Our Picks For The 12 Best Tacos In Chicago
Wars have been won and lost over the best place to grab a taco in Chicago (and many of them took place in my apartment, at 1 a.m.) Tacos are the delicious, hand-held comfort food of Chicago's most budget-minded, health-conscious and self-indulgent diners alike.
There's a taco out there for virtually every price point and taste, from the unusual combinations at Wicker Park's Antique Taco to the steak tacos to end all steak tacos at Las Asadas to the hangover-curing offal tacos at Taqueria Traspasada #2. We've sorted out some of our favorite options to help with your next date nights and late-night cravings.
Authentaco (Photo by Melissa McEwen)
On a stretch of Ashland with plenty of taco options, it can be difficult to decide where to go. I like all of the options, but I find myself going to Authentaco for their house-made tortillas with fillings like tender roasted sweet potatoes with chorizo or the delicious (though unappealing-sounding) corn smut topped with their excellent salsas. Enjoy some creamy spicy horchata or a refreshing Topo Chico on the patio.
Authentaco is located at 1141 N. Ashland Ave.
Taqueria Traspasada #2
Another of the Ashland taco staples, this one because they are open late and their awfully generous selection of offal tacos like tripas (tripe), lengua (beef tongue), cabeza (head), sesos (brain) and tripas (tripe), though the selection varies. I have absolutely no science to back this up, but it’s my personal belief that eating some offal tacos after a night on the town before you go to bed is the best way to prevent a hangover.
Taqueria Traspasada #2 is located at 811 N. Ashland Ave.
DeLux Bar & Grill
Bar tacos are too often only about as good as convenience store “food.” One of the great exceptions to this rule is Delux Bar & Grill in River West. The Taco Platter is one of the best $10 (or under) plates you will find, especially at 11:30 at night when I usually like to hop in. The plate comes with your choice of chicken, chorizo, steak or shrimp (my favorite), double-wrapped in corn or flour tortillas and filled with lettuce, Chihuahua cheese and fresh pico de gallo. Rice and beans are added on the side. All are made with fresh ingredients and cooked to order, which goes really well with the chicken tortilla soup too.
— Selena Fragassi
DeLux Bar & Grill is located at 669 N. Milwaukee Ave.
via Big Star
Big Star's Taco de Papas con Rajas is an inspired taco for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Substantive and spicy, the simplicity of this taco (consisting only of potatoes, queso cotija, onion and cilantro) is made complex by their incredible rajas chipotle that brings it all together. It is also a taco that goes well with all of their other fare, so mix and match with abandon. Be sure to wash it all down with their Michelada, which is one of the best in the city.
— Carrie McGath
Big Star is located at 1531 N. Damen Ave.
Big & Little’s
While we’re tripping over good carne asada and al pastor tacos in this town, a good fish taco can be harder to find. But Big & Little’s offers a variety of excellent fish tacos. They make a strong version of the Baja classic, as well as some riffs on it with an Asian bent—like their Samurai. Their shrimp tacos are also equally as yummy. We can’t wait for their Wicker Park location to bring their fried seafood tacos west of the Kennedy!
— Benjy Lipsman
Big & Little’s is located at 860 N. Orleans St. and 1034 W. Belmont Ave., Wicker Park location coming soon.
via La Cocina
With incredible specials six days a week (such as $1 Taco Tuesdays), there is no reason not to head to this Kedzie Avenue staple. An entire section of their menu is vegetarian since they offer seitan beef, chicken or chorizo, but their menu is equally fulfilling to meat lovers. Their tacos embody an authenticity that is traditional, straightforward and delicious. The spices they cook the meat, vegetables and seitan in give these tacos their edge and dimension and they never disappoint.
La Cocina is located at 2901 N. Kedzie Ave.
via Antique Taco
The Sweet and Spicy Chicken Tacos at Antique Taco are exactly that. The sweetness emerges from the honey yogurt sauce and fresh mint while a spicy kick cuts into the sweetness with pickled cucumbers and jalapeños. It is finished off with ribbons of purple onion and wrapped up in a corn tortilla. The menu here is a riff on traditional Mexican favorites, but they stay true to the original's flavorful brightness. These chicken tacos are an ideal example of a refreshing meal perfect for a summer day on their patio.
Antique Taco is located at 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.
via L'Patron Facebook
There’s no shortage of taquerias in Logan Square, which is why narrowing down my pick to just one delicious taco is so tough, but I’m going to go with L’Patron and their Al Pastor taco. Made with crispy marinated pork and topped with sweet pineapple, it’s a must-order every time I visit. It’s always fresh and full of flavor, and each warm corn tortilla is overflowing with meat. There’s usually a wait at this busy restaurant, but chips are served up fast to hold you over. Just be sure you have cash on you before getting in line.
L’Patron is located at 2815 W. Diversey Ave.
Las Asadas is still the king of steak tacos in my heart. Any place where you can order carne asadas with nothing more than cheese and it’s still an absolute mouth-explodingly terrific meal is going to be hard to beat. The meat is always moist without being greasy, and the tortillas are always supple without being chewy (or falling apart with each consecutive bite). Please, don’t ever change, Las Asadas! —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Las Asadas is located at 2045 N. Western Ave., 3243 N. Pulaski Rd. and 3834 W. 47th St.
Manolo's at Maxwell Street Market
First of all, if you haven’t been to Maxwell Street Market and you are reading this list, mark Sunday as occupied in your calendar right this instant! Now to the tacos. Why the line at Manolo’s is never half as long as that of dear neighbor Rubi’s baffles me on every visit to this Sunday-only market. Venture a couple stalls south for a fine rendition of the Al Pastor, served traditionally with cilantro and onions. Also try the stellar staff-recommended pork mole, divine with queso melted into the bottom of the folded tortilla, rolled, pressed, and griddled to order. They pull the meat fresh off the spit and definitely take their time, but no mind—any given Sunday, Manolo’s would win the taco showdown.
Manolo's is located at Maxwell Street Market at 800 S. Desplaines St., between Polk and Taylor streets.
Now that Maxwell Street is on the mind, let’s focus on another of so many standouts: this smaller stand usually sets up shop on the east side of the street nearest to Taylor Street. A number of the taquerias here don’t offer chorizo, but D.F. serves up some mean spicy pork on Sundays—saucy, spicy, and pieced just right into (duh) freshly pressed tortillas. Tasting this chorizo changed my perception of what that meat should be, especially when embraced by something as precious as a taco. It's ruined me for chorizo everywhere else.
Tacos D.F. is located at Maxwell Street Market at 800 S. Desplaines St., between Polk and Taylor streets.
This fluorescent-lit fast food outpost on Lincoln Avenue is not winning any points for style, but in the early morning hours it is a beacon of hope to anyone (okay, mostly DePaul undergrads) stumbling home with a fierce craving for chorizo or guac. My favorite of Allende’s menu items include the quesadillas, french fries and vegetarian tacos. Allende’s vegetarian tacos are fast, cheap, consistently good with fresh avocado slices and tasty refried beans, and on order until 3 a.m. And they never skimp on the extra avocado. What more could you ask for?
Allende Restaurante is located at 2408 N. Lincoln Ave. and 2221 N. Lincoln Ave.