Thornton Park's Big Time Street Food serves hangover food at its hedonistic best

Thornton Park's Big Time Street Food serves hangover food at its hedonistic best
Photo by Rob Bartlett
805 E. Washington St.

That Big Time Street Food isn't open until 4 p.m. should tell you something. That something is: This stuff ain't for lunch. Here, you won't find the kind of invigorating, light-but-hearty dishes designed specifically for midday. In this primarily takeaway space with just a few barstools and a counter that looks out onto Washington Street for prime people-watching, there's intention – to line the bellies of night owls.

In fact, Big Time Street Food shares an interior door with Burton's, one of the neighborhood's most popular watering holes. Order at Big Time's counter, and one of the guys on the line will run it right over to your high-top or slide it down the bar. According to one of the staff, the Falcon Bar & Gallery is also happy to accept patrons with a Big Time bag in hand.

I visited on a weeknight, but there were still plenty of orders coming in. Whether you're buzzed or not, this food is good. Not just good; it's loud, brash and ultra-extra. I'd even go so far as to say it's "chef porn," the kind of food my back-of-the-house friends cook for themselves on their off nights. The Chorizo Montoya burger ($8) reads like the answer to a line cook's wondering out loud: "What would happen if we put a grilled chorizo patty on top of a regular burger?" ... and cheese. And cubed avocado. And fried onions. It's excessive. It's the Cardi B of comestibles.

I ordered the Holy Fried Chicken Sandwich ($8) – a sinner's version of the cravable fast-food spicy chicken-on-a-bun – and it made me wonder, why isn't every chef in town using chicken thighs for sandwiches? It just makes sense. Big Time's flattened thigh was slick with juice and fat inside its batter crust. The chicken was perfectly cooked, but the batter was laid on a bit too thick. I ended up peeling most of it off one side so I could get just enough crunch.

The small plates at Big Time are aptly named "snacks," and I just had to have the buffalo cauliflower bites ($7), served with ranch. I was a little bummed that the bites weren't sauced when they came out, but it makes sense not to for diners not eating in-house: Letting those perfectly crisped cruciferous morsels sit in sauce for more than a few minutes would surely soggy them right up. It didn't matter in the end, because I finished them and made a mental note to sneak them into the movie theater next time I'm catching a flick.

The cheddar cheese curds ($9) fried to a crisp are straight out of Wisconsin. By that, I don't mean that they are like ones in Wisconsin: They literally come from a Cheese State dairy that's partially owned by Big Time's owner. In fact, Packer Nation will appreciate knowing they're the same curds that come out of the concession stands at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. They were addictive, and I loved pulling the melted strands from each bite, after dipping them in the accompanying roasted tomato aioli.

It seems excessive to suggest you order a side of fries ($2) at Big Time, but it would be remiss of me not to mention them because they are special. First of all, they're waffle fries, which, let's be honest, are the best cut of French fry because surface area. Second, there's an ever-so-slight sprinkling of cornmeal on them, nestled into the waffle weave, so they're crunchy in a way French fries have never been, but should always be. Fine, I'll say it. Order them.

As for something sweet to end the meal, Big Time doesn't have any dessert on the menu, so just finish off the Mexican Coke you ordered with your meal. Or, politely ask the Burton's bartender to send over a White Russian instead.

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