The Best Places to Get Tacos in Chicago

Chicago is all about eating. And visitors are usually flocking to try heavier plates: cheesy deep-dish pizzas, steaks the size of your head, spaghetti and meatballs drowning in a sea of red sauce. But what if you want something a little lighter, a little easier to grab and really take a bite out of? That's where we get inspiration from the West Coast and our neighbors to the south: tacos. Thanks to their low cost and laidback assembly, tacos are at the top of the trend list.

And we're not talking the sad kind you make from a seasoning packet and some ground beef at home. The best meat cuts, veggies and scintillating sauces are carefully crafted into the stuff handmade tortillas dream about becoming. So, taco lovers, here are our picks to give you something to taco 'bout. 

Taco Joint

This casual spot boasts more than 50 tequilas and a creative menu of tacos, tortas and Mexican street snacks like elotes (grilled corn on the cob with mayo) and queso fundido. Late-night dining. L, D (daily), Br (Sa-Su).

Big Star

This buzzing dive bar and taqueria boasts a serious pedigree, with a menu by James Beard Award-winner Paul Kahan. Expect a country vibe, plenty of American whiskeys and a massive seasonal beer garden. Late-night dining. L, D (daily).

Mercadito

This stylish, contemporary Mexican spot offers nearly a dozen different taco offerings and exotic tequila and mezcal cocktails, all in an upbeat-lounge atmosphere. L (M-F), D (daily), Br (Sa-Su).

Velvet Taco

The upscale Gold Coast takes a delicious, laid back turn at Velvet Taco. The Texas-transplant serves close to 20 globally inspired tacos, such as the spicy tikka chicken, the Cuban pig, and the fish n' chips. Grab sides of street corn and crispy tots, along with a slice of red velvet cake for dessert.

D.S. Tequila Co.

Wash down prime beef burgers and tequila shrimp tacos with margaritas, slushy cocktails or beer at this lively Boystown hangout. L, D (daily); Br (Sa-Su).

Antique Taco

Given all the Latin restaurants in this city, any taco can start to taste like a McTaco. Now here’s the exception in Wicker Park: a cozy storefront space where the humble dish gets extra special TLC. Affordable and stylish, these tacos tease the palette with ingredients such as caramelized poblanos.

Buzz Bait Taqueria

What do you get when you combine a fish taco aficionado and a sushi restauranteur? Buzz Bait Taqueria, a cool, laid-back taco spot in the center of Old Town serving up only the best seafood. Flavors include smoked salmon, marinated mahi and an unmatched ahi tuna poke. L, D (Tu-Su). 

¡HELLO TACOS! de cero

From duck nachos to Alambre steak burrito, the offerings at this rustic-chic Randolph Street restaurant are anything but ordinary. Fun margaritas, too, like strawberry mint lime mojito. L (F-Sa); D (Tu-Sa).

Barcocina

This modern-Mexican Maryland transplant has found a home in fun-loving Lakeview. The relaxed atmosphere is perfect for any time of year, with garage doors to open during the summer and an ice rink in winter. The menu is fresh and filled with flavor, with three drink categories: sweet, smoky and spicy.

Tallboy Taco

Run out of higher end Nacional 27, this River North hot spot's name says it all: tallboy beers and tacos. We love pairing a can of Stiegl Radler grapefruit with the beer-battered crispy fish or cowboy 12hr  smoked brisket taco, with meat from Lettuce Entertain You sister restaurant Bub City. Late night dining (F, Sa).

Takito Kitchen

Tacos take an artsy twist with peanuts, chutney, lamb and other ingredients added into the mix. Plates are seasonal and are as easy on the eyes as the palate—just make sure to save room for an order of polenta or Mexican chocolate ganache for dessert.