15 Best Tacos You Can Find In Chicago, According To A Former Local

Choosing a favorite taco is like choosing a favorite sports team — it's largely a matter of geography and personal preference. The decision is even harder in a city with as robust a dining scene as Chicago's. Here, large Mexican immigrant communities have brought with them diverse culinary traditions spanning from Tijuana to Mexico City. We had to wonder then, what makes one of Mexico's most popular dishes the best? If you ask the taqueros here, some might argue for authenticity, never veering too far from the traditional doubled corn tortilla, meat, and cilantro-onion garnish. For others, chef-driven creations push the boundaries of what a taco can hold. But all share an affinity for quality basics, like handmade corn tortillas, freshly grilled meats, and choice toppings. 

While living in the Windy City for nearly a decade, I've had the privilege of tasting the city's most iconic destinations for tacos. Aside from personal experience, I also consulted verified customer reviews and local dining sources to help you find your new favorite taco in Chicago.

Duck carnitas at Taqueria Chingón

Taqueria Chingón has mastered the art of maximalism. On any given day, you'll find chalkboard specials boasting creative taco fillings, which range from crispy artichokes with pickled vegetables to firefly squid with tapenade aioli. While locals favoring traditional Mexican tacos may gawk at the innovation (and the expectedly higher price tag), foodies who crave extravagant ingredients and intricate flavor profiles know this restaurant will deliver. 

One such extravagance is the mainstay duck carnitas taco. Carnitas are typically made with pork, but Taqueria Chingón opts for fatty, succulent poultry. To make the taco, hand-pressed masa dough is topped with crispy duck and fried duck skin for texture. A slick of date puree balances the salty aspects, and an astringent orange, radish, and herb salad cuts through the fat, while a sunchoke-habanero salsa complements the whole dish.


(773) 687-9408

2234 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Taco de birria at Birrieria Zaragoza

If you've been limiting your taqueria selections to Chicago's North and West Sides, a trip to the city's Southwest suburb of Archer Heights should be in order. Here, you'll find the flagship location of Birrieria Zaragoza, a family-run restaurant offering Mexican goat-based dishes (though a second location has also opened uptown). But don't expect to find carnitas or carne asada: The menu here is simple and singular, mostly revolving around its namesake dish, birria — or braised, shredded goat

Birria is sold by the pound, by the plate with a tomato-based goat consommé, or in a taco at this spot. We recommend getting it on the homemade tortillas, garnished with a squeeze of lime and a shower of onion and cilantro. Birrieria Zaragoza's specialty is a style of birria known as birria tatemada, typical of the Jalisco region of Mexico. The meat is steamed until tender, then roasted for color and texture. For a rare treat, try the "goat head" taco, which features several cuts of offal, like cheeks, tongue, and brain.


(773) 523-3700

4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632

Suadero taco at La Chaparrita Grocery

Tucked inside the residential streets of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood sits a quaint Latin American grocery store doubling as a "Chilango" taqueria. Walk past the bags of masa, cans of frijoles, and bulk bins of chili peppers at La Chaparrita to find a busy counter serving up some of the most authentic Mexico City-style tacos north of the border. 

Mexico City is known for tacos made with petite tortillas and minimal garnishes, so come hungry for simplicity. La Chapparita serves several proteins characteristic of the country's cuisine, but it's the suadero taco you want: a brisket taco heralded for being the only one to have originated in la Ciudad de Mexico. The tacos here all begin the same: Taquero César Castillo uses a concave version of a comal to braise various cuts of meat ranging from brisket to tripe to tongue together in a heady, spicy broth. The cuts remain in the broth until your order is taken. Your selected cut is then transferred to a flattop comal to brown and crisp before being chopped and ushered into the folds of a warm tortilla.


(773) 254-0975

2500 S Whipple St, Chicago, IL 60623

Bistec asado at Taqueria El Milagro

Taqueria El Milagro is perhaps best known for its corn tortillas — stop into any Chicago grocery store, and you'll find stacks of them in white paper sacks piled high next to bags of tortilla chips. But the famous Midwest tortilleria also boasts a cafeteria-style taqueria attached to its two factories in Little Village and Pilsen. El Milagro is a Chicago landmark, operating for over 70 years. The No. 1 seller on El Milagro's menu is its steak taco — of which it serves more than 500 daily.

The secret to El Milagro's bistec asada is freshness and a light touch: Wide, paper-thin slices of skirt steak are seasoned minimally before heading to the grill. After a bit of charring, the steak is shimmied onto your tortilla over a slick of creamy refried beans and a scoop of rice, making for a truly staggering taco. For crunch, El Milagro opts for vinegar-dressed cabbage instead of lettuce. Make sure you grab plenty of napkins.

Multiple locations

Al pastor at Taquerías Atotonilco

Another tortilleria–turned–taqueria not to miss is Taquerías Atotonilco, one of Chicago's oldest taco institutions. Owner Scottie Muñoz's father, Oscar Muñoz, worked as a Mexican charro, or horseman, before buying the Little Village establishment over 40 years ago, where it's since remained a fixture in the neighborhood's taco scene. Today, it has a few locations scattered throughout the city. 

The humble taco joint is known for its taco al pastor. While some taquerias may cut corners by cooking their al pastor on the grill to save time, Atotonilco opts for the old-world method, using a combination of 80% pork and 20% beef and stacking the thin slices of meat high on a trompo, or spit, that rotates slowly for hours until the meat caramelizes. Its tortillas are made in the traditional method of stone-ground and nixtamalization using corn grown on land Oscar bought in Illinois. While the tacos are stellar, don't miss the torta, which you can also try stuffed with al pastor, crema de agria (sour cream), lettuce, and tomatoes. 


Multiple locations

Poblanas rajas at L'Patron

Established in 2012 by the Gonzalez family, Logan Square's L'Patron (pronounced El Patron, meaning "The Boss") is owner Cesar Gonzalez's ode to his mother's homecooked meals. It serves freshly cooked Mexican street food and doesn't stray far from traditional combinations, like lomo encebollado (ribeye and onion), chorizo, and pescado tacos. But it's the restaurant's poblano rajas tacos that are surprisingly hearty and delicious. 

For this taco, poblano peppers and onions are roasted until slightly smoky, sliced into long, thin strips, and topped with tomato sauce, melted Chihuahua cheese, and fresh cilantro. Make sure to upgrade to the restaurant's homemade tortillas, which are only available by request. L'Patron also offers gringos (and gringas, made with el pastor): Two thick, house-made tortillas are sliced open — almost like a pita — and stuffed with Chihuahua melting cheese and seasoned grilled pork. All the meats here are butchered in-house. And while some taqueria slice their meat in advance, proteins are prepped to order here.


(773) 252-6335

3749 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Crispy fish taco at Antique Taco

If you're looking for a bit of style with your taco, look no further than Antique Taco. Husband-and-wife duo Rick and Ashley Ortiz have combined his Mexican heritage with her love of collecting antiques. Per the restaurant's website, vintage treasures like old tables and mismatched china embellish the taqueria with beauty, soul, and history, but it's the chef's "farmer's market style tacos" that have put this spot on the map. With his extensive and international culinary background, Rick wanted to utilize the best of what's available seasonally in the Midwest while still pulling from his vast experience and heritage. 

For its signature crispy fish taco, cod is dredged then fried in a lighter-than-air tempura batter. Spicy tartar sauce emphasizes the British fish-and-chips influence, while smoked red cabbage adds texture and depth. Scallions and sesame, though unusual additions, give off West Coast vibes. The corn tortillas are pressed fresh in the kitchen each day. In addition to offering market-driven tacos, Antique Taco offers cocktails crafted from hand-juiced fruits.


Multiple locations

Carne asada at Taqueria El Asadero

Located on the North Side of Chicago, this family-run restaurant began serving tacos in 1993. Orange-tiled walls and bright orange booths may date this taqueria. Still, over the years, it's continued to produce consistently delicious tacos. You'll find all the mainstays, including chicken, al pastor, and barbacoa de res, served as tortas, tacos, or burritos — but true to its name, it's the carne asada taco you're after. Long strips of skirt steak are placed on the grill continuously throughout the day; no sandbagging here, a kitchen hack whereby the meat is chopped and left to overcook, only to be reheated later. 

In true street food fashion, the restaurant has remained humbly cash-only. As one Reddit user notes, ordering at El Asadero is essentially why they keep money on hand anymore. Limes may cost extra here, but squeeze bottles of salsa verde and salsa rojo are available should you find yourself reaching for additional acidity. This spot is counter-service only, but after placing your order and finding a seat in one of the booths, a server will bring you a basket of light, flaky, freshly fried chips.


(773) 583-5563

2213 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Cochinita pibil at 5 Rabanitos

While al pastor may be a more common way to enjoy pork on a taco, at 5 Rabanitos, chef Alfonso Sotelo is bringing the Yucatán tradition of cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted barbecued pork dish that's similar to Southern America's pulled pork but served on a corn tortilla. In Mexico, you'll find the dish prepared in large formats and dispersed amongst taco stalls. The key to making a cochinita pibil taco is time. To yield a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture, fattier cuts of pork are used, like shoulder and leg, that stand up to slow braising.

At 5 Rabanitos, whole pigs are quartered and marinated overnight in habanero salt, cumin, cinnamon, and achiote seed — which gives this dish its signature flavor and color. Citrus tenderizes the meat before it's slow roasted in a low oven for eight hours. The meat is then ready to be pulled apart, dunked in its own juices, and served on a corn tortilla with chopped cilantro, habanero red pickled onions, and of course rabanitos (or little radishes) — the chef's signature touch.


(312) 285-2710

1758 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

Al pastor at Taquería Primo Chuki's

Taquería Primo Chuki's is a standout uptown Mexican spot, geographically far from its South Side contemporaries — Little Village and Pilsen — but not in flavor or quality. Though it may not look like much from the outside, this bustling family joint is usually jam-packed with hungry diners who are looking for a quick, authentic taste of Mexico.

While the restaurant admittedly lacks atmosphere (garish neon signage out front, mustard-colored walls, and unceremonious counter service), its affordability and delicious food more than make up for it. Indeed, the portions are still hearty — if you're a light eater, you can get full off of one taco — and the service is fast. The standout taco here is the al pastor, which is generously filled with juicy, crackling bits of glazed pork and bits of pineapple.


(872) 208-7075

1708 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Taco huitlacoche at Rubi's

Some taquerias are flippant about their vegetarian tacos, rarely venturing beyond a filling of beans and rice. At Rubi's, vegetarian tacos make up nearly half the menu, but most noteworthy is the taco huitlacoche. Mexico's huitlacoche, also called corn smut, is a fluffy, marshmallow-like seasonal fungus that can appear on corn during periods of heavy rain. Because of its seasonality, it's considered a delicacy. Rarely will you find it served so humbly in a taco adorned with only onion and cilantro. When it's available, in addition to tacos, Rubi's also serves huitlacoche as a quesadilla topped with griddled cheese.

Other interesting vegetarian options include the taco flor de calabaza, filled with squash blossom, and tacos nopales, made with steamed cactus. Choose between tortillas made from yellow corn, blue corn, or nopal (cactus). For a bizarre snack, try the hot Cheetos elote, rolled in crushed, flaming hot cheese crumbs, and drizzled with mayo.


(773) 318-9526

1316 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

Cecina at La Cecina Restaurant Familiar

Established in 2005 by Aureliano and Reyna Brito, La Cecina is a nod to the duo's mothers, Doña Nicacia and Doña Maria. The restaurant's focus is on cecina, a thinly sliced dried beef that's traditional to a town west of Mexico City called Toluca. The menu here is sprawling, but don't let that (or the pasta alfredo) dissuade you: You're here to try its namesake dish in taco form. 

To make cecina, meat from either the hind legs or tenderloin is sliced impossibly thinly by a cecinero. (The best cecineros can make a single filet stretch upwards of 30 feet, like a fruit roll-up). The meat is then salted and dried in the sun on wooden planks that absorb moisture. While you can enjoy the bresaola-like beef raw, in Mexico, cecina is also enjoyed fried or grilled. At La Cecina, the grilled meat is served in sturdy tortillas with a slick of refried beans, pico de gallo, and a dollop of creamy guacamole. Even when ordered to-go, you'll still get an order of the restaurant's homemade salsa to enjoy alongside.


(773) 927-9444

1934 W 47th St, Chicago, IL 60609

DIY quesabirria at Mi Tocaya Antojería

Chef Diana Davila's particular brand of bold, in-your-face regional Mexican food is at home on our list. Though Davila's inspiration for the restaurant comes from the summers she's spent traveling with family throughout her native Mexico, this is not your mom-and-pop Mexican joint. (The steak burrito is, justifiably, a whopping $26). 

When it came time to add a new taco dish to her menu, she admittedly turned to what was trending in the city: quesabirria. The Tijuana-based taco amps up the otherwise delicious braised goat dish with the addition of cheese. Davila adds her spin by having diners assemble the tacos themselves. The queso fundido, made from high-quality, locally sourced aged melting cheese, arrives at your table bubbling hot in a ceramic crock topped with a traditionally prepared goat birria and a generous stack of hand-pressed heirloom corn tortillas. Customary of birria, Davila serves a gravy boat of goat consommé alongside. 


(872) 315-3947

2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

Kalbi beef at Del Seoul

While far from traditional, this Asian-Mexican fusion spot has reason to be on our list for its kalbi beef taco. The Korean beef preparation of kalbi beef made from beef ribs (known as flanken in English) is a surprisingly versatile cut. Instead of slicing the short ribs between each bone, the ribs are sliced thinly lengthwise, which dots the perimeter with small pieces of bone. This allows cooks to utilize the cut in quick-cooking preparations like grilling.

At Del Seoul, the kalbi cut is used in a taco. The beef short ribs are grilled until charred but still tender. The tacos are then topped with a traditional cilantro-onion relish, plus Del Seoul's "secret slaw": shavings of cabbage tossed in a tangy dressing. The tacos are garnished with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. Order a side of the kimchi fries for digging into between tacos.


(773) 248-4227

2568 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

Birria de res at Tacotlán

Named "Insta-worthy" by Chicago's Best, this Pilsen-based taqueria is known for its birria de res, a braised meat taco that it makes with beef instead of the more traditional goat. To make its birria de res taco, Tacotlán's corn tortillas are dipped in a fatty, rust-colored birria broth, then laid on a flattop to sizzle and crisp. The tortillas are then topped with a scoop of braised beef and folded over, much like you would a quesadilla. We think this taco is good enough on its own, but for an even more indulgent taco, try the quesabirria — which also includes a generous handful of melty cheese.

Another item on the menu that's garnered a cult-like following is the restaurant's birria ramen, which utilizes Tacotlán's signature birria plus beef broth for pouring over eggy ramen noodles. The bunny torta is another photo-worthy hit; the sandwich is made on bread shaped like a bunny's head. If you're feeling particularly gluttonous, order both and dunk your quesabirria directly into the steaming-hot broth.


(773) 666-5259

4312 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60639


It'd be impossible to eat every steaming-hot, foil-wrapped, cilantro-and-onion-garnished taco that Chicago has to offer — after all, there are more than 2500 registered Mexican restaurants in the Windy City. And even the most experienced (and Reddit-dwelling) taco expert needs a little help. So to determine this list, I kept an eye out for trends I noticed amongst Google reviews and scoured local publications, like Chicago Magazine and the Chicago Reader, to see what other diners and journalists had to say about which spots are serving a truly standout taco. When possible, I consulted YouTube videos that offered a sneak peek into these taqueria kitchens to learn how each taco was made.

As a lover of Mexican food, simplicity, and handheld convenience, I weighed this evidence against my personal experience as a former local. In addition to recognizing the unique vision of the chefs, I took the value of the tacos and the quality of the ingredients into consideration.