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A round, dark plate holds a pile of ceviche.
The city is home to sumptuous ceviches, tacos, caldos, and much more.
Solazo

Chicago’s Essential Mexican Restaurants

From dynamic fine dining options to tasty taco takeout, Chicagoans should be proud

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The city is home to sumptuous ceviches, tacos, caldos, and much more.
| Solazo

​​Chicago has lured food aficionados with its well-known local staples for decades. Still, its Mexican culinary scene has undoubtedly positioned itself among one of the best in the country — one that draws, surprises, and delights locals and tourists alike.

And it’s no wonder why: being home to the second largest Mexican-born immigrant community in the U.S. after Los Angeles and being geographically protected from the immediate impact of border town influences, Chicago is a place of culinary convergence, creativity, and discovery.

With its size and ubiquity, the Mexican community’s presence in the city is reflected in the array of easily found quality eateries available far beyond the enclaves that cater primarily to Mexicans of all generations. From traditional flavors, techniques, and ingredients to modern takes on popular dishes and brand-new creations inspired by the diverse collection that makes up Mexico’s flavors, Chicagoans have it all. Here are 20 of the best spots in Chicago to enjoy this vast and fascinating cuisine.

For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mas Alla del Sol

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5848 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 654-1900
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Popular with locals and visitors alike, Mas Allá del Sol’s chef and owner Adam Moreno’s food is so impressive that he was once commissioned to cook for a group of visitors, including the Archbishop of Mexico City. This anecdote is somewhat poetic, as the Catholic Church has historically been involved as part and patron of Mexico’s culinary history. Moreno’s menu features Mexican favorites like enchiladas, tiny sopes known as picaditas, chiles rellenos, and a cactus salad, all prepared with carefully chosen ingredients. Other dishes are just as Mexican but not always easily found, like the puerco con verdolagas, a tangy, meaty leaf that brings out pork in an extraordinary way. This casual neighborhood eatery is open for dinner but offers a weekend brunch and is usually busy.

2. Kie-Gol-Lanee

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5004 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640
(872) 241-9088
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Kie-Gol-Lanee (“Old Stone” in the Zapotec dialect) is the phonetic spelling of Santa María Quiegolani, a small Oaxacan village in this state’s southern sierra. Here is where siblings and co-owners María and Reynel Mendoza and María’s husband, Léonides Ramos, grew up and learned to cook with recipes passed down through generations. The two-time Bib Gourmand Award-winning team pays homage to their hometown with their offerings. The menu includes well-known regional staples like their Oaxacan-style red or green tamales cooked in banana leaves, red mole, and traditional tlayudas, as well as more exotic dishes featuring quail, rabbit, wild boar, and seasonally, grasshoppers. The environment is relaxed, and the Oaxacan servers are well-informed. 

Save room for dessert — try their café de olla and tres leches cake.

3. Chilam Balam

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3023 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 296-6901
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The B.Y.O.B. eatery reflects owner Soraya Rendón’s fearlessness. Rendón opened the restaurant amid a financially turbulent 2008. Focused on sustainable cuisine and freshly sourced ingredients, Chilam Balam’s dynamic menu of shareable plates features a creative take on traditional dishes like the corn masa black-bean-stuffed memelas with goat cheese, tomatillo, and chile de árbol salsa or the roasted delicata squash with pecan mole and cranberries. The plates, many of which are gluten-free, are brought to life by chef Natalie Oswald, a Topolobampo and Frontera Grill alumna who cooks fluently “in Spanish.” The pandemic has affected the supply chain and impacted the availability and prices of the ingredients, so the fish and ceviche on the menu are only currently available on Friday and Saturday. The atmosphere is eclectic with an underground feel.  Cash and Venmo are accepted.

4. Baha Restaurant

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4842 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 283-8984
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It is always summer at Baha Restaurant, where patrons can enjoy the flavors of the ocean in every form — From the traditional ceviche or the whole grilled fish enjoyed beachside in Mexico to fish sandwiches, tacos, empanadas, and even seafood-stuffed chiles rellenos. Do not miss the Instagram-worthy ceviche towers, a Sinaloan seafood fad that stacks ceviche, seafood, avocado, and a generous amount of condiments into tubular structures. The menu features three options: verde, with aguachile, squid, scallops, avocado and jalapeños; Baha, with shrimp, octopus, tuna, lobster, and squid; and the cleverly dubbed “the Sears Tower,” which layers up shrimp, fish, crab meat, mango, cucumber, and tomatoes which are topped off with a signature spicy red sauce.

5. Mi Tocaya Antojería

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2800 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(872) 315-3947
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Eater Award-winning and much-talked-about chef Diana Dávila opened this lively Logan Square restaurant to share the experiences she built from her own family travels throughout Mexico — and diners have been eager to partake in the journey. Credit that buzz to the adventurous places she’s taking Mexican flavors, techniques, and ingredients evidenced by the peanut butter lengua (braised and pan-seared beef tongue with peanut sauce) and the fried oyster taco.

6. Pan Artesanal Bakery

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3724 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(312) 286-5265
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Inspired by the pan dulce their parents brought back from their native Michoacán, Sisters Lizette and Marisol Espinoza opened Pan Artesanal in July 2018. Drawn by the desire to sample a variety of Mexican regional specialties by pastry chef and co-owner Marisol Espinoza, customers of this Hermosa bakery come from as far away as Wisconsin, Indiana, and even Ohio. The offerings include, among many others, pan de elote — a take on the soft and sweet corn Michoacano uchepos and pan de nata, a buttery roll named for the milk fat that is used to make it. The sisters recently added burnt-milk bread to their menu, which is prepared with their homemade cajeta, a goat milk caramel sauce. Conchas, a headliner at most Mexican bakeries, are a must-try here, and you can find vegan ones. The shop also offers sandwiches made with freshly baked bread, which brings them to another level, and Mexican hot chocolate to pair with the pastries. Pan Artesanal is only open during the weekends and sells out early. There is always a line, but it moves quickly, and the décor and Mexican tunes make you forget you are waiting. Alternatively, order ahead via Clover.

7. Taqueria Chingon

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2234 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 687-9408
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Taqueria Chingon has been a revelation on Western Avenue, where Bucktown and Logan Square meet. This small shack specializes in street tacos with both authentic and modern takes on tacos. Find top-notch pastor, steak, and off-cuts like blood sausage. Rotating specials include tempura shrimp, Greek-style lamb, and more. Don’t skip dessert and the ceviche.

A tray of three tacos with salsas. Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

8. Dos Urban Cantina

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2829 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-6452
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Brian and Jennifer Enyart have opened a unique Mexican restaurant in Logan Square after years working for Rick Bayless. Dos Urban shows a good understanding of Mexican ingredients with grand entrees like tacos arabes with turmeric hummus. There’s a Midwest meets Mexico attitude with delicious items like a mushroom toast soaked in red mole. Jennifer Enyart’s pastries deserve recognition. Grab a slab of the chocolate cake or be prepared to be laughed it while drowning in a sea of regret.

9. Alegrias Seafood Chicago

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1024 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-7200
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Another popular option known for its large servings of Mexican-style seafood, Alegrías, is where folks go to chow down on prawns, langoustines, crab legs, and more at affordable prices. Enjoy complimentary ceviche accompanied with fiery salsa while looking through the extensive menu. The choices can be prepared in a number of different sauces, and it’s best to bring a group to try a bit of everything. There’s a generous B.Y.O.B. policy as well.

10. Tzuco

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720 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 374-8995
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Paying homage to Chef Carlos Gaytán’s hometown of Huitzuco, Guerrero, Tzuco quickly positioned itself as a foodie destination for locals and tourists. The first Mexican chef with a Michelin-starred restaurant (Mexique), Gaytán’s story and gravitas in Chicago and beyond added to the buzz around his noteworthy comeback. His River North restaurant transports you to the environment of an upscale restaurant in Mexico. Guests rave about the nostalgic Mexican dishes brought to life with family recipes, food memories, and inspiration drawn from French cuisine and its techniques. The menu (perhaps due to the chef’s stint in Playa del Carmen) features several dishes inspired in southeastern Mexico. Fan favorites include the aguachile and the Guerrero-style cochinita pibil. Save room for dessert.

The dining room at Tzuco.
Tzuco’s dining room is beautiful.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

11. Frontera Grill

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445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
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Like it or not, seven-time James Beard Award winner Rick Bayless offered a platform to Mexican food in the U.S. way before UNESCO declared this cuisine a cultural treasure in 2010, giving it a serious awareness boost. Frontera Grill delivers a changing menu of dishes powered by traditional, thoughtfully sourced ingredients and first-hand knowledge. Three decades later, and with several restaurants under his name (including the upscale Topolobampo and the Oaxacan-centric Bar Sótano), Frontera’s dining room is packed day in and day out with both locals and tourists. Diners can enjoy a menu featuring a few of Mexico’s “greatest hits,” including beloved regional specialties like the Pueblan tacos Árabes and a variety of mole sauces. And very much like it is the case with other prominent chefs, Bayless’ establishments are a talent incubator and a springboard for aspiring restaurateurs in the city. 

 

12. Rubi’s Tacos

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1316 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

After 25 years of catering to their customers at the historic Maxwell Street Market, Rubi’s recently found its permanent home in Pilsen. Owners Gilberto Ramírez and María Landa credit their clients’ loyalty to the authenticity of their food, which they prepare with the same love and care they put into cooking when hosting family. People flock to Rubi’s for the asada tacos or quesadillas, which can be mixed with beef tongue or chicharrón en salsa verde, a delicious dish prepared with tomatillo sauce and pork rinds, and their spicy red mole.  Expect a line to try them, as they come out on freshly made tortillas (available also in blue corn, which can give dishes a little bit of an earthier flavor). The line moves quickly, and the wait is always fun, thanks to Gilberto’s charisma. Ask him to sing the menu for you. Hailing from Guerrero, Mexico, the family recently added pozole to their menu. Following their home state tradition, they serve it on Thursdays. Their team is active on social media, where there is up-to-date information on their schedule and offerings.

13. 5 Rabanitos Restaurante & Taqueria

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1758 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 285-2710
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This eatery’s unlikely name is a nod to the chef and owner Alfonso Sotelo’s childhood on the farms of southern Guerrero, where he sold radishes in the market with his other four siblings, earning them the nickname Cinco Rabanitos (five little radishes). It’s hard to go wrong with the selection of tacos, tortas, caldos, and vegetarian-friendly dishes, many of which showcase this Tompolobampo and Xoco alumn’s heart for his hometown while leveraging longtime family recipes. The tacos ahogados (chicken fried tacos in a tomato broth), the slow-roasted pork in a Guerrero-style red mole known as puerco al rancho, as well as ingredients such as cecina, a type of salty and dry meat, and plantains (to name a few), are clear giveaways of such regional flair. 

14. Panaderia Nuevo Leon

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1634 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 243-5977
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This Pilsen bakery is an institution as it has been specializing in Mexico’s famous pan dulce since 1973. Customers can grab a pair of tongs and stock up on crowd favorites like crumbly, shortbread-like polvorones, soft cake-like mantecadas, candy-sprinkled cookies called grageas, or gorditas, a creamy and sweet pastry with the texture of a biscuit all for only a few bucks. Vegan pastry options are also available. The bakery straddles generations and stays on top of south-of-the-border baking trends through social media

15. Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant

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1725 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 226-2654
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Undoubtedly, one of the greatest partners to a tortilla is pork meat, and carnitas is a perfect example of this incredible collision of worlds. Brought to what we now know as Mexico by Hernán Cortés, eating pork meat was proof of Catholic faith during the Holy Inquisition. In modern Mexico, enjoying a carnitas taco is a different kind of ritual— one that equalizes Mexicans of all walks of life and one that Mexicans across time and space share. Hailing from the state of Michoacán, the epicenter of Carnitas know-how, Inocencio Carbajal opened Carnitas Uruapan in 1975. Specialized in a third-generation recipe developed in the ‘50s, patrons can order either one taco or a whole pound (or many) and choose meat from different pork parts. The traditional cactus salad, pickled chilis, chicharrón, and brain quesadillas are also available. Michoacano-style tamales, known as corundas made with two different masa types and stuffed with either queso fresco or swiss chard, were recently added to the menu.  The tamales are served with chile de árbol sauce, sour cream, and cotija cheese. According to Inocencio’s son, Marcos, who runs the family restaurants, some of their customers bring their kids to try carnitas to learn how their grandpa in Mexico ate them. There’s also a McKinley Park location.

16. La Casa De Samuel

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2834 W Cermak Rd
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 376-7474
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Founded in 1989 by celebrated chef Samuel Linares (lost to COVID-19 in 2020), La Casa de Samuel is an established destination for authentic regional Mexican plates.  The Little Village restaurant features an impressive range of options that seamlessly bridge the well-known with the exotic, which this eatery reminds us, can be relative. Tortilla soup and ceviche can be enjoyed along with iguana, rattlesnake, venison, frog legs, cornish hen, and even bull testicles.  Some seasonal dishes are served during festivities, such as the emblematic chiles en nogada (chiles in walnut sauce) and romeritos (a wild, edible plant usually served with mole and shrimp), can be found here year-round. Don’t miss their handmade tortillas.

17. La Chaparrita Taqueria

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2500 S Whipple St #4138
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 254-0975
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From the cheerful papel Picado to the altar to the Santa Muerte, this dimensional door to Mexico is, to begin with, visually fascinating. Half-Mexican grocery store and half-taco wonderland, behind the counter, taquero César Castillo consistently delivers some of the best tacos in town. His technique uses a flat, thin, circular hot surface called comal, very much like the ones you will find on the streets of Mexico City. Start modestly with a sampling of the more traditional variations (including al pastor and asada), then dive into the adventurous items. Cabeza (beef head), crispy tripe, and sesos (brain) are go-tos for regulars. The tacos de canasta (basket tacos) are also favorites, and unlike other tacos, which are better when consumed immediately, los de canasta travel well by design. Beverage options include aguas frescas of tropical fruits like guanabana and exotic ones like alfalfa with pingüica, a small wild berry that looks like an apple and grows in shrubs, and the fermented tepache made with pineapple juice.

18. La Catedral Cafe & Restaurant

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2500 S Christiana Ave
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 823-7546
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Little Village restaurant is Mexican breakfast heaven. Playing on the cathedral theme, its décor features saints and other religious imagery. According to the owner and chef Jalisco-born Ambrocio “Bocho” González, his collection has grown thanks to the saints and other religious motifs his customers gift him. The menu features something for everyone, from eggs, omelettes, and pancakes to crepes and tortas, but this especially rings true for those with a shrine in their hearts to chilaquiles. According to González, at La Catedral, the traditional chilaquiles verdes are made with tomatillo sauce, or the very spicy a la diabla version, which adds the smokiness, and depth of chipotle chilis to the heat, are the most popular. Try the café de olla or sample one of the many milkshakes. Lines are out the door on weekends but worth the wait.

19. Birrieria Zaragoza

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4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 523-3700
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The Zaragoza clan has spent the past 10-plus years serving birria, a Jalisco specialty. Their regional stew of spices and goat meat is prepared with a 100-year-old recipe from the Los Altos region. The Zaragozas take great pride in their process and ingredients, which include their own goats.  The meat is seasoned and cooked for several hours, making it juicy and tender (patrons can choose from a few meat options, including goat head, and tripe) and served with a tomato consommé, red mole, handmade tortillas, and a fleet of garnishes (onions, cilantro, chilies, and lime). Do not miss the molcajete sauce made with fire-roasted tomatoes and chilis — it is the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).

20. Solazo

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5600 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 627-5047
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After closing down due to an electrical fire in 2019, this West Lawn family-friendly taquería is back with a relaxed, bright, modern atmosphere, a patio, and a revamped menu that mixes new dishes with fan favorites. Comer, Beber y Querer (eat, drink, love) is the mantra at this establishment and a wink to the restaurant’s liquor license. Much like its food, which has a regional flair that speaks to the owner’s Jalisco roots, the beverage menu highlights the flavors of Western Mexico, as it incorporates agave drinks beyond tequila, such as mezcal and raicilla. Patrons can choose from a list of favorites that includes guacamole with fruits and a mouthwatering ceviche, as well as a selection of tacos: (each order has two) asada, suadero, tripe, fish, and the southeastern cochinita pibil, to name a few. The family also a has a restaurant in West Loop, La Josie.

1. Mas Alla del Sol

5848 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660

Popular with locals and visitors alike, Mas Allá del Sol’s chef and owner Adam Moreno’s food is so impressive that he was once commissioned to cook for a group of visitors, including the Archbishop of Mexico City. This anecdote is somewhat poetic, as the Catholic Church has historically been involved as part and patron of Mexico’s culinary history. Moreno’s menu features Mexican favorites like enchiladas, tiny sopes known as picaditas, chiles rellenos, and a cactus salad, all prepared with carefully chosen ingredients. Other dishes are just as Mexican but not always easily found, like the puerco con verdolagas, a tangy, meaty leaf that brings out pork in an extraordinary way. This casual neighborhood eatery is open for dinner but offers a weekend brunch and is usually busy.

5848 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660

2. Kie-Gol-Lanee

5004 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640

Kie-Gol-Lanee (“Old Stone” in the Zapotec dialect) is the phonetic spelling of Santa María Quiegolani, a small Oaxacan village in this state’s southern sierra. Here is where siblings and co-owners María and Reynel Mendoza and María’s husband, Léonides Ramos, grew up and learned to cook with recipes passed down through generations. The two-time Bib Gourmand Award-winning team pays homage to their hometown with their offerings. The menu includes well-known regional staples like their Oaxacan-style red or green tamales cooked in banana leaves, red mole, and traditional tlayudas, as well as more exotic dishes featuring quail, rabbit, wild boar, and seasonally, grasshoppers. The environment is relaxed, and the Oaxacan servers are well-informed. 

Save room for dessert — try their café de olla and tres leches cake.

5004 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640

3. Chilam Balam

3023 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657

The B.Y.O.B. eatery reflects owner Soraya Rendón’s fearlessness. Rendón opened the restaurant amid a financially turbulent 2008. Focused on sustainable cuisine and freshly sourced ingredients, Chilam Balam’s dynamic menu of shareable plates features a creative take on traditional dishes like the corn masa black-bean-stuffed memelas with goat cheese, tomatillo, and chile de árbol salsa or the roasted delicata squash with pecan mole and cranberries. The plates, many of which are gluten-free, are brought to life by chef Natalie Oswald, a Topolobampo and Frontera Grill alumna who cooks fluently “in Spanish.” The pandemic has affected the supply chain and impacted the availability and prices of the ingredients, so the fish and ceviche on the menu are only currently available on Friday and Saturday. The atmosphere is eclectic with an underground feel.  Cash and Venmo are accepted.

3023 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657

4. Baha Restaurant

4842 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60639

It is always summer at Baha Restaurant, where patrons can enjoy the flavors of the ocean in every form — From the traditional ceviche or the whole grilled fish enjoyed beachside in Mexico to fish sandwiches, tacos, empanadas, and even seafood-stuffed chiles rellenos. Do not miss the Instagram-worthy ceviche towers, a Sinaloan seafood fad that stacks ceviche, seafood, avocado, and a generous amount of condiments into tubular structures. The menu features three options: verde, with aguachile, squid, scallops, avocado and jalapeños; Baha, with shrimp, octopus, tuna, lobster, and squid; and the cleverly dubbed “the Sears Tower,” which layers up shrimp, fish, crab meat, mango, cucumber, and tomatoes which are topped off with a signature spicy red sauce.

4842 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60639

5. Mi Tocaya Antojería

2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

Eater Award-winning and much-talked-about chef Diana Dávila opened this lively Logan Square restaurant to share the experiences she built from her own family travels throughout Mexico — and diners have been eager to partake in the journey. Credit that buzz to the adventurous places she’s taking Mexican flavors, techniques, and ingredients evidenced by the peanut butter lengua (braised and pan-seared beef tongue with peanut sauce) and the fried oyster taco.

2800 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647

6. Pan Artesanal Bakery

3724 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Inspired by the pan dulce their parents brought back from their native Michoacán, Sisters Lizette and Marisol Espinoza opened Pan Artesanal in July 2018. Drawn by the desire to sample a variety of Mexican regional specialties by pastry chef and co-owner Marisol Espinoza, customers of this Hermosa bakery come from as far away as Wisconsin, Indiana, and even Ohio. The offerings include, among many others, pan de elote — a take on the soft and sweet corn Michoacano uchepos and pan de nata, a buttery roll named for the milk fat that is used to make it. The sisters recently added burnt-milk bread to their menu, which is prepared with their homemade cajeta, a goat milk caramel sauce. Conchas, a headliner at most Mexican bakeries, are a must-try here, and you can find vegan ones. The shop also offers sandwiches made with freshly baked bread, which brings them to another level, and Mexican hot chocolate to pair with the pastries. Pan Artesanal is only open during the weekends and sells out early. There is always a line, but it moves quickly, and the décor and Mexican tunes make you forget you are waiting. Alternatively, order ahead via Clover.

3724 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

7. Taqueria Chingon

2234 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
A tray of three tacos with salsas. Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Taqueria Chingon has been a revelation on Western Avenue, where Bucktown and Logan Square meet. This small shack specializes in street tacos with both authentic and modern takes on tacos. Find top-notch pastor, steak, and off-cuts like blood sausage. Rotating specials include tempura shrimp, Greek-style lamb, and more. Don’t skip dessert and the ceviche.

2234 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

8. Dos Urban Cantina

2829 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Brian and Jennifer Enyart have opened a unique Mexican restaurant in Logan Square after years working for Rick Bayless. Dos Urban shows a good understanding of Mexican ingredients with grand entrees like tacos arabes with turmeric hummus. There’s a Midwest meets Mexico attitude with delicious items like a mushroom toast soaked in red mole. Jennifer Enyart’s pastries deserve recognition. Grab a slab of the chocolate cake or be prepared to be laughed it while drowning in a sea of regret.

2829 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

9. Alegrias Seafood Chicago

1024 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Another popular option known for its large servings of Mexican-style seafood, Alegrías, is where folks go to chow down on prawns, langoustines, crab legs, and more at affordable prices. Enjoy complimentary ceviche accompanied with fiery salsa while looking through the extensive menu. The choices can be prepared in a number of different sauces, and it’s best to bring a group to try a bit of everything. There’s a generous B.Y.O.B. policy as well.

1024 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

10. Tzuco

720 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654
The dining room at Tzuco.
Tzuco’s dining room is beautiful.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Paying homage to Chef Carlos Gaytán’s hometown of Huitzuco, Guerrero, Tzuco quickly positioned itself as a foodie destination for locals and tourists. The first Mexican chef with a Michelin-starred restaurant (Mexique), Gaytán’s story and gravitas in Chicago and beyond added to the buzz around his noteworthy comeback. His River North restaurant transports you to the environment of an upscale restaurant in Mexico. Guests rave about the nostalgic Mexican dishes brought to life with family recipes, food memories, and inspiration drawn from French cuisine and its techniques. The menu (perhaps due to the chef’s stint in Playa del Carmen) features several dishes inspired in southeastern Mexico. Fan favorites include the aguachile and the Guerrero-style cochinita pibil. Save room for dessert.

720 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654

11. Frontera Grill

445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Like it or not, seven-time James Beard Award winner Rick Bayless offered a platform to Mexican food in the U.S. way before UNESCO declared this cuisine a cultural treasure in 2010, giving it a serious awareness boost. Frontera Grill delivers a changing menu of dishes powered by traditional, thoughtfully sourced ingredients and first-hand knowledge. Three decades later, and with several restaurants under his name (including the upscale Topolobampo and the Oaxacan-centric Bar Sótano), Frontera’s dining room is packed day in and day out with both locals and tourists. Diners can enjoy a menu featuring a few of Mexico’s “greatest hits,” including beloved regional specialties like the Pueblan tacos Árabes and a variety of mole sauces. And very much like it is the case with other prominent chefs, Bayless’ establishments are a talent incubator and a springboard for aspiring restaurateurs in the city. 

 

445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

12. Rubi’s Tacos

1316 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

After 25 years of catering to their customers at the historic Maxwell Street Market, Rubi’s recently found its permanent home in Pilsen. Owners Gilberto Ramírez and María Landa credit their clients’ loyalty to the authenticity of their food, which they prepare with the same love and care they put into cooking when hosting family. People flock to Rubi’s for the asada tacos or quesadillas, which can be mixed with beef tongue or chicharrón en salsa verde, a delicious dish prepared with tomatillo sauce and pork rinds, and their spicy red mole.  Expect a line to try them, as they come out on freshly made tortillas (available also in blue corn, which can give dishes a little bit of an earthier flavor). The line moves quickly, and the wait is always fun, thanks to Gilberto’s charisma. Ask him to sing the menu for you. Hailing from Guerrero, Mexico, the family recently added pozole to their menu. Following their home state tradition, they serve it on Thursdays. Their team is active on social media, where there is up-to-date information on their schedule and offerings.

1316 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

13. 5 Rabanitos Restaurante & Taqueria

1758 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

This eatery’s unlikely name is a nod to the chef and owner Alfonso Sotelo’s childhood on the farms of southern Guerrero, where he sold radishes in the market with his other four siblings, earning them the nickname Cinco Rabanitos (five little radishes). It’s hard to go wrong with the selection of tacos, tortas, caldos, and vegetarian-friendly dishes, many of which showcase this Tompolobampo and Xoco alumn’s heart for his hometown while leveraging longtime family recipes. The tacos ahogados (chicken fried tacos in a tomato broth), the slow-roasted pork in a Guerrero-style red mole known as puerco al rancho, as well as ingredients such as cecina, a type of salty and dry meat, and plantains (to name a few), are clear giveaways of such regional flair. 

1758 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

14. Panaderia Nuevo Leon

1634 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

This Pilsen bakery is an institution as it has been specializing in Mexico’s famous pan dulce since 1973. Customers can grab a pair of tongs and stock up on crowd favorites like crumbly, shortbread-like polvorones, soft cake-like mantecadas, candy-sprinkled cookies called grageas, or gorditas, a creamy and sweet pastry with the texture of a biscuit all for only a few bucks. Vegan pastry options are also available. The bakery straddles generations and stays on top of south-of-the-border baking trends through social media

1634 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

15. Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant

1725 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest partners to a tortilla is pork meat, and carnitas is a perfect example of this incredible collision of worlds. Brought to what we now know as Mexico by Hernán Cortés, eating pork meat was proof of Catholic faith during the Holy Inquisition. In modern Mexico, enjoying a carnitas taco is a different kind of ritual— one that equalizes Mexicans of all walks of life and one that Mexicans across time and space share. Hailing from the state of Michoacán, the epicenter of Carnitas know-how, Inocencio Carbajal opened Carnitas Uruapan in 1975. Specialized in a third-generation recipe developed in the ‘50s, patrons can order either one taco or a whole pound (or many) and choose meat from different pork parts. The traditional cactus salad, pickled chilis, chicharrón, and brain quesadillas are also available. Michoacano-style tamales, known as corundas made with two different masa types and stuffed with either queso fresco or swiss chard, were recently added to the menu.  The tamales are served with chile de árbol sauce, sour cream, and cotija cheese. According to Inocencio’s son, Marcos, who runs the family restaurants, some of their customers bring their kids to try carnitas to learn how their grandpa in Mexico ate them. There’s also a McKinley Park location.

1725 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

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16. La Casa De Samuel

2834 W Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60623

Founded in 1989 by celebrated chef Samuel Linares (lost to COVID-19 in 2020), La Casa de Samuel is an established destination for authentic regional Mexican plates.  The Little Village restaurant features an impressive range of options that seamlessly bridge the well-known with the exotic, which this eatery reminds us, can be relative. Tortilla soup and ceviche can be enjoyed along with iguana, rattlesnake, venison, frog legs, cornish hen, and even bull testicles.  Some seasonal dishes are served during festivities, such as the emblematic chiles en nogada (chiles in walnut sauce) and romeritos (a wild, edible plant usually served with mole and shrimp), can be found here year-round. Don’t miss their handmade tortillas.

2834 W Cermak Rd
Chicago, IL 60623

17. La Chaparrita Taqueria

2500 S Whipple St #4138, Chicago, IL 60623

From the cheerful papel Picado to the altar to the Santa Muerte, this dimensional door to Mexico is, to begin with, visually fascinating. Half-Mexican grocery store and half-taco wonderland, behind the counter, taquero César Castillo consistently delivers some of the best tacos in town. His technique uses a flat, thin, circular hot surface called comal, very much like the ones you will find on the streets of Mexico City. Start modestly with a sampling of the more traditional variations (including al pastor and asada), then dive into the adventurous items. Cabeza (beef head), crispy tripe, and sesos (brain) are go-tos for regulars. The tacos de canasta (basket tacos) are also favorites, and unlike other tacos, which are better when consumed immediately, los de canasta travel well by design. Beverage options include aguas frescas of tropical fruits like guanabana and exotic ones like alfalfa with pingüica, a small wild berry that looks like an apple and grows in shrubs, and the fermented tepache made with pineapple juice.

2500 S Whipple St #4138
Chicago, IL 60623

18. La Catedral Cafe & Restaurant

2500 S Christiana Ave, Chicago, IL 60623

Little Village restaurant is Mexican breakfast heaven. Playing on the cathedral theme, its décor features saints and other religious imagery. According to the owner and chef Jalisco-born Ambrocio “Bocho” González, his collection has grown thanks to the saints and other religious motifs his customers gift him. The menu features something for everyone, from eggs, omelettes, and pancakes to crepes and tortas, but this especially rings true for those with a shrine in their hearts to chilaquiles. According to González, at La Catedral, the traditional chilaquiles verdes are made with tomatillo sauce, or the very spicy a la diabla version, which adds the smokiness, and depth of chipotle chilis to the heat, are the most popular. Try the café de olla or sample one of the many milkshakes. Lines are out the door on weekends but worth the wait.

2500 S Christiana Ave
Chicago, IL 60623

19. Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632

The Zaragoza clan has spent the past 10-plus years serving birria, a Jalisco specialty. Their regional stew of spices and goat meat is prepared with a 100-year-old recipe from the Los Altos region. The Zaragozas take great pride in their process and ingredients, which include their own goats.  The meat is seasoned and cooked for several hours, making it juicy and tender (patrons can choose from a few meat options, including goat head, and tripe) and served with a tomato consommé, red mole, handmade tortillas, and a fleet of garnishes (onions, cilantro, chilies, and lime). Do not miss the molcajete sauce made with fire-roasted tomatoes and chilis — it is the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).

4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632

20. Solazo

5600 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60629

After closing down due to an electrical fire in 2019, this West Lawn family-friendly taquería is back with a relaxed, bright, modern atmosphere, a patio, and a revamped menu that mixes new dishes with fan favorites. Comer, Beber y Querer (eat, drink, love) is the mantra at this establishment and a wink to the restaurant’s liquor license. Much like its food, which has a regional flair that speaks to the owner’s Jalisco roots, the beverage menu highlights the flavors of Western Mexico, as it incorporates agave drinks beyond tequila, such as mezcal and raicilla. Patrons can choose from a list of favorites that includes guacamole with fruits and a mouthwatering ceviche, as well as a selection of tacos: (each order has two) asada, suadero, tripe, fish, and the southeastern cochinita pibil, to name a few. The family also a has a restaurant in West Loop, La Josie.

5600 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60629

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