Get us in your inbox

  1. Photograph: Brian Sorg
    Photograph: Brian Sorg

    Benedicto takes an order at Taco & Burrito House

  2. Photograph: Brian Sorg
    Photograph: Brian Sorg

    Taco & Burrito House

  3. Photograph: Brian Sorg
    Photograph: Brian Sorg

    Taco & Burrito House

  4. Photograph: Brian Sorg
    Photograph: Brian Sorg

    Taco & Burrito House

210 minutes at a 24-hour taqueria

A timeline of the late-night happenings at Uptown’s Taco & Burrito House.


As a sticky Saturday night seeps into Sunday morning, the single source of excitement at the Taco & Burrito House at 3939 North Broadway is the deafening radio: “¡Ciento cinco punto uno!” But the manager-cashier, Benedicto, knows they’re coming: over-served bros from Wrigleyville; sassy twinks from Boystown; sloppy women pissed at their boyfriends; stumbling men fresh from striking out at the bar. Benedicto wears a persistent smile—a defense mechanism; during a good part of a nine-hour shift, he and his two-man grill team, Arturo and Luis, take as much abuse as they do taco orders.

1am A customer orders two chicken fajitas. “Can I also get an order of chips and guac, please? Thank you.” The only niceties the staff will hear all night.

1:44am “I’ve been coming here for ten years,” says Levar, who stumbled over with a buddy from Wrigleyville reggae club Exodus. “[Benedicto] is really professional. There was a brawl in here three years ago. Those guys just kept on steady cookin’!”

1:53am First rush. The drunks stare at the light-board menu as if they’re gazing into the eyes of God. Arturo and Luis are wizards with their spatulas, flipping, dicing and plating food with lightning speed. Arturo has a baby face and a sunny disposition. Luis is somber, with a patchy mustache and puffy cheeks.

1:56am Benedicto and his crew are soft-spoken and speak little English. Customers barking orders frequently misconstrue that for incomprehension. “Welcome to Obama’s America!” huffs a future Romney voter in the line.

2:22am The surge ceases. Luis refills the horchata dispenser from a giant mixing bucket. All the customers leave behind their destroyed tables—despite the presence of trash cans with bus trays. Luis rolls his eyes and heads over with a wet rag, quietly singing a norteño song.

2:50am A posse of Spanish-speaking guys show up with a 12-pack of Modelo. They shoot the shit briefly with the crew but never order food.

3am The second rush. A muscle-bound guy at the counter reaches for a plate of food Benedicto set down for another customer. His blond girlfriend in a Red Sox T-shirt bats his hands away.

3:21am A girl in a pink prom dress is the only one in her group who didn’t receive food. “I swear, I ordered a chicken burrito!” she cries. Benedicto calmly produces the receipt, which shows she’s wrong.

3:53am “Don’t want cheese! Don’t need the dairy. Just want chicken in that chimichanga,” a man at the counter hollers at Benedicto. “I’m trying to tell him, but he don’t understand me,” the man says.

3:57am “My wife, she Guatemalan,” says a guy in all blue who looks like one of the Fat Boys crossed with a blueberry. “She’s been trying to get me to go to Guatemala. Should I go?” Benedicto nods. “They got KFC and shit, but too many guerrillas!” the man says.

4:16am The final onslaught brings the most intoxicated customers. A guy with a goatlike beard leans over the counter and plays armchair cook, shouting Spanglish directions about the construction of his burrito. “Como está, homeboy! Put the beans on next. Olé, homeboy!”

4:30am The tip jar sitting on the counter holds a pitiful $2.50—the final insult in a night full of them. But as the sky begins to brighten, the spirited music on the radio plays on.

    You may also like

      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!