Monday, October 27, 2014

St. Charles Taco Tour

- On the Road w/ The Chicago Taco Tour

We've featured quite a few legit Mexican eating options from the Fox River Valley Region already. From the 'Tacos of Aurora' Part One and Two to the uber popular Bien Trucha in Geneva. Today we have a third entry into this region which has quite the selection of Mexican restaurants. St. Charles is a town more known for beautiful mansions along the river and being one of Chicagoland's most prestigious suburbs than for good Mexican food, but a little bit of time spent there and you'll find out they have a handful of wonderful options, both "authentic" and also "modern."

Main Street
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The Jalapeno Grille

First stop up is the locally loved Jalapeno Grille, generic name aside this place is pretty damn solid. I'd be very happy to have it as my neighborhood taqueria. It's a cute little spot where takeout and sitdown orders are about half and half. The outside of the building boasts some really nice artwork and the inside is nice and clean. One of the more popular taco options is the fish taco. I'm not a big fan of the chopped up variety but by adding a fresh pico de gallo on top, it really makes this one stand out. The ribeye taco comes with an extra tender piece of meat on a well griddled tortilla. The addition of sauteed slivers of onion take it up to "I'd order that again level." Also of note is one of the better burritos I've come across. Nice little stop.

Fish Taco

Rib-Eye Steak Taco

Tacho Burrito - Large flour tortilla stuffed with the chefs specially prepared steak that has been sautéed with onions & jalapenos, plus beans, sour cream, cheese & cilantro
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Poblano Pepper Grill

Another generic named place that's better than the name suggests. This is a stripmall spot run by a husband and wife team who were very welcoming as we sat at the bar ready to order the margaritas they get lots of love for. The drinks were pretty good, as good as cheap liquor can be and the cochinita pibil taco was also satisfying. My notes from the Tour - "The cochinita pibil taco came praised and I could see why. They make a really nice batch with medium to medium-hot heat. I liked the smear of refried black beans they add onto the tortilla. The fresh cucumber margarita was on point as well, just make sure to pay the $2 upgrade to avoid the standard Barcode brand tequila used"

Cochinita Pibil Taco
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Salsa Verde 

I chose to stop in here and check them out when I decided to put this post together, it's been a year in the making. these were my notes - "While I didn't think anything here blew me away its the type of place I wouldn't mind having in my neighborhood. The menu is pretty extensive and there were some tempting items on it. For example I tried their enchilada combo plate which featured four different enchiladas. It was a pretty plate of food and tasted pretty damn good too. I happened to visit on a Tuesday which is when they offer $1 tacos, your choice of shredded beef or chicken. I went with one of each and proceeded over to their salsa bar where they supply a couple hands worth of fresh made salsas as well as pickled onions and such. The tacos weren't bad but they weren't life changing. I actually preferred the juicier chicken than the dryer beef. I'd probably make them my cheap Tuesday snack if I lived near but I don't so not sure when I'll be back, got too many other spots to try."

Desabrada y Tinga Tacos

sea of salsa

Colorful Enchilada Plate
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El Puente

This restaurant located in the heart of downtown Main street is a popular stop with locals for both business lunches and also family dinners. It's been this way for over ten years. They have a full bar menu and offer specially priced plates for lunch. I'd wanted to try them for a while now after reading that they serve the popular in the area Longy Tacos which I've featured before. Local to the Western Suburbs they're made with a beef/bean mixture and then fried in a pan. These were a good example but I wouldn't order chicken in a Longy taco again, it's all about the creamy beef/bean combo. One of the great unknowns from out this way. 

Beef Longy Tacos
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Puebla Modern Mexican

a peak inside

Ever since Bien Trucha's opening a handful of places like this have spawned out from it. Just to give you an idea of Bien Trucha's popularity, it's one of the common mentions on Yelp when looking thru reviews of this place. Because of its small cozy space, there's room for more modern Mexican in these parts. The décor inside strives for a contemporary, urban feel and includes hand-painted Mexican tiles and elegant woodwork and counter tops with a menu that reflects it. One of our favorite things to eat at Bien Trucha is their amazing chicken flautas, I've never had better. These weren't quite on par but still hot the spot we were looking to itch.

Chicken Flautas

What caught my eye here were the the taco options, much in the same style of Bien Trucha. They come four to a plate and will set you back around $11 per. The two that got my attention were the less seen taco arabes option as well as the steak which many were saying was the best example of a steak taco they ever ate.

Tacos Arabes

The arabes were a complete miss. Chewy pork with an unpleasant sauce, the one little sprig of cilantro for fanciness sake wasnt going to save these tacos served on cold flour tortillas. The steak was much better but the tortillas they were served on were not. This stop was made months ago but I seem to remember something that made me realize these just sat at the counter for a good five minutes before the waiter brought them over. Unfortunately the fact they were cold killed what could of been a really nice steak taco option. 

Grilled Skirt Steak, Caramelized Onions, Avacado Salsa, Cilantro, Chihuahua Cheese
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Lupita's Cocina

This place at the other end of town has been on my radar for sometime. I finally made it there recently and loved my visit. Yet another modern Mexican stop slanging some legit cocktails and plates of tacos, they have many similarities to Bien Trucha but also their own identities. In the style of Bien Trucha they bring you out an excellent black bean dip with chips to start.

Complimentary Black Bean Dip

The steak tacos are what put this place on my list. They cook over wood and just like the last stop, the comparisons to Bien Trucha are inevitable. That said, the steak tacos at Bien Trucha aren't anywhere near as good, and I like them. But these are on another level. The kiss of smoke from the wood goes perfect with whatever marinade they use to cook the steak to medium rare before an excellent chopping job ensues. While they may be two bite tacos, they're worth all eight bites as the grilled red onions paired with the salsa works wonders on top of some the most tender steak I've ever ate. Cant wait to go back for these. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Outer Skirt Steak w/ Caramelized Red Onion, Queso Fresco, Cilantro, Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
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The Jalapeno Grille
602 Geneva Rd
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 587-1918

Poblano Pepper Grill
3677 E Main St
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 587-0304

Salsa Verde
1850 Lincoln Hwy
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 444-0673

El Puente
112 E Main St
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 377-8884

Puebla Modern Mexican
51 S 1st St
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 945-3408

Lupita's Cocina
40W222 Lafox Rd
St Charles, IL 60175
(630) 377-0706

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