A Tale of Two Taquerias

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Oct 19, 2006 3:00PM

We have recently been obsessed with El Taco Veloz (1745 W. Chicago Ave) and have proudly proclaimed to all that we have found our new favorite taqueria in the city. Each person we told challenged us with the same response: "yeah, that place is good, but the place across the street is even better." Here at Chicagoist, we aren't in the business of backing down from challenges, so we decided to try out Tecalitlan Restaurant (1814 W. Chicago Ave.) and to determine which taqueria reigned supreme. The four categories we used to determine the winner are as follows: food, drink, ambiance and price.

2006_10_tacos1.jpgFood: Both restuarants served tacos with all the fixings -- tomato, lettuce, sour cream, salsa. The tacos at Tecalitlan came out heaping with fixings, and it was almost too much to eat. We wondered how we would even pick it up to begin the taste test. In contrast, El Taco Veloz's tacos are large, but managable. We preferred the authentic crema served at El Taco Veloz to the sour cream at Tecalitlan. That being said, Tacalitlan's chili relleno came out piping hot, a juicy green pepper filled with gooey cheese. The chili rellenos across the street have been known to be on the cold side. In terms of other offerings, the gorditas at El Taco Veloz are fabulous, but the same can be said about the chicken tamales at Tecalitlan. Both restuarants offer larger dinner plates that include beans and rice as well. Our main complaint with Tecalitlan is that they seemed to overcompensate with "more" as opposed to making their dishes taste better. For example, the cheese enchillade had way too much cheese; half of what they put on would have been sufficient.

Winner: El Taco Veloz, for making better tacos, knowing when enough is enough, and having spicy pickled veggies out on the table to eat with chips.

Drink: Both restaurants serve up the booze with a smile. Upon walking into El Taco Veloz, diners are greeted with a cooler, where they are invited to pick out the beer of their choice. Options include Corona, Pacifico, and Modelo. Margaritas and other such beverages are also available, but stick with the beer at this no-frills joint. Across the street, the focus seems to be on margaritas. The night we went was included in their "Margarita Night" promotion, which runs Monday-Thursday every week. No joke here: a pitcher of margaritas only costs $13 (normally $25). Even though there were only two of us, we are suckers for promotions, and so we took the plunge and ordered the pitcher. It was an excellent decision.

Winner: Tecalitlan for the Margarita Night promotion.

2006_10_tacos2.jpgAmbiance: El Taco Veloz is a straight-up no-frills taqueria. We are talking about florescent lighting, bright paint, and wall decorations that have seen better days. In contrast, Tecalitlan is an actual restaurant, complete with a bar, attentive service, lower lighting. We would consider taking Mom and Dad there, if they wanted some Mexican food, where El Taco Veloz is more of a "let's go here after a night at the bars," type of joint.

Winner: Tecalitlan

Price: We aren't going to lie. Both restuarants are pretty cheap. It is hard to quibble when tacos at one runs you $1.25, and at the other costs $1.75. El Taco Veloz is slightly cheaper, so they get the prize.

Winner: El Taco Veloz

Verdict: The end result is two wins for El Taco Veloz, and two for Tecalitlan. Crap, we weren't expecting a tie. Ties are lame. Both places are a great value and offer convincing food, so neither is a bad pick at all. We lean slightly more to El Taco Veloz, but that is probably just because we went there first.