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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Chicago's most authentic and original Mexican food

From tacos to tamales, we tracked down some of our favorite Mexican dishes across Chicago

By Elizabeth Atkinson
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We don't ever need an excuse to gorge ourselves on the city’s stellar Mexican offerings. (We’d happily scale a mountain of snow for 2am tamales!) And whether we're bundled up in our parkas or shedding our winter layers for some warmer weather, we're always in the mood for tacos, enchiladas and hard-hitting, ice-cold margaritas. We decided to check out the best—and most authentic—Mexican food in Chicago, dish by delicious dish.

Tacos

Photograph: Nick Murway

El Nuevo Taconazo

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

The taco list at this Little Village establishment ranges from the conventional (chicken, beef, carnitas) to a wide selection of offal. Our pick is the crispy carne asada with onions and cilantro. Douse it in salsa and lime juice from the complimentary toppings selection.

taqueria traspasada #2, tacos, mexican eats,
Photograph: Nick Murway

Al pastor tacos at Taqueria Traspasada #2

Restaurants Mexican River West/West Town

At this West Town taqueria with an itty-bitty seating area, the tacos come loaded with meat on two tortillas and are topped with onions and cilantro. The tender al pastor number is our pick of the litter, and you should definitely order three.

 

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Arabe tacos at Cemitas Puebla

Restaurants Mexican West Loop

This popular chain may be best known for its cemitas, but it also churns out a bunch of great tacos. The arabe is our favorite, with juicy spit-roasted pork covered in chipotle sauce. Warning: It packs some heat.

Enchiladas

Tamales

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Pork tamales at Doña Chela

Restaurants Lower West Side

You’ll have a hard time walking away from Doña Chela without a hefty bag full of its spicy chicken and tender pork tamales with red sauce. Don’t worry, you didn’t over do it: Our rule is four for now, four for later.

Photograph: Nick Murway

Chicken tamales at Chilo Y Chela

Restaurants Mexican Humboldt Park

Head to this Hermosa spot early; it closes at 8pm. The chicken tamale is flavored with a mild red sauce and wrapped in tender corn masa. If there is one true comfort-food tamale in town, this is it.

Margaritas

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Pepino margarita at Del Toro

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

Del Toro’s long list of margaritas can be overwhelming, so we’ll make your choice easy: Get the Pepino. It’s refreshing, with only a bit of jalapeño heat. On second thought, order three!

Rosemary margarita at Antique Taco
Photograph: Martha Williams

Rosemary margarita at Antique Taco

Restaurants Mexican Wicker Park

One of the most popular margaritas in the city, Antique Taco’s rosemary-tinged margarita puts a twist on the classic, adding just enough herbal and savory flavors to intrigue but not overwhelm. Pair it with the spot’s quintessential fish tacos, or just down a carafe on its own—you’ll be happy with your decision regardless.

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