There’s a lot going on at the General, a bar/taqueria/general store in Logan Square that, like the neighborhood, is named after General John A. Logan. It’s a western-themed saloon serving locally sourced food with southern and Mexican influences. The general store in front offers staples like milk, bread, eggs, and produce, as well as beer and wine. And, improbably, it all works—especially if you’re seated on the back patio on a late summer evening.
Besides the enclosed patio behind the restaurant (which backs up to a garage that the owners eventually hope to open up for games like ping-pong), there are a few small tables on the front sidewalk and a large front window that opens up enough to make the front of the bar almost feel like a covered patio. Inside, the former Provenance Food & Wine space is almost all wood—aside from the restored tin ceiling—and feels surprisingly welcoming for a place you’d half expect to have spittoons on the floor.
There’s an ongoing special of a beer (whatever the beer special of the day is—in our case Greenbush APA—served in a 12-ounce boot), a shot (David Nicholson 1878, an overproof whiskey bottled in bond by Heaven Hill especially for the General), and a taco (your choice) for $8. It’s a good deal, considering that the beer is craft and the whiskey is decent enough for sipping if shots aren’t your thing.
The tacos, with fillings like beer-can chicken and bourbon brisket, certainly aren’t authentic Mexican—and they’re not trying to be. They are, however, made from scratch, from the house-made tortillas to the house-smoked meats. The brisket had a nice flavor and texture, but its poblano sauce made the tortilla a little soggy; I preferred the beer-can chicken taco (roasted with pork belly, marinated in tequila, and served with collard greens and “avocado southern spiced aioli”) and the fried catfish with smoked jalapeno sour cream, black eyed peas, and habanero pickles. The smoked jalapeno and chive gravy on a crispy fried chicken taco didn’t add much flavor, but it was pretty unobjectionable—unlike the vegan, gluten-free taco with black beans, roasted root vegetables, corn, portobello, and tamarind mushroom bourbon sauce, which sounded promising but was almost entirely tasteless, with an oddly chewy texture.
The menu is fairly brief aside from the tacos: a few sides and snacks, a single green salad, and a house-made pie of the day. My favorite of the lot was the southern-style boiled peanuts, served hot in a salty, savory liquid (the waitress said the recipe was a secret, but the umami flavor makes me suspect that soy sauce and dried mushrooms are involved). I’d never had boiled peanuts before and they seemed weirdly soft to me at first, but their flavor quickly won me over.
The chimichanga with shrimp, cheese, and grits was another winner, crisp on the outside and stuffed with sweet, tender shrimp, with just enough cheese to make it a little gooey. And while I couldn’t finish all the food we’d ordered, I still managed to make a good dent in the sweet-tart plum pie, topped with crunchy streusel and accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream.
The General, 2528 N. California, 773-698-8754, thegenerallogan.com.