The Best Tacos In Chicago

These are the 23 tacos you need to know about.
The Best Tacos In Chicago image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Chicago has a lot of taco spots. But for every excellent taqueria, there are three mediocre ones your coworker keeps recommending just because they walk past them on the way home from work, and we don’t want you to end up at one of those. Not when there are so many fantastic places you should be visiting—like the ones in this guide. This list has tacos all over the city. There are cash-only neighborhood spots, popular restaurants, and taquerias in grocery stores and gas station complexes.

These are the 23 tacos you should plan your week around.


photo credit: Sandy Noto


Little Village

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La Chaparrita is located in the front of a grocery store in Little Village, but we doubt you’ll be doing any shopping while you’re here. You’ll be too distracted by the gentleman making some of the best tacos in Chicago. There’s a lot to choose from (with varieties like longaniza, sweetbread, carne asada, brain, and tripe), and if there’s some you’ve never eaten before, this is the place to try them - they’re all balanced and flavorful, and made even better by tortillas dipped into a simmering broth before being warmed on the grill. After eating as many tacos as you can, then start looking for groceries.

Huaraches Dona Chio is a tiny cash-only spot on a side street in Edgewater. Unsurprisingly, the specialty here is huaraches, but anything that involves their housemade masa is delicious, including their tacos. Everything is so well prepared there’s no wrong decision, whether you order pastor, tinga, calabaza, or lengua. It all goes perfectly with the soft, chewy, rather large handmade tortillas.

“Gas station food” is usually limited to things like hot dogs and Tic Tacs. Unless it's the Mobil complex in Lincoln Park, which is where you’ll find El Tragón Taqueria. All of the Mexican food at this colorful counter-service spot is great, but the bistec tacos are the main reason we keep coming back. Juicy ribeye gets a sprinkling of cheese while on the plancha, giving each piece of meat a crispy crust, and it’s all topped off with grilled green onions. Oh, and the trio of housemade salsas on every table? They’re fantastic—drizzle a hefty dollop of the smoky salsa roja before each bite.

If Xocome Antojeria were a movie, then the protagonist would definitely be the unbelievable masa, the base for the restaurant’s incredible tacos. And the taco fillings aren’t just supporting characters—they’re stars in their own right. Xocome uses tender filet mignon for their asada, the cochinita pibil sauce is tangy and sweet, and the beef birria has a hint of smoke, and is a wonderful counterpoint to the spicy, herbaceous green salsa. You choose between blue or yellow masa—the former is a little firmer and nuttier, and the latter a bit fluffier and sweeter. We can’t decide which we like better, and you can’t make us.

A name like “Asian Cuisine Express” might feel a little out of place on a Best Tacos guide. But this Little Village spot’s massive trompo of pork spinning around a live fire dispels any doubt that it belongs. And while Asian Cuisine Express does have a long list of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai dishes, you come here for the best al pastor tacos in Chicago. The pork is sliced into paper-thin slivers that have the ideal ratio of crispy exterior to buttery fat, with a hint of sweetness from equally thin slices of charred pineapple. You can also just order a pound of al pastor for just $13.

Occasionally a place is so fantastic you don’t understand why you haven’t been eating there for years. And unless you already know about El Kacheton (in which case, congratulations), you’ll feel like you need to make up for lost time. It’s a casual spot in Belmont-Cragin with only about eight tables in the whole restaurant. The menu is a chalkboard above the register and includes four rotating varieties of specialty tacos. The Lomo is filled with skirt steak, beans, cheese, and rice, and the Kacheton has a mixture of tripe and chorizo with cheese, grilled peppers, and onions. These tacos are heavy (in a good way) and made with perfectly grilled handmade tortillas that hold up against all the fillings without falling apart.

We often treat Taqueria Chingón’s online menu like a taco Zillow, a place to scroll and fantasize about theoretical future orders. All the tacos at this counter-service Logan Square spot are impressive. They’re all made with chewy handmade corn tortillas, with your choice of a variety of flavorful fillings—like the morcilla, tender al pastor, and duck carnitas where the duck is paired with a date puree, topped with pieces of orange, chicharrones and habanero salsa.

Tacotlan in Hermosa was one of the first restaurants to introduce quesabirria to Chicago, and the proof is in the delicious taco. Theirs oozes chihuahua cheese, and if the tacos weren’t great enough, the side of consomé could be a dish by itself. You can get individual tacos for $4.25, or an order of three for $13.50.

This Mexican restaurant in Pilsen has a long menu (tortas, gorditas, enchiladas, huaraches, and more), which makes it easy to get sidetracked from what’s important: the tacos. Particularly the Taco Encarbonado, made with perfectly seasoned charred ribeye on a large handmade tortilla, along with grilled onions, jalapeno, and beans. It’s absolutely huge and qualifies as a complete meal in itself.

This is an excellent restaurant that works for any occasion, whether it’s date night, catching up with a few friends, or dining solo when you need to cure a really bad mood. The menu primarily focuses on small plates, so it would be easy to overlook the short section of tacos. Don’t. The creative fillings, like beer-can chicken and squash with corn crema, are expertly prepared and served on chewy, delicious handmade tortillas. There’s a high likelihood the chef will come out and ask how the meal is, and you’ll be too busy stuffing your face with tacos to answer, “Great!”

Fried cheese is a great addition to basically anything. Taco Sublime embraces this universal truth by blanketing every single taco with it, boosting the flavor and texture with the extra crispy layer. All of the taco fillings are cooked and seasoned to perfection, from plump shrimp (the best one) to the smoky charred vegetables. And with two locations (one at Marz Brewing in Bridgeport and the other at Desert Hawk in Wicker Park), plus the occasional pop up, there’s no risk of getting Taco Sublime separation anxiety.

Don Pedro has been in Pilsen for over 30 years, and we’re pretty sure they’ve spent every moment of those three decades perfecting their carnitas. This spot is small and very casual, and on weekends you can expect a line out the door. The obvious choice here are the carnitas tacos, made with pork that’s fried in its own fat until perfectly crispy. But also make sure to get the tacos guisado, filled with a stew made from—surprise—pork. It’s messy and perfect.

The original Carnitas Uruapan in Pilsen is more of a carry-out operation, but the Gage Park location is newer and much, much bigger. Like Don Pedro, this spot focuses on carnitas, which you can get as a taco on fantastic handmade tortillas. Choose between pork rib, belly, or shoulder (our favorite is the rib), or get one of each—it’s all delicious.

photo credit: Sandy Noto


Carniceria Guanajuato


What Chicago might lack in food trucks, we make up for in supermarket taquerias. Carnicerias Guanajuato is located in the back of a grocery store in Wicker Park, and their tacos are so stuffed full of delicious meat, they’re almost a fork and knife operation. Get the standard one with cilantro and onion, make use of the spicy red and green salsas on the table, and if you’re not too full, get some guacamole too.

El Rincon is a casual sit-down spot in Archer Heights, and there’s a 90% chance that you’ll see parents eating with kids in soccer uniforms while you’re here. It’s a likable, family-friendly place with a short list of tacos on its menu. Our favorites are the chorizo (crispy, with a great amount of spice), arrachera (skirt steak), and cecina (dried beef or pork). While everything is well-prepared and delicious, it’s the green salsa that stands out here. The flavors are deep and spicy, which complements the rich meat perfectly.

5 Rabanitos is a restaurant in Pilsen with a menu of about 3,589 delicious things for you to choose from, including a variety of meat and vegetarian tacos. We really like the carne asada, pibil, chicken tinga, and roasted vegetable ones. They’re all the same affordable price ($3.75 each), so you can order an irresponsible amount and still make your car payment on time.

We’re not sure what witchcraft is involved making the crispy, perfectly seasoned carne asada at Taqueria El Asadero in Ravenswood. But we applaud it because this place makes our favorite carne asada tacos in the whole city. The tacos are so flavorful they need nothing added to them (though they do come topped with a little onion and cilantro). The simple, delicious tacos are worth an extra trip to the ATM to hit up this cash-only spot.

Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights makes ordering very easy because they only focus on one thing: goat. And the handmade tortillas are the best goat delivery system. The meat is tender and juicy, and has just the right amount of funkiness that’s nicely balanced out by their delicious salsa.

L’Patron is a BYOB spot in Logan Square. Their Gringa taco is technically more of a tortilla sandwich, but we’re including it anyway because it’s our guide and we make the rules. It comes with al pastor and a lot of melted chihuahua cheese served on thick handmade tortillas that easily hold their own against the rich filling. For just 80 cents extra, you can request the handmade tortillas with any of the other tacos on the menu, like lengua or poblano rajas with caramelized onions. And yes, that is the correct thing to do.

There are a couple of locations of Antique Taco: Wicker Park and Bridgeport. While all their tacos feature creative fillings, our favorite are the crispy fish tacos. They’ll make you stop feeling jealous of Southern Californians, who we assume are eating delicious fish tacos ( the sunshine...) all the time.

Primo Chuki’s is a popular spot on the border of Ravenswood and Uptown. This place is good for both carrying out and dining in, thanks to its large, airy dining room that’s great for groups. We’re big fans of the spicy and tender al pastor. It’s well seasoned, crispy, and juicy. The flavor is so good it really doesn’t need any salsa (but we like to add it anyway). While you’re at it, get a carne asada taco, too.

We’re not big on recommending places that are only available during the full moon of a leap year, or places where you need to recite an incantation in Latin before its location is revealed to you. But we’re telling you to visit Rubi’s in Pilsen. This counter-service taqueria operates from 12pm to 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10am to 5pm on the weekends. But it’s worth rearranging your schedule to eat juicy al pastor and steak tacos that come on thick handmade tortillas.

The best part about having so many great taco spots inside grocery stores is that you can coordinate your weekly taco consumption with your errand-running. At La Internacional, you can head to the taqueria in the back right after picking up your fabric softener. There’s a taco ballet happening here, with a team of people seasoning and cooking meat, then assembling tacos with ease. All the tacos are delicious, from the carnitas to the perfectly seared carne asada, and brimming over with filling. You can get them to go, but our favorite way to eat them is at the counter, watching the whole operation. If you’re lucky, one of the cooks will surprise you with a bonus taco, and for a second you’ll consider leaping with joy like Flipper.

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