Monday, December 5, 2022

Especialidad de la Casa Pt. 12

- On the road with the 'Chicago Taco Tour'

It’s been quite a while since we ate some tacos over here. But the fact of the matter is there hasn’t been a ton of great openings. Mexican food in Chicago seems to have hit a bit of a speed bump. There’s still plenty of spots opening shop but it’s rare for one to immediately call you in. I’d hoped taquerias around town would’ve taken another step as far as offering something that’s not the norm (steak, chicken, “al pastor” etc.) but that hasn’t quite been the case. Nonetheless I’ve identified a handful of spots where you can get some very good non-generic tacos. Let’s take a look at them. 


El Tragon Taqueria

First stop takes us to a gas station complex at the corner of Halsted and Division in Goose Island. Gas station tacos have a reputation as being great but that’s not always case. El Tragon opened a couple years ago but it really has been slow on the taco front here in Chicago so I’m just getting to posting about it now. The menu seems to be pretty good up and down based on the reviews but there’s one taco that stands out. El Tragon serves up a taco de costra. Costra means crust and in the case of a taco de costra it refers to a cheese crust. Typically the cheese is melted onto the tortilla with the meat going on top of the cheese but Tragon does the reverse of that and tops a sliced piece of bistec with cheese which then gets flipped over cheese side down on a hot flattop. This style became popular in Mexico City a few decades back and are starting to become more common in the States.

Taco de Bistec at El Tragon Taqueria 

Taqueria Zacatacana

I might get tacos from this family owned spot in Avondale more than anywhere else. Part of that is bc it’s a short ride from my spot. Yet there’s handfuls of taco shops within a short distance of where I live. But none of them make steak tacos as good as those at Zacatacana which now does tortillas hechas a mano on Tuesdays. They elevate what was already one of the city’s best steak tacos with it’s tender and juicy chunks of carne asada (char grilled skirt steak) paired with my favorite salsa verde in town.

Steak Taco on Handmade Tortilla at Taqueria Zacatacaana 

Taqueria La Morena

There’s quite a few weekend vendors to be found inside and around the Buyers Flea Market in West Humboldt Park (open Sat. & Sun.). You’ll find Taqueria La Morena at the corner of Augusta and Kolmar. It too is open only on the weekends but that means you can pretty much count on their trompo to be up and spinning. Meat was sliced fresh to order on my visit which was the only one I’ve made but judging by what I got that day it's some quality al pastor served in a street taco setting. 

Tacos al Pastor at Taqueria La Morena

Chavelo's Tacos

I featured Chavelo’s and their kick ass tacos de barbacoa estilo Jalisco in a piece I did on street tacos back in 2020. They’ve since moved into a brick and mortar up the block in Archer Heights. So no more waiting for the weekend to indulge in one of my favorite regional tacos from Mexico. Shredded beef is cooked in a spicy tomato broth and stuffed into tortillas that take a trip to a hot flattop with a puddle of oil that the tacos are fried in until golden. These remind me of Tacos Juan, a Tapatío favorite. 

Tacos Dorados de Barbacoa at Chavelo's Tacos

Taco Sublime (inside Marz Brewing)

Here’s another spot for an excellent taco de costra. Cheese crust is standard when you order tacos at Taco Sublime. They’re a permanent pop-up parked inside of the Marz Brewing facility in Bridgeport. The team behind Sublime has plans of expanding into a brand that people want to work for by taking the standard QSR model and flipping it outside down by taking care of employees. So you have to commend them for that and their rich and delicious steak tacos with an extra oozy cheese crust.

Steak Taco at Taco Sublime 

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