Four taco crawls
Take a tour of 23 taquerias in four Chicago neighborhoods.
The tortilla nearly melts under the juices of birria, or stewed goat, made wetter (but worth it) from the thin, heat-creeping salsa of tomatoes and chile de arbol. Drop $2.50 for a cup of heady, oily goat consommé. East side of Desplaines St near Roosevelt Rd, next to a blue churro truck.
Go with the chorizo, scooped from a vat, thrown on the griddle and hacked with a spatula as it cooks for maximum crispy edges. Request “con todo” (with everything) for a taco with tomatoey cabbage slaw and a spoonful of thinned guacamole known as taqueria salsa. East side of Desplaines St, just north of Taylor St.
With no seating, Lencho’s encourages a brisk business, where loyalists follow the ritual. Everyone stands, everyone gets the carne asada taco and everyone walks away with a belly full of textbook grilled steak: thin, lightly salted, slightly chewy strips with a tender center and browned edges. East side of Desplaines St, north of Cabrini St.
La Flor de Mexico
Not as famous as its southern neighbor, Rubi’s, but just as good, “The Flower of Mexico” also doesn’t skimp on portions. The tortillas are cooked to order and best when stuffed with big hunks of meaty, tangy, lightly crisped al pastor. West side of Desplaines St, south of Polk St.
Immortalized as a favorite of Rick Bayless, Rubi’s sports a long line. At least there’s a show while waiting: A bandana-clad woman kneads masa (cornmeal dough), forms it into orbs and presses each into a disc before it hits the griddle. Cooks cut from an al pastor spit, the meat falling into a cast-iron griddle with hunks of pineapple and sliced onion for a quick sauté. West side of Desplaines St, just south of La Flor de Mexico.
Vegetarians get their due with taco fillings from sautéed mushrooms and squash blossoms to huitlacoche, an earthy corn fungus. Carnivores should beeline for costilla en salsa verde, pork rib meat stewed in a tangy tomatillo-based green sauce. Manolo’s also won our al pastor taco competition. West side of Desplaines St, just south of Cabrini St.