Carnicerias Guanajuato: You’d never know this unassuming grocery store housed a restaurant inside but once you step in, you’ll know why. The carne asada tacos are finely chopped and as beefy as Fabio, the lomo encebollado (ribeye cooked with onions) savory and sweet from the onions, and the carnitas? The essence of pork heaven.
1436 N Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622; 773-772-5266
La Pasadita: Down the street from Carnicerias Guanajuato is La Pasadita. There are three of them on the same block (still a mystery to Chicagoans). Their carne asada tacos are famous throughout the city for their fatty juiciness and char-grilled flavor. They serve their tacos with two sauces, a popular green tomatillo salsa with flavor and punch, and a unique garlicky charred black salsa.
1140 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622; 773-278-2130
Cemitas Puebla: Cemitas Puebla is known for their cemitas sandwiches but their tacos arabes are another big reason to come here. They are a fusion between Lebanese and Mexican food with a thick flour tortilla almost like a pita, wrapped around schwarma-like spit-roasted pork and onion. Try all three salsas: salsa verde, salsa roja, and chipotle, all made in-house.
3619 W. North Avenue, Chicago IL 60647; 773-772-8435
Del Seoul: Korean-Mexican fusion is relatively new in Chicago. While we don’t have our own Kogi truck, Del Seoul is our go-to restaurant version. Pictured are the kalbi tacos (Korean short rib) and the sweet sesame-chili panko-encrusted shrimp taco. Get the kimchi fries too, topped with kimchi, pork, cheese, and sour cream (just trust me on this one).
2568 North Clark Street, Chicago Illinois 60614; 773-248-4227
Don Pedro Carnitas: As you can tell from the name, Don Pedro Carnitas is known for one thing: carnitas. You buy the carnitas by the pound and if you dine in, they bring you tortillas, cilantro, minced onions, limes, pico de gallo, and the best carnitas in the city. Build your own taco, and you have porky, salty, fatty, coat-your-lips comfort food. You can even order the deep-fried beef brain tacos, which taste like a savory eggy custard in a fried crust. There’s no menu, so don’t be afraid to ask for what’s available.
1113 W 18th Street, Chicago IL 60608; 312-829-4757
Tio Luis: The tacos at Tio Luis are what you'd think of when you think classic carne asada tacos. The salty, generous portions of charred skirt steak are sliced into strips, topped with freshly diced onion and cilantro, and lime wedges on the side.
3856 S. Archer Ave., Chicago IL 60632; 773-468-2267
Big Star: When we're in the mood for cheffy tacos, we head over to Wicker Park to Big Star, which is run by chef Paul Kahan (of Blackbird, The Publican, and avec, among other spots). There's a walk-up window in case you don’t want to wait for a patio seat. The big sellers include tacos al pastor, which is spit-roasted pork cooked with pineapple and onion; a crunchy fried but not greasy fish taco; and best of all, pork belly with tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, and cilantro. Keep in mind, no substitutions, so you get what you order. Also keep in mind: they have a kick-ass selection of bourbon.
1531 North Damen Avenue,
Chicago IL 60622; 773-235-4039