Big Star

Bars , Mezcalerias Wicker Park
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(6 user reviews)
52 Love It
Save it
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

Big Star

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams
The taco de papas con rajas at Big Star is one of the best tacos in Chicago.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

Big Star


 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

Big Star Mezcal margarita

Readers' choice: Best new bar
Big Star

One of this city’s most worshipped chefs opens a new place…and tells you not to pay attention to the food. He teams up with the folks who operate the Violet Hour and presents a volume-driven cocktail list…that the crew says isn’t really the point. So what are you supposed to do?

Listen to them. There are some things the owners have no control over, true. They did everything in their power to present the place as downscale, but have you ever been to a dive bar where you have to hover for an hour to get a seat, then spend half an hour trying to flag down a slammed bartender? Thought not. Can’t blame Big Star for the fact that people want—desperately—to go there. And I’m one of those people: I’ve been to Big Star—ahem—four times, and while I’ve fallen hard for the surprisingly inviting atmosphere (good music and Christmas lights do a lot to warm up the minimalist space), if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the owners’ warnings are spot-on.

The tacos: They’re good…if you pretty much ignore them. If you go in ready to ponder the al pastor, you’ll spend the night wondering, “Does all this pineapple make this too sweet?” or “This tortilla, although fresh, isn’t that great,” or “This is probably cheaper than it has to be, but a little small compared to [Insert Your Favorite Pilsen Taqueria Here],” and you’re not going to have any fun at all. Don’t get me wrong: I like the fatty, pork-belly tacos; the wood-grilled taste of the chicken tostada; the queso fundido, with its spicy chorizo buried beneath a layer of greasy Chihuahua cheese. (Order the chips, perfectly salted and smacking of lime, to go with the queso; the soft tortillas don’t cut it.) It’s just not food that stands up to a lot of scrutiny—because it’s not supposed to.

It’s a more difficult situation with the cocktails. If you insist on looking for subtlety in these drinks, you’re going to give yourself a nervous breakdown. The best you can hope for is something vaguely balanced, which I found in the be-ginger beer’d Bakersfield Buck but not in the overly St. Germained San Antonio Sling.

In either case, you’re better off sticking with beer or straight bourbon or a killer Michelada (pictured). To assist you, here’s something not too difficult to wrap your head around: A 7-ounce pour of Schlitz for $1. Here’s another: a $6 glass of Buffalo Trace. Drink those till you can snag a seat, and then order the tacos. You’re finally ready to enjoy them.

Venue name: Big Star
Address: 1531 N Damen Ave
Cross street: between Wicker Park and Milwaukee Aves
Opening hours: Sun–Fri 11:30am–2am; Sat 11:30am–3am
Transport: El stop: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72.
Price: Average taco: $3
Do you own this business?

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:5
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening
Kelsey H

Best tacos, margaritas and atmosphere in the area! Great music and place to socialize over drinks and soak up the neighborhood vibes.

Madeline N

Big Star is pretty well known to all Chicagoians and while they don't have my favorite tacos (they also have some pretty tough competition) They are super delicious and their patio cant be beat. Its often pretty crowded and can be somewhat hard to get a table, but they have an area where you can sit and wait which is always nice!


Growing up on the Southwest side I had my fair share of authentic Mexican tacos but Big Star is at the top. The best El Pastor I've ever had. Fish tacos that are flavorful and don't skimp on the fish. A new classic with the Walking Taco. The classic tasting Margaritas are perfect for a hot summer day. Fresh fried tortilla chips. Anything you get is done great.

I don't know why I hadn't gone here sooner but easily the best Mexican restaurant in Chicago. It's not expensive but I suggest getting at least 4 or 5 tacos because they are small.

Erin Delahanty
moderatorStaff Writer

There's no better patio for spending a summer afternoon (or the whole day) in Wicker Park. Sip on margaritas, and be sure to order the fish tacos. Thankfully this popular patio now takes credit cards!

Nick Kotecki

Big Star is and oldie, but too good to pass up on a balmy summer afternoon. Easily the most magical patio in the city.

Laura R

Big Star will never get old. You could sit on that patio for hours (many people do), and just people-watch and keep pouring the margaritas. I also love this place because you can get tacos of all kinds (tacos in bags! spicy potato tacos!), which is important to me as a somewhat picky vegetarian. Big Star also has a walk-up window on the other side, so you can grab and go.