In case you missed our previous posts, we created this list because almost every Top 10 list churned out these days has a ton of repeat awardees. A lot of those places are great, but we didn’t want to just throw another accolade on the pile. So ManBQue has pioneered the Not Top 10 – the best bars and restaurants that don’t show up on your typical lists. No gimmicks, no hype – just delicious food.
One of the best things about living in a city like Chicago is having that go-to neighborhood joint that always has good food when you need it to. For a large majority of us, it’s our neighborhood taqueria. So let us help shed some light on a few places you might not have been to.
The rating system worked like this:
Tortilla (5 points): How enjoyable is the texture of the tortilla? Does it stay together during a bite?
Meat (5 points): Is the meat cooked well? Is it tender and seasoned?
Toppings (5 points): Do the toppings complement the meat? Is there a good balance of texture against the meat?
Overall Quality (5 points): Is there anything unique or special about the taco?
Total: 20 points possible
We focused on carne asada and al pastor tacos. If a place did not have those traditional style tacos, we would try to order one beef and one pork taco for consistency’s sake. This crawl took place over two Saturdays – 17 restaurants were visited to bring you the greatest list in Tacodom.
10. Taqueria Traspasada #2 – 13.12 points
A tiny hole in the wall off Ashland and North Ave. and a great little joint if you don’t mind standing with everyone else. Traspasada #2 made some amazing carne asada tacos, but one lost soul tried a chicken taco and had to throw it away. The tortillas tasted like El Milagro (which is NOT a bad thing). Go and stick with the carne asada. It’s delicious.
9. El Azteca – 13.33 points
A little west of Cicero on Fullerton, El Azteca is not your typical neighborhood place. You walk in and there is art all over the walls and mult-colored tables and chairs. This was a fun joint that cooked up some solid tacos alongside delicious chips and salsa. The tortillas were good quality and the carne asada was cooked tenderly and seasoned well. The al pastor tacos came up a little short, mostly from being overcooked. Still highly recommended for the fantastic atmosphere.
8. Pancho Pistolas – 14.75 points
If you’re in the Bridgeport area and looking for a Mexican spot to sit back, relax and enjoy yourself in, this is the place for you. The al pastor lacked seasoning, but the steak in the carne asada was tender and seasoned perfectly. Unfortunately, we decided to order some margaritas with our meal and were sorely disappointed. “Would you like some triple sec with your tequila?” We would not.
7. The Tamale Spaceship – 14.83 points
You’ve seen their tamale truck! You’ve seen them in their lucha libre masks! Now, go check and out their restaurant! While the general consensus was that their tamales are better than their tacos, they still know what they’re doing. Since they do not serve typical carne asada or al pastor tacos, we ordered barbacoa & cochinita. The tortillas were delicious and their salsa was well made with just the right heat and spice. While the meat was spiced well, it was a little dry across the board. If they left a little more fat in the meat, they would be flying!
Get it? Flying? Spaceship. No? It’s fine.
6. Azteca de Oro – 15.2 points
Despite the slew of drunk Cubs fans, Wrigleyville does have it’s hidden gems. That taco gem is Azteca de Oro. It’s a calm, smaller place that serves one of the better al pastors we ate during our marathon. The entire group even agreed that the tacos didn’t need salsa. If you find yourself stuck in DudeBro country or hungry after a show at the Metro, grab some great tacos here.
5. DS Tequila Co – 16 points
Despite not having the traditional tacos, this restaurant in north Lakeview is one to not be missed. DS Tequila has more tequilas than we cared to count, a very good beer list, and a food menu that made us want to try more than just the tacos. We decided to order the coffee-rubbed steak tacos and their tequila shrimp tacos (no pork available), both of which were fantastic. The steak was slightly overcooked, but the coffee rub was good enough to cover for that. The tequila shrimp had the perfect amount of spice and tang. Definitely recommend for a great atmosphere and fun food.
4. Taco & Burrito Palace – 16.8 points
Not more than a few blocks north of DS Tequila Co is a spot that’s become a favorite of neighborhood eaters and outsiders alike, Taco & Burrito Palace! It’s the best taco comfort food you could ever ask for – their carne asada was nearly perfect. This is a place that you’ll wish you had next door when you’re stumbling home after too many Old Styles.
3. Carniceria y Taqueria Guanajuato #3 – 18 points
If you’ve ever been to Hot Doug’s (RIP), you’ve most likely driven past Carniceria y Taqueria Guanajuato #3! Don’t remember it? That’s probably because it’s a grocery store. Or because you couldn’t pronounce it. This could legitimately be one of the best al pastor tacos of your lifetime. Cooked on a traditional spit, their al pastor taco had the perfect char and flavoring. You can’t get much better anywhere.
2. Taqueria Sabor y Sazon – 18.25 points
This smaller joint is what it is – a no-frills Pilsen Mexican food joint. We took on the tacos and eventually became curious about the little side of sauce served alongside. It’s a creamy house-made pepper sauce that improved tacos that we thought couldn’t get any better. The trip to Taqueria Sabor y Sazon is 100% worth it. Bring friends, bring family … hell, bring your enemies. This spot will be on a lot of lists soon.
1. En Hakkore – 18.66 points
You’re likely thinking that En Hakkore doesn’t sound like a traditional Mexican joint. Which, fair enough, it’s a Korean Bibimbap restaurant in Wicker Park. But they serve up a beast of a taco. The Paratha Taco comes with kimchi, onion, mushroom, cilantro, lettuce, pickled radish, En Hakkore sauce, and either spicy pork or Korean BBQ beef. It’s one of the largest tacos we had over the course of 17 restaurants, and their tortilla was like a biscuit. Which is perfect if you like to soak up extra spices and sauce. The tenderly-cooked meat and Korean-style seasoning found the perfect balance between two beautiful cultures of food. They are MANBQUE APPROVED!