Regional food specialties
-The Tacos of Aurora, Illinois
In honor of Mexican Independence Day I'm taking all my loyal readers on a little taco tour thru Illinois' Second City, Aurora. Taco Time! Excellent! Chicago has long been a hot spot for amazing Mexican eats but as the years go on and many families flock to the suburbs for peace of mind and they bring their restaurants and recipes with them. Aurora is an area that continues to expand on its close to 40% Hispanic population. I have work out there now and then and am always keeping an eye and ear out for some good taco options. I don't know why it happened, Mexican food has always been my favorite, but of late I've been a taco binge like none other. So here it is! A half-year in the making. Ten Taco Spots worth a trot out to the town that gave us Wayne's World.
Important to note that much like the big city, there are what seem to be a countless number of taquerias in town. Just like here they come and go so fast you might not even of known one was around before it's gone. So how does one establish what spots to try? First place I check is LTH but not much of late. Then I go to Yelp and see what people say. This place tends to get good biz when I've been by and a common mention of al pastor on Yelp put it on the map.
Al Pastor Spit
Durango has had their spit up and running on both visits I've made. One a weekday and the other over the weekend. As we continue on here you're going to see that there's a few types pf tacos the fine taqueros of Aurora do well and al pastor is a popular one. I think that like Chicago, many of the Hispanic families who came here, did so from the Jalisco region and Mexico City. Hence the love for heavily spiced roasted pork on a spit. Tacos al Pastor can be a real hit or miss but these were at least a triple. Properly spiced pieces came out crispy on the outside while still retaining some juice inside. Not to dry, not too wet, just about perfect. Another popular taco in this area is the Dorado version aka hard shelled. I liked Durango's chicken offering but have had better elsewhere.
Chicken Taco Dorado and a Taco al Pastor___________________________________________________________
Not far from Durango is Arandense. Another welcoming place where they have the whole family pitching in to make sure the place runs well. Housed in what was at some point a diner they have a full menu here and I heard its popular for breakfast. I'd driven by and noticed a little crowd inside and said what they hey and went on in and took a seat at the counter.
The View at the Counter
Just like the last stop it was the spit in motion that made me stop into Arandense. It only got better when next to the said spit was a charola for deep frying tripas in. They had just sold out of tacos de suadero but I was more so intrigued by the other two anyway. Both were very solid. The al pastor was again spiced right. Sometimes places under season theirs but not the case here. Extra props for the slice of charred pineapple they put on top. The tripas tacos were fried to a perfect crispiness and brought me back to the streets of Aguascaliente, Mexico where I enjoyed this style of taco morning, noon and night. As I mentioned most places in town serve tacos dorados but they aren't deep fried as a whole. The spots have this little gadget that lets you fry tortillas fresh and then stuff them with stewed meats. Every single place offers two fillings of choice for their dorados, deshebrada and stewed chicken.They had pretty good ones here but I like the other two offerings much more.
Crispy Tripas and an Al Pastor Taco
Up on High Street
As seen in the Aurora Area Mexican Eats post. My favorite place to grab a taco dorado in Aurora is Jalisco Tacos which has a few locations. Sadly this place named after the great Mexican state that gave us Carne en Su Jugo does not offer it on their menu. They do however have some pretty damn good goat consomme on weekends. They claim the al pastor is their specialty but there's better to be had around town. What I like are their taco dorados with deshebrada aka heavily spiced and shredded beef. The combination of crunchy shell (freshly fried) mixed with the juicy beef makes for a messy taco that you have to eat right away but are rewarded with some great flavors when you do.
Taco Dorado w/ Shredded Beef and a Taco al Pastor___________________________________________________________
Also on the Hill
Tacos Maria was put onto my radar by Sir Kevin Pang at the Tribune. He gave love to their taco alambres and so I too wanted to try.. This is the other popular taco found around town. Alambre translates to "wire" or to be rendered as a skewer where food is involved. Every region has their own story on how these tacos came to be named. I think that much like al pastor, these came from Arabic immigrants. Alambre tacos are always served removed from the skewer, if the place is even using one to begin with. Some say the name derives from stir fry. Typically these tacos consist of steak, bacon, chopped green peppers, onion which is all melded together with melted cheese. Just like a shish kebab, the flavors work well. Maria's has an excellent offering.Really, good. Nice call @pang.
Maria's Taco Alambre___________________________________________________________
One of my favorite taco stops in town is this wonderful family run place. I swear they have three or four generations of family inside and they've all remembered me since my first visit when they were extra curious, a good way, as to why I was taking pictures. One of the pretty younger members of the family asked if they could use my pictures on their FB page and I was more than happy so please note, these tacos were free, my third trip around anyway. They wouldn't let me pay, so I tipped triple. Here they make their alambre with poblano peppers which creates for a nice little kick. But my favorite offering is their cochinita pibil. This is a specialty of the family back in their original home of the Yucatan Peninsula where the dish is very popular. Traditionally pibil is cooked in a pit inside banana leaves and served with pickled red onion. The pork is marinated in a healthy combo of juices and spices before cooking long enough to shred easily. For just a buck and change I can eat quite a few of these little treats each trip.
Cochinita Pibil (L) Taco Alambre (R)___________________________________________________________
From Taco Truck to Brick and Mortar Business
Another stop I really like here. Taco Movil has both a truck and somewhat new restaurant where you can find their signature offerings. Not to sound too repetitive but you know the drill, its all in the family and really welcoming inside. The taqueria is attached to a grocery store and its a popular place for folks just getting off work. I stopped in here with the Grub Seeker and another guy so we got try a little of them all, since they all looked good. First up their specialty of the house is tacos al pastor and they do those well. Small crispy bits are loaded into the tortilla and served with their amazing array of housemade salsas. I'm partial to grandmas avocado salsa which is a smooth creamy mix that worked great on their weekend special lamb barbacoa tacos. Movil also makes a mean alambre. Only taco I wasn't that impressed with was their carnitas which was good just not great, I think we got the gringo pieces.
Taco al Pastor
Lamb Barbacoa Taco
But we noticed something you don't see too often on the menu here. Those of us in Chicago who have been lucky enough to indulge in Cemitas Puebla's Taco Arabes know whats up. "Arab Style Tacos" took Chicago by storm before and then definitely after Guy Fieri's appearance there. I haven't seen them anywhere else but noticed a paining inside the plce showing their mobile taco truck in a square in Mexico with a "taco arabes" sign on it. The fun little painting made me further explore the menu which led me to seeing Tacos Arabes listed on it. So of course one had to be ordered.
When they brought this out I thought it was a burrito. I'm used to the fact that this style is rolled in a puffy flour tortilla but this offering looked more like a Norteno burrito than the taco arabes I'm used to. Opening it up to peek what was inside revealed an entire different look too. Here they use marinated and chopped pork with grilled onions and spinach and of course lots of cheese. I loved it. It was almost like a Philly Roast Pork sandwich in a tortilla. Totally different from the awesome offering at Cemitas Puebla, my heart is big enough to hold them both near and dear. Best $2 I've spent on a taco in a while, at least as far as taste and size go.
A stand on the Hill
I'd read about Rico's when it turned up in a google search for best tacos in Aurora. It's a little trailer that permanently sits in a lot next to a grocery store and across the street from a car repair shop. I believe all three are owned by the same people. I see "Rico's Tacos" offered alot around the city. I've always wondered what exactly they are and think I might of found out, or at least I have my own theory. All they do here are tacos and they're each $1. The steak and al pastor came praised so I tried one of each and was presented with some cute little tacos that could be taken down in one bite. Which is where my idea of the name comes from. The grocery store in the city I tried "Rico's Tacos" at served them the same way. I think it's just slang for mini tacos. These were really good. No spit but the steak and pastor were both finely chopped and well crisped up on the griddle, a style I'm not opposed to at all when done properly like they do here.
An Al Pastor and Steak Taco___________________________________________________________
Taqueria Los 4 Leones
Parked in a church at the corner of 5th Street and Farnsworth
I spied this little taco truck while cruusing around town hoping to find something worthy of a try. Obviously this was it so I pulled up and hopped out. There was a little bit of a wait since one guy ordered 10+ tacos so I got to talk with Luis Leon the owner while I waited. They're open Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun from 3p-9p and serve a variety of tacos. You got the usual suspects plus fillings like cabeza, chicharron, lengua and tripas. I asked what his two most popular tacos were and got a couple awesome off the menu offerings. When you see a Taco Campachano on the menu somewhere it usually means "many meats" and that's what Luis says is most popular. "It's a little bit of everything" and it was awesome. As was his other popular taco which mixes steak and chorizo. I was with a work associate for a few of these stops and this was his favorite. He's since brought his wife who's from Mexico and she loves it too.
Taco Campachano and a Steak/Chorizo Mixture___________________________________________________________
El Buey Pando
Located in a lot along East New York Street
Another place I just so happened to find out of luck. As me and the aforementioned associate were riding I spied this place and made a U turn to go check them out. I've been back and past it a couple times since and they always seem to have a nice crowd of locals fresh off of work and hungry for tacos. It seems like both a place to eat and engage with fellow neighbors. If I spy a Especialidad de la Casa on the menu of a place I'm at, then that's what I'm getting (special post coming). I saw one for both a huarache and "taco bravo" which was described by the nice lady taking orders as steak marinated in a very spicy salsa. I got one regular steak and one bravo. Both were great, particularly the Bravo which while tongue tingling, was also really flavorful from the green chile salsa it was cooked in. I gotta back for some more.
Steak (L) and a Taco Bravo (R)___________________________________________________________
A Toda Madre
Last but certainly not least is a favorite of mine. Ok so it's technically not in Aurora city limits but its a quick 10 minute drive up the river to Geneva. A Toda Madre is the sister restaurant to Bien Trucha which we stopped at when going on a tour of Mexican eats in the area last May. Bien Trucha is one of my favorites for "Fancy Mexican" and part of that is because they don't get too fancy. They just do really good homestyle food thats always beautifully presented . They opened a 2nd place recently and like it's urban dictionary translation, it's totally awesome. I think A Toda Madre switched up their menu because the first time around I wasn't tempted by it but then I was when I saw it a half year later. More on them in another post but man are their Shrimp Doradito tacos sensational. If you're a taco aficionado like I am you probably have tried or have had the deep fried shrimp taco at Mariscos Jalisco in Los Angeles on your radar. One day I'll try them but until then, these mini ones from toda madre will definitely do. Hope you enjoyed the ride! Check out our Chicago Taco Tour HERE.
Shrimp Doradito from A Toda Madre in Geneva___________________________________________________________
101 S Lasalle St
Aurora, IL 60505
1 N. Broadway Ave
Aurora, IL 60505
560 High St
Aurora, IL 60505
733 Aurora Ave
Aurora, IL 60505
518 S Lake St
Aurora, IL 60506
470 Hinman Street
Aurora, IL 60505
Rico's Taco Stand
On Hill street near 5th
Aurora, IL 60505
Taqueria Los 4 Leones
Corner of 5th St. and Farnsworth ave
Aurora, IL 60505
Tacos El Buey Pando
Located on New York Street
A Toda Madre
416 W State St
Geneva, IL 60134