Tacos and salsas.
Photograph: Nick Murway

The best tacos in Chicago you can't miss

From classic carne asada to funky, veggie-filled creations, these are the best tacos in Chicago.

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Tacos are a universally loved food, so we’ve searched high and low for the best ones in town. Swaddled in warm, handmade tortillas and packed with a variety of proteins and toppings, these amazing handheld bites are found in both tiny taquerias and fancy Mexican restaurants. The following list covers all of your taco cravings, including carne asada, al pastor, crispy fish, birria and even vegetarian-friendly options. Some of these spots are also among the city’s finest restaurants and best late-night haunts. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Wicker Park or Pilsen, you’re never too far from the best tacos in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in Chicago

Time Out Market Chicago
  • West Loop

Lil Amaru is a continuation of chef Rodolfo Cuadro’s mission to explore the soul of Latin American cooking, focusing on dishes that are commonly sold by street vendors in countries like Mexico, Cuba and Colombia, including delicious tacos filled with al pastor, asada and fried fish.

The top tacos in Chicago

  • Mexican
  • South Lawndale
  • price 1 of 4

You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at this grocery store-based taqueria, from the extra beefy suadero to the intricately spiced longaniza sausage. But the showstopper is the tripa. Order it crispy, and these little hunks from the cow’s intestine (not, as you would assume, the stomach) arrive as golden-hued and glistening crunchy nuggets.

  • Mexican
  • Archer Heights
  • price 1 of 4

No other place in Chicago lavishes attention on goat like Birrieria Zaragoza, which serves it by the pound. The roasted and hand-pulled meat is served with a ladleful of flavorful consomme, along with some of the finest handmade tortillas in town. We get the platter, but you can order individual tacos if you want to cut to the chase.

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  • Mexican
  • Logan Square

This taqueria situated between Logan Square and Bucktown serves everything from morcilla (blood sausage) to fried artichoke on tortillas, but the tacos al pastor are the main attraction. Served on a handmade tortillas, tender bits of pork find their match in creamy avocado salsa, sweet pineapple and flecks of cilantro. And vegetarians aren't left out: There's a portobello mushroom al pastor that's just as good as the meatier version.

  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

One of the preeminent carnitas specialists in town, this Pilsen spot is always bustling—especially on the weekends when lines out the door are common. Tough out the wait and you’ll be rewarded with fried pork that’s been rendered in its own fat. No part of the pig goes to waste so you have the choice of juicy, crispy white and dark meat as well as ribs, stomach, skin and brains. The meat is available by the pound and served with complimentary tortillas and condiments so you can build your own tacos.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

A fixture at the Maxwell Street Market for decades, Rubi’s finally found a permanent home in Pilsen in 2021. The tacos, which are served on some of the city’s best handmade tortillas, haven’t skipped a beat since the move. Although all the fillings are tasty, the huitlacoche—black corn smut—is a must-try when it’s available.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Mexican
  • Logan Square
  • price 1 of 4

While a number of the fillings here are worth your attention, the ravenous crowds are mostly beating down the door for the carne asada. Instead of mangy bits of chopped beef, L’Patron serves up sizable hunks of extra-tender steak. Oh, and don’t forget to ask for the flavorful, thick housemade tortillas.

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  • South Lawndale
  • price 1 of 4

You probably wouldn’t expect to find exceptional tacos at a place called “Asian Cuisine Express,” but don’t judge a book by its cover. Perplexing as it may be, this Little Village eatery serves some of the best al pastor in Chicago,. As soon as you step inside, you’ll see (and smell) the trompo of flame-kissed pork. Like all great al pastor tacos, they’re served with chunks of pineapple, and you can even add on an order of crab rangoon to boot. If you ask nicely, the kitchen is also happy to whip up al pastor fried rice.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

Though you can find carnitas on many taqueria menus, we prefer restaurants that stake their reputation on the quality of their deep-fried pork. Plus, this mostly ensures that no matter when you go, you’ll get meat straight out of the lard bath. That’s always the case at Carnitas Uruapan, which serves richly fatty and crispy pork with all the salsas and sides you could want.

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  • Latin American
  • Uptown
  • price 4 of 4

Fine dining Latin concept Cariño opened in late 2023, and debuted a late-night taco omakase menu shortly after. Guests can book one of the chef’s counter seats at 10pm, Wednesday through Saturday, and enjoy eight courses highlighting masa-based dishes created by Norman Fenton. The offerings are ever-changing, but you can usually expect a classic taco, a seafood taco and a wagyu taco among the bites. For taco lovers, it’s a bucket list experience.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Mexican
  • North Center
  • price 1 of 4

Steak reigns supreme at this North Center hole in the wall. You’ll find arguably the best carne asada tacos on the North Side—the large and tender hunks of beef are well seasoned and dressed with cilantro and onions (you can also add cheese, sour cream or avocado). Best of all: they’re less than $5 each and sizable enough that two or three should fill you up. 

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Mexican
  • South Lawndale
  • price 1 of 4

No place in Chicago cares about corn tortillas like La Casa de Samuel. You can see this for yourself, since they are all prepared right as you walk inside. Thick, yet soft, with a sweet fresh corn fragrance—they are good enough to eat alone. But they really thrive when matched with slices of funky cecina. Thin sheets of beef are salted and dried, resulting in a concentrated wallop of beefiness.

  • Mexican
  • South Lawndale
  • price 1 of 4

You’ll know this taqueria in Little Village takes tacos al pastor seriously the moment you walk through the door. The red-hued pork is on full display, beautifully stacked on a trompo in the kitchen and waiting to be sliced to order. Complement the marinated meat with chunks of pineapple and a generous splash of salsa for the perfect bite.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • French
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4
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The least traditional taco on this list, Obelix’s “Foie-co” is a decadent, French-inspired riff on the Mexican staple. A corn tortilla crisped in duck fat holds a lobe of seared foie gras along with salsa macha, pickled red currants and black currant jam. At nearly $30 per taco, you’re probably not making a full meal out of it, but it’s definitely worth trying this one-of-a-kind offering.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Mexican
  • Wicker Park
  • price 1 of 4

This adorable—and always packed—spot in Wicker Park and Bridgeport has a delicious, ever-changing menu of tacos and seasonal margaritas. The crispy fish tacos are served two at a time and feature a good portion of tempura battered fish. Topped with bright purple smoked cabbage, green scallions and a creamy sriracha tartar sauce, the dish is big enough to share (not that you'd want to).

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  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

You’d be forgiven for calling Taqueria El Milagro’s taco a mini-burrito. After all, this comically overstuffed creation features a whole slab of grilled beef, refried beans, red rice and a handful of crunchy slaw. Eating one requires two hands and a very hungry disposition, but it’s worth the effort all the same.

  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

You can't go wrong with any of the tacos at 5 Rabanitos, but the cochinita pibil taco stands out amid the array of options. Juicy and tender slow-roasted pork turns the soft house-made tortillas into a messy ordeal, but we don't mind, because we'll eat these tacos topped with crunchy radishes in just a few bites.

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  • Korean
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 1 of 4

Inspired by the Korean taco craze in Los Angeles, Del Seoul has been putting barbecued meats on tortillas long since this particular culinary mash-up lost its trendy shine. The plump panko-fried shrimp taco is the highlight of the menu (Del Seoul's menu admits that it's the "best taco" on offer), doused with savory sesame-chili aioli and served on a bed of slaw.

  • Mexican
  • Hermosa

It may be called a quesadilla, but these cheesy birria creations are technically tacos. The tortillas get soaked in consummé before they're filled with birria and cheese, then topped with cilantro and oions. Dip the tacos in the included cup of consummé and prepare yourself for a hearty, flavorful meal.

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  • Mexican
  • United Center
  • price 1 of 4

La Lagartija’s standout taco starts with a soft housemade tortilla that’s topped with lightly fried beer-battered shrimp, creamy aioli and crunchy cabbage. So far, so good. But it’s the habanero ketchup—spicy, smoky and slightly sweet—that transforms it into something like a Mexican play on a steakhouse shrimp cocktail.

  • Mexican
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

Live-fire, Baja-inspired cooking reigns supreme at Leña Brava in the West Loop. You’ll find plenty of raw mariscos and hearty cuts of meat on the menu, but the star of the show is the signature grilled striped bass. The whole fish is butterflied and deboned, with one half glazed in red adobo and the other in green mojo. It’s accompanied by tortillas and salsa roja so you can make your own scrumptious tacos.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Mexican
  • Brighton Park
  • price 1 of 4

If you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense carne asada experience, one that values the straightforward appreciation of grilled beef above all else, head straight for Tio Luis in Archer Heights. You only need to worry about which of the three fine salsas to drizzle on top, though our money is on the spicy tomatillo.

  • Mexican
  • New City
  • price 1 of 4

As the name suggests, La Cecina in the Back of the Yards specializes in cecina, thin sheets of cured beef that fall halfway between the well-seasoned juiciness of freshly grilled steak and the funky concentration of tender jerky. The flavorful meat is paired with creamy beans and avocado, then wrapped up in a light and flexible housemade tortilla.

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  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side

There are so many good things about El Mezquite, a Pilsen taqueria that serves affordable and authentic Mexican fare. But one of the best parts of the place is its cabeza tacos (in case you were wondering, that's cow head). A lot of spots can't quite pull off the dish, and it ends up running amok on your digestive system. Not Mezquite, though. Well-seasoned and just tender enough, the cabeza tacos will leave you wondering why you don't eat the innards of bovine noggins on a regular basis.

  • Mezcalerias
  • Wicker Park
  • price 1 of 4

While Big Star is best known for its perpetually packed patio and whiskey specials, most of the taco options are in the solid (fish taco) to the oddly disappointing (al pastor) range. But the secret is to order one of the veggie tacos. The best is the taco de papas, which balances creamy potato hunks with rustic and spicy red chilies.

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  • Coffee shops
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

If you ask us, few things are better in the morning than breakfast tacos. At Cafe Tola, you can get all sorts of fillings, such as chorizo, pork belly, eggs and smoked salmon, wrapped in flour tortillas. And if you’re not an early riser? Well, you’re in luck since they’re available all day long.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Seafood
  • River West/West Town

Can't swing the $450 seafood platter stacked with Alaskan king crab legs and lobster at this lakefront restaurant near Goose Island? A plate of camarón tacos is a bit more reasonably priced—and you'll have enough to grab a pitcher of margaritas or sangria while you're at it. Served on flour tortillas with red cabbage, avocado and chipotle aioli, these simple tacos allow you to enjoy the flavors of the grilled shrimp while you soak in the scenery.

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  • Avondale

If you consider yourself a taco enthusiast, add this low-key Avondale joint to your list and treat yourself to an order of tacos al pastor. Juicy and slightly charred, the meat is wrapped in two tortillas and sprinkled with raw onions and cilantro (as it should be).

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