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, taquerias in grocery stores, popular restaurants, even one that only appears once every seven days like an edible Halley’s Comet.
These are the 21 tacos you should plan your week around.
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 chorizo, 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.
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.
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.
El Chubasco is a small, charming spot in Pilsen that’s always full of families and people stopping in for takeout. The handmade tortillas here are small and light - in other words, not the gym-class-parachute variety - doubled up to withstand the filling. Our favorite taco is the Cecina (guacamole, beans, pico de gallo), but the carne asada is very good too. As a bonus, this place has a parking lot, perfect for eating tacos on the hood of your car.
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!”
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.
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 ($2.75 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.
Taqueria 5 De Mayo
This place (also cash only) is a few blocks down from Asadero, has the same owners, the same staff, and the same fantastic tacos. Save this spot in Google Maps for when Asadero is crowded.
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 few locations of Antique Taco: Wicker Park, Bridgeport, and Revival Food Hall. 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 (outside...in 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.
Rubi's At Maxwell Street Market
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. This place only exists from 9am to 3pm on Sundays at the Maxwell Street Market, and you need to check their Facebook page to make sure they’ll be there that day. But it’s worth the effort to eat their al pastor tacos that come on large handmade tortillas you can see being made in front of you. In your excitement, resist the urge to grab the trompo and run through the market yelling “I’m king of the pastor!” after eating here.
While almost all the tacos on this list come on corn tortillas, Canton Regio’s are on handmade flour ones. This Mexican restaurant in Pilsen focuses on grilled meat, and they do it very well. So it’s not surprising that their ribeye tacos are well-seasoned and perfectly cooked, served with grilled onions and jalapenos. The meat alone earns this place a spot on our list, but the exceptional tortillas are so good we’d come here just to eat a stack of them.
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.
Traspasada in West Town is open very late: 1am during the week and 3:30am on the weekend. And while a lot of decisions made that late at night are questionable, grabbing tacos here is not one of them. It’s a tiny counter-service spot, so come in with a plan. We suggest ordering the lengua or the crispy-and-not-greasy chorizo and making your friends who got into an argument at the bar wait outside.