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Game 54: Twins at Cubs

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Big Mike takes on Johnny Vander Mills.

Chicago station escalator sign. Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

First Pitch: 7:15 pm CDT


Radio: TIBN

I lived in Chicago for the last few years, before returning home to Minnesota this summer. In that time, the Twins experienced their “total system failure,” while the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. In the same fall, I was at Guaranteed Rate Field as the Twins set a team record for losses; a week or so later, a roommate and I were sitting in deep center as the Cubs began their championship run with a thrilling 1-0 NLDS victory.

Times change quickly. Chicagoland superstar Kris Bryant looks like he’s forgotten how to swing the bat, while the Twins are enjoying their most consistent success in 10 years.

Even the Chicago I grew accustomed to is shapeshifting, as any city is wont to do. While the Cubs and the White Sox, two longstanding institutions of the town, aren’t going anywhere, there is another institution - a more personal one - that’s already out the door.

I’m speaking (of course) about the legendary Taco & Burrito Palace #2.

There’s no shortage of late-night, hole-in-the-wall taco joints; Halsted St alone has a few within spitting distance of each other. But this one was special. Just down the road from B.L.U.E.S., the locally-owned restaurant had the brightest light-up windows on the street.

At the end of a long day, the walk back to my apartment took me straight toward the restaurant, whose blinking beacons I could see through the trees from about five blocks away. It was almost like the North Star; a tortilla-wrapped Mecca promising safe deliverance home and reasonably-priced burritos.

Many winter nights ended with a brief stop for some late-night grub. During my handlebar-mustached 2018, I became recognizable enough to the staff that I would garner enthusiastic greetings and, occasionally, free samples of the lemonade of the week. (These enthusiastic greetings would also happen at the Subway, but they don’t usually hand out free stuff all willy-nilly at the Subway.)

It was just one of those places, the kind of establishment you might expect to see Guy Fieri’s camera crew roll into. The name was simultaneously over-the-top (a palace of divine, savory cuisine) and straight to the point (Tacos. Burritos. Also, this is the second location.)

And then it was gone. One day, a sign went up on the door explaining that the staff would be going on vacation in early August. About a week later, that sign had changed to reflect a new update: the location would be permanently closed, the staff having been bought out by Tony’s Burrito Mex, and hired to work at one of their locations in Roscoe Village. They did their best Baltimore Colts impression, vanishing overnight after 30 years of local operation.

In fairness, it’s not like they were bought out by Yum! Brands and started churning out Doritos Locos Tacos. I don’t have a bad thing to say about Tony’s Burrito Mex. I’ve never been. And had Taco & Burrito Palace #2 not been a stone’s throw from my residence, I probably never would have been there either. After all, I never went out of my way to go find #1.

Eventually, my memory of that restaurant will become more valuable than the food itself.

That’s the thing with anything falling under the designation of “just one of those places”: they are as much a product of circumstance as they are anything else.

Head past the Palace’s old headquarters, and take a left where Halsted intersects with Clark St, and you’ll be at another “one of those places” - a beloved neighborhood joint where, it just so happens, the Twins will be playing tonight.

Today's Lineups

Byron Buxton - CF Ian Happ - CF
Max Kepler - RF Kris Bryant - 3B
Nelson Cruz - DH Anthony Rizzo - 1B
Eddie Rosario - LF Willson Contreras - C
Miguel Sano - 1B Kyle Schwarber - LF
Jorge Polanco - SS Javier Baez - SS
Marwin Gonzalez - 2B Jason Heyward - RF
Ehire Adrianza - 3B David Bote - DH
Alex Avila - C Nico Hoerner - 2B
Michael Pineda - RHP Alec Mills - RHP