16 of the Best Spots for Tacos in Chicago


Taco Tuesday? Sure. We’re down with that. But why limit yourself to one day of the week? Truthfully, any time is taco time, but what better day to salute this humble, hand-held deliciousness than National Taco Day, Oct. 4? We’ve pulled together some of our favorites in and around Chicago for a quick and handy reference guide, by no means exhaustive. And, if you’re like us — suckers for a soft masa tortilla, succulent barbacoa, and a smoky chipotle salsa — you’ll hang on to this list for the next time you get that hankering for a taco, no matter what day it is!

Antique Taco

Don’t be distracted by the Duck Fat Flautas or the Horchata milkshake at this Wicker Park hipster hangout. Eyes on the prize: the River Valley Market Mushroom Taco (two to an order, $7), topped with vinegary escabeche and cilantro cream on a house-made tortilla. Distinctive and delicious. 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-687-8697


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I’m a sucker for chorizo (spicy pork sausage), so I opt for the Chorizo with Sweet Potato Pastor and Crema Taco ($3) — so many textures! — but the Alambre Taco (carne asada with bacon, onion, rajas, and cheese) is another solid choice. And those tortillas! Dios mio. 1141 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, 773-360-7345

Bar Takito

So many good things to eat here … including (but not limited to) the Coffee-Braised Beef Tacos (four per order, $16), served on a “beer tortilla” and topped with cherry tomatoes, Oaxacan queso, jalapeños, cilantro, and peanuts. Not a meat lover? Opt for the Brunkow Cheese Tacos with pickled jicama, avocado, and aji peanut sauce. 201 N. Morgan St., Chicago, 312-888-9485

Big Star 

I’m torn here, because they are all SO FRICKING DELICIOUS. But the Taco al Pastor ($3) is truly a thing of beauty, sporting marinated and spit-roasted pork shoulder, caramelized grilled pineapple, sweet grilled onion, and fresh cilantro. They’ll even take the show on the road for parties of 10 or more (Big Star Taco Bar)! 1531 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 7773-235-4039

tacos: Big Star
Photo courtesy of Big Star.

Carnitas Uruapan

I came down here for the first time in 1995, but they’ve been open since ’75, serving up tacos filled with crispy chunks of pork Carnitas, along with classic Michoacan side dishes like chicharrones (crispy pork cracklings), home-style refried beans, and cactus salad. Incredibly tasty and authentic, but be forewarned: they are cash only, and closed on Thursdays (random, I know, but you don’t mess with genius). 1725 W. 18th St., Chicago, 312-226-2654

Cookies & Carnitas

While they don’t make their own tortillas (they use El Milagro), they do have incredible Braised Goat tacos served with smoky beans, Chihuahua and Cotija cheese, cream, and house salsa. And did I mention the Beef Brisket tacos? We forgive them. 5757 & 5759 N. Broadway St., Chicago, 773-769-2900

Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria

Inspired by the Oaxacan taquerias he visited on his many explorations of Mexico, super chef Rick Bayless opened this West Loop hot spot, where you can enjoy your Crispy Shrimp or Pork Belly al Pastor Taco at a communal table while hoisting one of their thirst-quenching, small-batch brews. 904 W. Randolph St., Chicago


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Frontera Fresco

The tortillas here, like at the Mother Ship, Frontera Grill, are made by hand. The Chipotle Chicken Tacos ($3.95 each/two for $7.25) are juicy, smoky, and a little bit spicy, topped with roasted onion, Jack cheese, avocado, and cilantro. The Short Rib Tacos ($4.50 each/two for $8.75) are sinfully rich. Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, 847-329-2638

tacos: Frontera Fresco
Photo by Julie Chernoff.

G.T. Fish & Oyster 

Listen, I realize that this isn’t a taco place. But they do seafood here, including some of the best Fish Tacos ($13 for three) I’ve ever had. Garlic-marinated and tempura-fried mahi mahi shares the love with chipotle aioli, frisée lettuce, and a sprinkle of crushed chicharron for added salty crunch. Wow. 531 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-929-3501

La Casa de Isaac & Moishe

The Taco Plate ($6.95 for two) comes with your choice of two meats, among them lengua (beef tongue) and tinga (shredded chicken and onions simmered in chipotle sauce), and topped with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro. Rice and beans included, and for that I am eternally grateful. 2014 First St., Highland Park, 847-433-7400

La Principal

When I can wrest myself from the pozoles here, I turn to South Evanston’s best tacos. The Lengua, braised beef tongue with salsa verde and pickled onions, doesn’t usually make it on to a North Suburban menu, so you must take notice. Not your thing? Try the Red Mole Short Rib or Chicken Tinga tacos, a little more mainstream, but the flavors are still spot on. Finish with the hot and crispy cinnamon churros, dipped in a side of chocolate ganache. Muy bueno. 700 Main St., Evanston

Summerhouse Santa Monica

Don’t get confused. You’ll just feel like you’re in California when you sit beneath their glass roof eating the Surfer-Style Fish Tacos ($23.95 for four build-your-own tacos), blackened and wood-grilled mahi mahi to be piled high in warm corn tortillas with guacamole, cabbage slaw, and salsa verde. Dude, they are RAD. 1954 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 773-634-4100

Taco Nano! 

This is our office treat when we have been very, very good. The Vegetariano Taco ($2.50 each) feels substantial, with crispy potatoes, poblano rajas, mushrooms, Cotija cheese, and cilantro sharing space in the warm tortilla; or try the Pato en Mole Negro ($4 each), duck confit in mole with pickled red onion, queso fresco, and sesame seeds. All that, plus fried plantains! 1743 Orchard Lane, Northfield, 847-386-7159

Taco Diablo

After burning down a few years ago, this Evanston favorite has come roaring back in a brand-new space. Chef/owner Dan Kelch is still turning out terrific tacos, including the house-made Duck & Pork Chorizo paired with scrambled egg, tomatillos, and chipotle salsa, and a Lamb Barbacoa with avocado salsa and pickled red onions. Word to the wise: don’t miss the Masa Corn Cake, a terrific vegetarian appetizer. Wash it down with the Mercy & Salvation, a smoky margarita-type boozer subbing in mezcal for tequila. 1026 Davis St., Evanston


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Taco Joint

Hand-pressed tortillas here have a nice heft to them, especially when paired with the braised beef Barbacoa Taco ($3) with roasted red jalapeño salsa or the Yucatan-style Cochinita Taco ($3), pulled pork with pickled red onions and habanero salsa. 1969 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-951-2457; 158 W. Ontario St., Chicago, 312-337-8226

tacos: Taco Joint
Photo courtesy of Taco Joint.

Tacos El Norte

Possibly the most extensive taco offerings ($2-$3 each) around, including carnitas, barbacoa, tongue, eggs & chorizo, al pastor, shrimp, chile relleno, and ground beef picadillo, all served in classic style in doubled soft corn tortillas with chopped onions and cilantro. Back to basics here; sour cream, avocado, and cheese are extra. No frills but super tasty. For the curious, soft flour or hard-shell tacos are available upon request, but HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING? Multiple locations including Libertyville and Waukegan


While you’re getting your taco fix, take a moment to remember that not everyone is so easily able to enjoy such fabulous food. Feed your stomach, then your soul by joining the fight to end world hunger.

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