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(Annie Grossinger / Chicago Tribune)Beatnik is a study in texture.From the exuberantly ornate dining room to the best dishes on the menu, the West Loop restaurant delights in serving up layers upon layers of style. A beet hummus kicked off a recent meal with sparks of citrus zest and dusky notes of clove, offset by the crunch of fried chickpeas and the salty tang of blue cheese.On the sweet side, the cocoa taco () is a cute waffle-cone-like crisp shaped into a taco and filled with chocolate ice cream and brownie cubes, among other sweet things, but what wowed me were the three churros (), doughnutlike circles dusted in cinnamon sugar.They’re big — you may want to share — but are wonderfully light and airy.Baby sepia was well grilled and paired nicely with a silky tomato puree and bitter greens, but the accompanying corn and squid-ink polenta lacked flavor.Perhaps the restaurant’s greatest achievement is the space it has created.
Each morsel is also soaked in a spicy red tomato and chile broth, making them so soft you can easily spread them on the crackers served on the side.You can grab them at grocery stores, order them at an untold number of Mexican restaurants and pick them up by the dozen from vendors on select street corners.You can also do nothing but nurse a beer at some North Side watering holes and wait for the red-cooler-toting Tamale Guy to spring through the door, like Santa for the seriously sauced.Barrio offers a selection of tacos both traditional and “deconstructed” (that means you get to build them yourself). Sadly, you have to have the same filling in all three.