Michael Gebert
Carniceria Aguascalientes


1. Zacatacos
2. Birrieria Zaragoza
3. La Chapparita Grocery
4. Taqueria Traspasada
5. L’Patron Tacos



Las Asadas— Reliable steak taco chain with multiple locations around town.

El Comalito— Friendly family-run Mexican spot where the $1.50 upcharge for a handmade tortilla is a wise investment on almost anything offered.

La Pasadita— Once La Pasadita ruled the late night drunk steak taco and burrito scene with three locations in the same block of Ashland; they’re down to one now, but that’s about all that’s changed, good as ever, drunk or sober. Other locations exist around town, of much more variable quality.

Taqueria El Asadero— One of the best steak taco joints on the north side, solid at taco and tortas generally. Taqueria 5 de Mayo is a sister location at 2415 W. Montrose.

Taqueria San Juanito— Reliable basic taco spot with nice housemade salsas.

Taqueria Traspasada— Hole in the wall on Ashland has the second location (after Avondale) of this place, and it’s one of the best basic taco places (steak and other things) in the city.

Velvet Taco— The name suggests a place for late night drinking bros, and it is that, but the surprise is how solid and imaginative the food is— the Cuban Pig (a Cuban sandwich on a taco) is one of the best unconventional tacos in town.


Big Star— Paul Kahan’s always-packed taco bar-slash-faux blue collar beer garden could get away with lousy tacos, so it’s to its credit that they’re pretty solid; steer away from the stuff that’s easy to find for less in the area and focus on more unusual meats like lamb (or the kind of preposterous, but drunk-fooderiffic, Sonoran hot dog).

L’Patron Tacos— Busy taco stand which won instant popularity for tacos filled with big hunks of freshly-cooked steak; also offers a standout fish taco.

Masa Azul— Tequila-focused bar program goes well with artisanal Mexican street food.

El Metro— Hip taco cafe from the owners of Gaudi Cafe, serving a wide range of tacos including good fish tacos and uncommon things like cochinita pibil.

Taco el Jalisciense— Good steak tacos and a real pastor spit—at least sometimes—distinguish this little Humboldt Park spot.

Takito Kitchen— Upscale taco restaurant/bar serving imaginative takes on tacos which introduce new flavors without going overboard with the fusion. Downtown location is Bar Takito.

Tortilleria Y Restaurante Los Gamas— Tortilla factory and taco stand serving everything on its own handmade tacos—thick and chewy.


El Carrito— Shiny new place bringing pretty good tacos and burritos, with better meat, to a taco-deprived area.

Taqueria & Restaurant CD. Hidalgo— Solid all-around taqueria on the Rogers Park strip of many good (if none quite great) tacquerias.

Uptown Taqueria— Good all-around sitdown Mexican restaurant for its area.


Bar Takito— Upscale taco restaurant/bar serving imaginative takes on tacos which introduce new flavors without going overboard with the fusion, a spinoff of Ukrainian Village’s Takito Kitchen.

Cemitas Puebla— Downtown version of longtime Humboldt Park Mexican restaurant serving specialties of puebla—the hearty cemitas sandwich and shawarma-spit-roasted Tacos al Arabes.


Cemitas Puebla— Humboldt Park Mexican restaurant serving specialties of puebla—the hearty cemitas sandwich and shawarma-spit-roasted Tacos al Arabes. With original location now closed, there’s a pop-up at 3129 W. Armitage until a permanent west side home can be found.

La Chilangueada— Sitdown Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos de canasta, baskets of steamed tacos of different types sold as street food in Mexico. Think of it as a taco tasting menu!

La Paz— Authentic-feeling storefront offering the option of housemade tortillas (heche a mano) for the usual toppings.

Restaurant Ricardo— Sitdown Mexican, riotously decorated, with a wide range of offerings from wood-grilled chicken and rabbit to seafood to tacos.

Taqueria Mazamitla— Sitdown Mexican place making good tacos and handformed quesadillas.


Carnitas Uruapan— Carnitas, deep fried pork, is the star of this popular, family-run Mexican restaurant offering dine-in and takeout.

La Lagartija Taqueria— Easy place to get a beer and tacos before a Bulls game, from the owners of Bombon Bakery; standouts are fish and shrimp tacos.


Birrieria Zaragoza— Standout among birrierias—places that serve hearty, comfy roasted goat—for its flavorful broth, use of organic meats (which the prices hardly reflect), handmade tortillas fresh off the grill and friendly family staff.

Carniceria Aguascalientes— Cafeteria inside a Little Village grocery; the highlight is ladies hand-patting thick, chewy tortillas onto the grill for things like chicharron tacos in red and green salsa.

La Chapparita Grocery— Hidden on a side street in Little Village, this is a contender for most perfect taco stand in Chicago—a tiny, friendly, almost-no-English grocery decorated with lots of Dia de los Muertos stuff, serving tacos you might not think you’d like (longaniza/sausage, lengua/tongue, crispy tripa/tripe), but are in fact incredibly flavorful and happy-making. Second location at 5958 S. Kedzie.

El Conde S.A.— Salvadoran-Mexican spot specializing in pupusas and tacos de canasta, small steamed tacos sold as street food in Mexico City.

Mezquite Pollo Express— Sitdown spot cooking over live charcoal specializes in grilled chicken and steak, as well as tacos featuring those meats and others like cochinita pibil.

El Milagro Tortilleria— Tortilla factory with small lunchroom serving decent if not stellar gusiados (stews)—all instantly improved by being on tortillas fresh from the factory. Several satellite locations on the south side.

Paco’s Tacos (Supermercado La Internacional)— Lively steak taco stand in the back of a grocery; run by Paco’s Tacos, which has other south side locations, but this one is notably superior in my experience.

Taqueria El Pastor— With pastor in the name it’d better be a good example of that dish, and this sitdown place with a big dripping meat cone plainly visible lives up to its name.

Tio Luis Tacos— A Tribune survey once ranked this the best tacos in town; I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a more than respectable place with a family restaurant atmosphere, good for both tacos and plated dishes like chile rellenos.

Zacatacos— You can smell steak sizzling a block away, and the smoke isn’t lying—this might be the best basic taco joint in the whole city, peerless steak tacos, excellent pastor and a few novelties like tacos de papa (mashed potatoes in a crispy shell). There are half a dozen other locations scattered around the south side—the one at 71st and Pulaski, at least, is just as good.

List compiled by Michael Gebert, 10/10/15.


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