| No, not bloodthirsty ghouls, but Khaled Simon’s riff on the alluring griddled Sinaloense taco with melted cheese—not atop—but between the filling and tortilla (also, known as volcanes). Simon flips his tortillas onto the plancha cheese-side-down, achieving a caramelized lattice of queso Chihuahua that drains hunger the way Lestat exsanguinates a lover.
Beginning in 2020, Simon and his partner Haley Pham, aka Taco Sublime, roamed the city in a converted ice cream truck named “La Baby,” feeding folks at transient encampments and teaming up with not-for-profit organizations to help distribute resources like clothing, tents, and vaccinations.
“Going where people needed us was fundamental to our understanding of what we needed to be able to do this daily and bring this dream into a reality,” says Simon. The dream is to build a Taco Sublime franchise empire that can offer a pathway for “rehabilitation and social reintegration through food service and culinary arts.”
But there’s a different dream coming true first, when Simon and Pham take over the kitchen at Ludlow Liquors for the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up.
La Baby still transports its delicious community outreach, but these days you can regularly find Taco Sublime slinging vampiros, quesadillas, and smashburgers Tuesday through Sunday at Marz Community Brewing.
Simon, who cooked in Chicago hotels before COVID, has always admired the franchise model. For ease of reproduction he developed a single marinade for his steak, chicken, shrimp, and veggie taco fillings. Hailing from Tegucigalpa, he based it on the versatile Honduran chimichurri he grew up eating on everything. “It’s a very beautiful thing because you can use it on anything.”
Simon and Pham will be bringing those vampiros to Ludlow on February 20. But they’ll also be throwing down a dish not usually available at Marz. It’s a synthesis of his and Pham’s respective cultures: a beef birria banh mi with cukes, jalapenos, cilantro, housemade mayo, and pickled daikon and carrots.
Walk-in orders only, friends. Get yourself a Taco Sublime passionfruit Paloma from Grace and Joel behind the bar and loosen your belt. Tacos start slinging at 5 PM, Monday, at Ludlow Liquors, 2959 N. California in Avondale.
Meanwhile, feast your orbs on the full Foodball schedule below.