Think of the Chicago food scene and deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and—of course—hot dogs come to mind. But locals know a little secret: Chicago is really a taco town. It’s hard for most Chicagoans to go one week without swinging by their favorite taqueria for a quick bite, and no visit to the Windy City is complete without at least one stop on this taco tour. From authentic al pastor to non-traditional takes, here’s where you’ll find the best tacos in Chicago.
What started as a weathered family-run restaurant in the Puerto Rican neighborhood of Humboldt Park is now a modern West Loop destination. The trendy, minimalist atmosphere greets you with a peppering of eye-catching black-and-white graphics and a steady scent of traditional Pueblano recipes. Cemitas Puebla rose to fame thanks to their cemitas (layered Mexican sandwiches), which are absolutely worth a try—but save room for the tacos. You won’t regret the signature taco araba, especially as a little of the smoky chipotle sauce drips out as you bite through the soft, flour tortilla into the tender spit-roasted pork and sweet onions.
If you’re looking for a more farm-to-table approach, Antique Taco showcases a modern seasonal menu accented with out-of-the-ordinary toppings like sesame, pumpkin seeds, and potato hash. Fish tends to be a favorite at this Wicker Park taco hotspot, so go for a trio of the garlic shrimp variety, with basil avocado salsa and cauliflower elote. Order at the counter then find communal bench seating either indoors or outdoors on Milwaukee Avenue. While you’re waiting for your gourmet tacos to arrive, sample the creamy guacamole, Wisconsin-inspired cheese curds, and tart margaritas.
Big and Littles
This Lakeview joint is a great place for Hawaiian burgers, porkbelly po’ boys, truffle fries and, that’s right, some of the best tacos in Chicago. It’s an unusual menu to say the least, but you’ll soon learn that the quality far outclasses the laid-back atmosphere. If you love seafood, you’ll love perusing the large menu at Big and Littles. Their namesake taco is simple fried whitefish with cabbage and special sauce. If you’re a more adventurous eater, give the spicy Thai or banh mi taco a try.
Hidden in Macy’s historic State Street location is Frontera Fresco, fast dining option from local famed chef Rick Bayless. Work up an appetite while shopping a dizzying nine floors then recharge with some fresh gourmet tacos. The cochinita pibil taco with achiote and citrus braised pork is topped with pickled red onions and cilantro and packs quite a punch, despite its small size. It might even give you enough energy to get up and do another lap of shopping.