Where To Get Tacos On 18th Street
Or, where to go on a taco crawl on 18th Street in Pilsen.
There are great tacos all over Chicago and plenty of amazing spots in Pilsen, but this guide exists at the intersection—when you find yourself on 18th Street with a deep and abiding need for tacos. This list has cash-only taquerias, popular restaurants, even one that only appears four days a week in a very limited time frame (kind of like the #6 Jackson Park Express bus). So whether a taco crawl is on the books, or you just need a late-night meal to soak up the margaritas you had earlier in the evening, check out these taco spots.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
5 Rabanitos is a restaurant with a menu of about 3,589 delicious things for you to choose from, including a variety of meat and vegetarian tacos. The carne asada taco here is one of the best in Chicago—it’s lightly topped with radish, onion, and cilantro, so the well-seasoned meat can really shine. But, the pibil, roasted vegetable, and chicken tinga fillings are also good choices. If you want something that isn’t on this list, and they have the ingredients, they’ll go ahead and make it for you. All the tacos are the same affordable price ($2.75 each), so you can order an irresponsible amount and still make your car payment on time.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
Don Pedro Carnitas
Don Pedro has been a Pilsen staple 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.
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Rubi’s on 18th
We don’t often recommend places that are only open during the full moon of a leap year, or where you need to recite an incantation in Latin to have its location revealed. Rubi’s is an exception. This counter-service taqueria only 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.
Tortillería y Taquerías Atotonilco
There are lots of questionable decisions one could make late at night, but grabbing tacos at Atotonilco is not one of them. The cash-only, counter-service taqueria is open relatively late: 10pm during the week and 2am or 3am on weekends. You can get their very tasty tacos (the al pastor is juicy and crispy at the edges) to-go or for dine-in while your friends who got into an argument at Twisted Cantina wait outside.
Like Atotonilco, Coyotes is open very late: 9am to 4:30am every weekday, and until 5am on the weekends. It’s a relatively small spot with just a few tables, and a surprisingly long menu. But the tacos are the real highlight—particularly the chorizo and al pastor, both of which are $3.50 apiece.
Cecina Grill is a deceptively large, all-day spot serving tacos, burritos, soups, tortas, and bigger entrees like a breakfast plate of chilaquiles that’s sure to cure even the most aggressive of hangovers. Unsurprisingly, cecina dishes are the specialty here and one of our favorites is the spicy grilled cecina taco—a large handmade tortilla stuffed with thin slices of Mexican-style round steak, chile paste, and topped with queso fresco, cilantro, and onions. Milder options, like the regular cecina, chorizo, and al pastor tacos are a solid choice too. As a bonus, this place is BYOB, and you’ll even get a free slice of cake on your birthday.
Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan
Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights is our favorite place for goat tacos in Chicago. But this spot is a close second. The beef tacos are a solid order, too, but you’re mostly here for the goat (which also comes in stew form). Just come with cash—they don’t take credit cards.
photo credit: Akane Matsumoto
Quesabirria Jalisco Chicago
Things we love that are orange? Tang, the Reddit logo, and the tacos at Quesabirria Jalisco. They’re doused in chili-laden consomé and absolutely packed with juicy beef birria (or chicken or shrimp). Like its menu, the counter-service space is small—there are only four tables, so unless you get lucky, plan on placing your order to go. While you wait, you can admire the chaotically charming decor, complete with Star Wars memorabilia and inspirational wooden signs that you’ve probably seen in an aisle at HomeGoods.