09/21/2011 07:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Chicago BYOB Rokito's Mexican Streetside Kitchen: Don't Party With Dry Meat

A BYO resto writes its own death certificate when it doesn't have a bathroom. Honestly, don't even say you are a BYO if you can't accommodate broken seals -- especially if you're going to take a while to serve food. Alas, I was forced to sit with a permanent Kegel during a trip to Rokito's Mexican Streetside Kitchen, a taqueria under the Wilson red line stop. TMI, but let that uncomfortable image be a warning to the drinker with the tiny bladder.

Yes, yes, an allegedly seasoned BYO pro such as myself knows better than to pick a spot that sits under a Red Line stop in Uptown. And with a largely standard taqueria menu and a relatively small space, most people probably just buy $1.50 tacos at their weekend late night window anyway. But I was determined to visit a location with fewer than 50 Yelp reviews, and another media review touted its chic interior as a symbol of an up-and-coming Uptown gastronomic scene. Shame on them -- dry, grainy pork and oily chips do not contribute to anyone's "scene." Shame on me -- going against my BYO instincts proved to be a disaster.

Admittedly, Rokito's décor did look lively, a feat for a restaurant under an L station in a largely dank neighborhood: Mexican skeleton paintings in bright primary colors; potted purple plants out front; a menu written with colored chalk on a blackboard. Had Rokito's been in Wicker Park, it may have been populated with drunk artsy girls seeking out places with "character."

Instead, for the most part it was just me and my Blonde Boyfriend (BB), whom I dragged out Sunday evening after plans with my partner-in-crime Ben fell through Saturday night. May this be a show of dedication to blog: I agreed to pay for BB's tacos and talked to him about football when the only redeeming factor for him was a widescreen playing the Eagles-Falcons game. The wait was long. I finally figured out who Michael Vick is.

The two man team working the resto included a soft-spoken cashier and a heavily-accented middle-aged man with facial hair and wire frame glasses. The open kitchen allowed one half of the sarcastic gay couple in front of us to tersely remind the cook that he wanted his burrito with no sour cream. ("Just scrape it off," he said, annoyed.) I did not watch my food so closely, though perhaps it would have illuminated why our four tacos, rice and beans, and chips and salsa took so long. Surely the dry steak was scooped out of a Tupperware? Or maybe the fish felt so drained of all juice due to an entire spa weekend in a deep fryer of some sort? At least the spicy, chunky salsa was delicious. Those tacos needed some sort of condiment. They were generously portioned but essentially tasteless.

I must admit, I feel a little guilty for complaining about Rokito's, which opened just a month or so ago. I usually know better, so, again, let this be a lesson. Here are a few tips to the BYO-seeking n00bs who would be forgiven for such a decision.
  • Check any reviews for mentions of a crowded dining room -- or a lack of one altogether. My restaurant listing site of choice is Chicago's Metromix because it easily lets you choose for BYOB, something Yelp and Urban Spoon don't really do. It's fantastic, except that not every BYOB restaurant is actually suited to a drinking dinner. Some places, such as mainly take-out places like Rokito's, list it because there's little to lose, even if the space isn't conducive to a long sit-down meal. Irazu, last week's BYO, would be an exception to the tiny space not being great for dinner drinking. However, Irazu's menu is extensive.
  • So also look at the menu if you can. Sometimes a smaller menu indicates take-out is the resto's main thing. And you've seen the food on take-out menus. A Chinese restaurant by an L station whose special is General Tso's probably won't be fun for a Saturday night outing.
  • If the resto advertises its BYO status on the website or front window, it's more likely to be friendlier to drinkers. A little obvious perhaps, but not all BYOs list the fact on their window or site. The self-labelers will also be sure to have the proper materials to assist you in the night, like bottle openers and corkscrews. Some may even offer ice buckets for wine or to store extra beers in a fridge.
  • All else fails, just call them and ask them about larger parties and BYO-ing. If they sound confused, maybe just choose a different place.

Armed with: Corona Extra; and there's a Jewel and Azusa Liquor across the street from the Target south of Wilson.

TLDR: Rokito's Mexican Streetside Kitchen, at 1111 W. Wilson Avenue, right under the Wilson Red Line stop in Uptown. With no bathroom and dry, flavorless tacos, it's not exactly a BYO party destination. Opt for a place that advertises its BYO status instead.

Food: 1.5/5 2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg

Atmosphere: 3/5 2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg

Friendliness to Partying: 2/5 2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-winebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg2011-09-05-emptywinebottle.jpg

Price: $3 - $10; $1.50 tacos at late night take-out window