photo credit: Noah Devereaux
If you live in New York, you've probably come to terms with a sad fact: the tacos in this city suck.
Not all of them, obviously. Amidst the vast majority of places selling a plate of bland lumps of meat on microwaved tortillas for $18 and calling it a day, there are a good handful of spots that make great tacos. But those gems are few and far between, and they've all been discovered. Right?
Unless you already knew about Chilo’s, wrong. Because these tacos are some of the best in the city. And if you’re like us, you had no idea.
Our first trip here, we looked around the place expecting everyone else to also be whisper-screaming obscenities into their tacos. But no, that was just us. Apparently, some people have known about Chilo’s. If you’re one of those people, please stop holding out on us.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Chilo’s is a taco truck parked permanently on the back patio of a divey, Mexican-themed bar on the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy border. And it’s proof that the only thing better than a killer taco truck is a killer taco truck parked in the back of a bar. You never have to worry that the driver decided to try his luck on a different street, and the margarita supply is unlimited.
You'll get your drinks inside the bar, then walk out back to order what you’re really there for. You'll want three tacos if you're hungry, but you could easily put away four. We’ve undergone the challenge of trying them all, and the smoked beef, carnitas, cochinita pibil, and fried fish are our favorites (more on the rest below). You’ll wait - in agony, but not for very long - until your name is called by a man that very well may be the jolliest chef in New York City.
And why wouldn't he be? He's spreading the gospel of actually-excellent tacos. His happy vibes, coupled with music ranging from blasting opera to Michael Jackson deep cuts, mixed with a crowd made up of obvious regulars, makes Chilo’s an awesome, laid-back neighborhood hang you’ll want to stick around for long after you’re done eating.
Chilo’s is doing its part to make tacos in this city suck less. Your civic duty is to eat them.
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In our eyes, second only to Tacoway Beach. Meaning they’re pretty damn near perfect. And a hell of a lot closer than Rockaway.
Smoked Beef Taco
Do you like barbecue brisket? The only acceptable answer is yes, and the only acceptable order at Chilo’s involves one of these. It’s shredded brisket, wrapped up in a tortilla, with pickled onions on top. Add any salsa, or don't - it's perfect the way it is.
A very strong carnitas taco: finely shredded, with a nice sprinkling of onions, and really juicy meat. Pour some salsa verde on it and you will feel alive.
Cochinita Pibil Taco
Don’t know the exact definition of cochinita pibil? Neither do we. We just know it tastes amazing. Slow-roasted pork, in some kind of magic sauce, with pickled onions and peppers on top. This is kind of like the carnitas, but on a whole other level.
Pork Belly Taco
We like pork belly best when it resembles a thick piece of crispy bacon, which is exactly what this is. In taco form. So yeah, you probably want it.
Tasty, but we could have been eating dark meat chicken and we probably wouldn’t have known the difference. Also, it just occurred to us that ducks and chickens aren’t that different of animals. Weird.
A completely acceptable option, just not our favorite. Without covering it in salsas, it’s a little bland.
We're on a never-ending quest for perfect breakfast tacos in New York City. And Chilo's are definitely good, but not quite perfect. These are nicely stacked with crema, pico, and crumbly cotija cheese - but we're traditionalists about our breakfast tacos, and believe there should be soft scrambled eggs and lots of melty cheese. Then again, beggars can't be choosers.
A nice vegetarian option, this is beans, avocado, lettuce, and cheese on top of a fried tortilla. Layer it up with all the fixings and you have quite a nice bite.
One of the guys working at Chilo’s told us that this was his favorite thing on the menu, and we’re suckers for good marketing. But unless you just ran a triathlon (or are actually on the verge of dying from a hangover), you probably don’t need this monster consisting of beef, chorizo, peppers, onions, avocado, and cheese. It’s really unwieldy, and there are so many things going on that nothing really pops.