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Adjective – obviously planned, artificial
That’s our word of the day, and it was the first word I thought of after setting foot inside Cheeky. Taquerias are popping up everywhere, and most are not true taco shacks. To Cheeky’s credit, they are going for that taco shack feel. But you don’t take a brand spanking new strip mall space and pretend it is a shack. Ask anyone who’s been to Jim and Nicks if they thought it truly felt like a down home barbecue place. All the folksy pictures and faux farm implements on the wall don’t change the fact that you’re in a STRIP MALL! So the fake garage doors at Cheeky were not fooling me, nor were the menus printed on wood.
My other first impression was that management was over-training the staff. They opened on Monday. I was there on Tuesday. Two employees asked me if this was my first visit. Duh! If you’ve been to Chepes Mexican, it is kinda like that. The employees are almost too friendly, to the point of smothering you with their helpfulness.
But even with these annoyances, I kinda liked Cheeky’s. For lunch I tried the trio of tacos. They use fresh ingredients and combine them in creative ways. I found my tacos to be a good mix of spice, heat and sweetness from things like pineapple salsa. They also had contrasting textures. The sliced pork in one taco was soft, delicate and flavorful. The shrimp tacos were pretty good, but could use a few more of the critters. The crab croquette tacos (a signature item) were just fair, I wasn’t impressed. The beans (both refried and charro) left a lot to be desired.
I really liked Cheeky’s bar. They feature tables with self-serve beer taps. You’ll also find TVs in the bar that measure how much beer of each brand has been served that night. If you are competitive in nature, this might be dangerous. But it is a concept I’ve yet to see in the northern burbs. Their margaritas also looked pretty good.
All in all, I think Cheeky might be a winner. They are in a prime location at the Avenue, right across from Barnes and Noble. It is certainly not like your run-of-the-mill ubiquitous Mexican restaurant, pushing entrees called “Speedy Gonzales”. Is it in the same league as Pure Taqueria or CANS Taqueria? No way, Jose.