Located in what used to be a cheesy beef stand underneath the Dan Ryan in the northeast corner of Bridgeport, Carbon has developed a diverse clientele of locals, construction workers and folks looking for healthier fast food. The small space has been utilized to its full potential by the owners. Pieces from local artists hang on the walls, while small tables and a brushed-copper counter top provide seating for customers on a leisurely timetable without feeling packed like sardines.
Though Carbon keeps its menu simple, unlike other burrito shacks it grills all items over an open flame (translated from Spanish, carbon means "charcoal," but here the "live fire" comes from a gas grill). Its "authentic" take veers closer to Frontera Grill than Nuevo Leon, but the dishes here come without the sticker shock of the former. Tacos cost $2.25 each (cheese runs an extra quarter), and burritos start at $4.95. Options for both include steak, chicken soaked in a tequila-lime marinade, roasted vegetables and a tortilla-encrusted fish with shredded cabbage and a creamy lime sauce.
Carbon also serves a variety of salsas, all made in-house. The grilled corn and pineapple salsa makes a wonderful complement for the tequila-lime chicken. Seasonal salsa options will please customers committed to local and sustainable produce.
If you dine in at Carbon, the chocolate quesadilla, a rich, sinful treat made with Nutella spread and dusted lightly with powdered sugar, completes the must-order items list. During summer, it offers limited outdoor seating.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Chuck Sudo