del Sol, a highly respected and popular Latino restaurant in Oak Park. After two years he went to another Chicago favorite, Bistro Chez Joel on Taylor Street, where he soon became the sous chef, adapting recipes, making desserts and managing the line. Later, he helped open Folklore in Wicker Park as sous chef, where he was in charge of the grill. A move to David Burke's Steakhouse in Schaumburg gave him some solid corporate restaurant experience as well as an education in prime meat aging, one of David Burke's specialties.
In 2015, he followed his dream to open his own restaurant, launching T&B Grill. "My idea was to create a simple, inexpensive restaurant that would appeal to everyone, but I didn't want to have a typical one," said Mancines. "Everyone loves tacos and burgers, but here we do them differently and everything is fresh. We try to exceed people's expectations of what tacos and burgers can be. At T&B Grill, we are chef-driven but we charge street food prices."
Mancines' cooking philosophy is all about creativity. "Cooking is about matching flavors, putting ingredients together in new ways," said Mancines. "In the kitchen, you have to try new things. To be a chef is to create your own food; it's not about doing what other chefs do." In his mind, quality and freshness are a given; but the food is his own, and his dishes are influenced by his eclectic culinary background.
About T&B Grill
T&B Grill is a casual neighborhood BYOB restaurant located at 3658 W. Lawrence in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood. With an artistic atmosphere highlighted by colorful wall murals and a creative menu that elevates two crowd favorites--tacos and burgers--talented chef/owner Ambrosio prepares fresh, made from scratch food, including appetizers, a variety of unique tacos and burgers, fresh hand-cut fries, and artisan desserts, all of which are consistently creative and delicious. Fresh, homemade cocktail mixes add to the hospitality; guests can bring their favorite liquor and mix their own cocktails. There are daily specials and brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday.
T&B Grill is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturday, brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Sunday, brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is ample street parking and all major cards are accepted. For more information about T&B Grill or to make reservations, please call the restaurant at 773-961-7016 or visit the website at www.tandbgrill.com.
Photo Credit: Haisa from @RedBeyondFood
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