Illinois Road Trip Round-Up – Best Tacos
By Katie Arvia published September 15, 2020
We’ve been “All In for Illinois” during the pandemic, but now that we're in Phase 4, we’re ready to enjoy our state safely. Check-in every Tuesday for an Illinois Road Trip Round-Up on themed topics showcasing eighteen destinations across Illinois. This week, we’re touring some of the state's best tacos! So pack up the family, bring your masks and get ready for a road trip!
Need dinner plans? Let’s “taco-bout” your options in the Chicago Southland! What’s better than tacos and beer? Grab both at Soundgrowler Brewing Co. in Tinley Park. Grab some Mexican street food at Soundgrowler’s taco window and pair it with an award-winning Mashing of Teeth pale ale. Head over to Bulldog Ale House in New Lenox for more beer and taco varieties, including braised chicken, Baja fish corona, pork carnitas or mushroom. In Crestwood, stop by At the Office Sports Bar & Grill for authentic street tacos, served with chihuahua cheese, white onion and cilantro on corn tortillas. With At the Office’s expansive menu, you’re sure to find something delicious, tacos or not. At The Black Sheep in Orland Park, enjoy an unconventional take on tacos with unique flavor combos, like the Mr. Mojo Rising, with marinated grilled chicken, pico de gallo, lettuce and chipotle buttermilk sauce or the Veggie Pibil, served with adobo braised green jackfruit, avocado, lettuce, corn, black beans and pickled red onions. For even more dining options in the Chicago Southland, go to VisitChicagoSouthland.com/Dining. Image credit: @soundgrowler
It’s no secret that Chicagoland is home to America’s best Mexican restaurants—from Chicago’s Little Village to the City of Aurora, loyal patrons keep taquerias bustling with business even in these tough times for the hospitality industry. So it’s no surprise that, even in a down market for dining, three new authentic family-owned Mexican restaurants in the Aurora Area are going strong, welcoming diners to lush outdoor patios to enjoy fine cocktails and cuisine. Altiro Latin Fusion and El Jefe - Leña y Mar in Aurora and Hacienda Real in Yorkville offer unique interpretations on modern Mexican food. From delicately balanced tacos al salmonjillo tacos to tacos birria fried to perfection, there’s a mouthwatering meal waiting for you at these new Aurora Area dining destinations – bring your appetite and learn more about these hot new Mexican restaurants at EnjoyAurora.com.
Tacos aren’t just for Tuesdays here in Bloomington-Normal! With over 15 local Mexican restaurants to choose from, you won’t have a hard time finding delicious tacos in our area. From a classic ground beef taco to a Kung-Pao chicken taco, there’s a wide variety of tacos you’ll want to try while visiting BN! Ancho and Agave’s unique menu will have you stepping out of your taco comfort zone. Their taco list includes Sweet Potato, Nashville Hot Chicken, Smoked Pork Belly, Avocado, Baja Fish, and more. If you’re feeling bold, order the Taco Board and get every taco on the menu! Real-deal, authentic tacos can be found at Tony’s Tacos. As a local favorite, they strive to serve quality tacos made with only fresh ingredients. In addition to the traditional tacos, they serve some unique ones – Beef Tongue, Egg & Chorizo and Suadero.
VISIT CHAMPAIGN COUNTY
We take tacos very seriously in the greater Champaign County area. From campus favorites to downtown staples, we have many options to enjoy! El Toro Bravo offers a wide variety of options on their menu, including to-die-for carne asada tacos served with rice and beans. With two locations and a food truck, Maize Mexican Grill is always serving up great flavors. They feature a veggie taco with their fresh handmade corn tortilla and a hefty serving of beans, rice, cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato. Lastly, Fiesta Cafe is a community staple and full of great menu items. If you’re seeking their top dish, you can’t go wrong with oven-roasted pork and hard corn tortillas. There are many more to explore in our area here.
CHICAGO NORTH SHORE
Why not hit up a few places with your own personal Taco Crawl? Thinking beyond American food, Fred’s Garage has Chipotle Chicken Tacos (or substitute a meat-free, plant-based protein). A two- or three-taco platter from El Fuego Mexican Cuisine can be your choice of chicken, ground beef, chorizo, pork or steak. La Taquiza gets budget-friendly with $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays or the Taco Trio Dinner on Wednesdays. Taco Nano created Achiote Marinated Pulled Chicken with sour cream, beans and habanero salsa. Tantalize your taste buds at Café El Tapatio with house specialties like Elotes de la Calle: corn off the cobb, ancho chile crema, queso fresco, butter and chile powder. Wrap up at Guanajuato Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar with a Taco Platter (fish, carnitas or steak) and a frosty seasonal margarita like the Spicy Watermelon or Guava!
MEET CHICAGO NORTHWEST
Most agree that there is not much better than the perfect taco. Fortunately, in the Chicago Northwest suburbs, we have a wide variety of Mexican restaurants that serve some of the best tacos you could ask for. Fat Rosie’s is a fun and festive family-friendly Mexican Taqueria that features a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine and craft cocktails. We recommend trying their cauliflower taco! Another fantastic conventional taco restaurant is Taco Tuesday in Wood Dale. They feature incredible street-style tacos and entrees. Try their gringas or sorpes; they are amazing! Grande Jakes Fresh Mexican Grill is a fast-casual Tex-Mex restaurant that offers fresh food at a reasonable price. They offer both modern American, and traditional Mexican style tacos – trust us, both are worth a sample! Looking for more? Browse all of our wonderful Mexican restaurants.
#TacoTuesday is celebrated every Tuesday, in Effingham. And every Wednesday and Thursday and Friday…and so on. It’s the guilty pleasure we just can’t get enough of! Head to Downtown Effingham to get your fill of authentic Mexican fare at Taqueria Don Pedro, a family-owned and operated restaurant. Enjoy everything from tacos to enchiladas to margaritas and, of course, endless chips and salsa…all made with the freshest ingredients and derived from authentic family recipes. Savor the moment at this local gem where flavor is key and every meal is made with love.
It’s easy to plan your next Taco Tuesday in the Elgin area! With no shortage of places to go for amazing tacos, it’s hard to pick just one. Tacos lovers will love the unique and truly authentic experience that can only be had in some of the best Mexican restaurants in the Elgin area. There are so many in fact, that you could make a whole taco trail experience out of it! Here are some of our resident favorites. El Paraiso has received reviews praising the generous meat portions, and the steak they use. Los Comales is raved about because of their meat seasonings, the cheese they use, how affordable they are and that they’re open late. And last but certainly not least is Sammy’s Mexican Grill. Their tacos are incredible and they pair perfectly with one of their many delicious margaritas! Would you like to see the full list of our resident favorites? Visit our website to check it out!
GREAT RIVERS AND ROUTES
It’s Taco Tuesday and the only question is: where do you go to find the perfect local taco? The Great Rivers & Routes region in southwest Illinois has tacos galore. Take your pick of hard shell, soft shell or fried and add your choice of fillings. Head to Taqueria Z in Edwardsville for a couple of their traditional street tacos topped with cilantro and onions. Or stop in at Chava’s Mexican Restaurant, also in Edwardsville, home to the famous De Guadalajara Fried Taco, which blends flour tortillas and seasoned beef then flash fries them to crunchy perfection. The small Route 66 community of Benld is home to Off the Wall Tacos, where faves like Coconut Shrimp and Beef and Chorizo Tacos headline the menu. Check out more taco delights here.
With 22 counties FULL of restaurants, you may imagine there are several good spots to pick up a tasty taco (or seven)! If you’re near the Metro-East, a stop at Taquerias Olvera in Fairview Heights is certainly in order. Everything is made right in front of you at this fast-casual Mexican Restaurant. The street tacos are one of their most popular dishes, and if you are a fan of salsa – we definitely recommend you top of your tacos with Taquerias Olvera’s fresh mango salsa. You won’t be disappointed, we promise! If you are closer to the central region of ILLINOISouth, Taco Jo’s in Centralia is the way to go. The Chilango style tacos are a fan-favorite; they’re served with a mix of chorizo, al pastor and chicken, and will leave you wanting more after the last bite! In the eastern region of ILLINOISouth, Taco Tierra is a solid choice for tacos – with locations in Mt. Carmel and Fairfield. Much like the other two selections on this list, Taco Tierra is good for a quick bite – and has been serving the folks of southeastern Illinois for over 43 years!
Here in Jacksonville we take tacos to the next level. Sticking to traditions, every Thursday is Tacos at Bahan’s Tavern. Stories are told from locals that travelers from other states have made sure that they were coming through town on a Thursday so that they can enjoy Tacos at Bahan’s! These extra-large sized tacos are served in a signature fried shell, with each table provided with their homemade taco sauce that leaves customers asking for more! Around here, if someone tells you they are having tacos for lunch or dinner and it’s Thursday, you already know where they are going! And do not worry – if you are not passing through on a Thursday, you can still order one from their regular menu! But let us not discount all of our other options on days that aren’t Thursday. KJB’s has a daily menu of build your own burritos that can satisfy even the biggest appetite, with everything made in house, including the salsa! Have you ever heard of tacos for dessert? Well stop by No Regrets Cookies and ask for the taco cookies! Many have experienced this beautifully crafted and delicious treat!
VISIT MCHENRY COUNTY
At La Huerta 5 you can find all kinds of authentic Mexican products, the freshest deli and vegetables as well as the best tacos in the area. This is one of McHenry’s best kept secrets among the locals. If you’re looking to celebrate taco Tuesday La Huerta 5 won’t disappoint. After you’re finished don’t forget to grab some fresh Mexican ice cream for dessert. Since seating is limited at La Huerta 5, we suggest grabbing your tacos to go and heading down the street to Whispering Oaks Park to sit by one of the ponds and enjoy a picnic.
Taco Tuesday is a day to celebrate and in Central Illinois there is a taco to satisfy everyone’s cravings. Cayenne in Peoria Heights will take your taco experience to a whole new level. With unique taco combinations like the Cowboy Up, made with braised beef, crispy onion, chipotle mayo and smoked gouda. For those who might enjoy a vegetarian option, a must try is the Mac Daddy, made with fried mac and cheese, pico de gallo and avocado ranch. Looking to discover a more traditional taco? Los Cabos Cantina and Grill has two locations, Downtown Peoria and North Peoria. Or get your blend of BBQ and taco with the pulled pork and housemade salsa at Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern. Check out all the delicious taco options in the Heart of Illinois over at DiscoverPeoria.com.
VISIT QUAD CITIES
Bienvenidos a las Quad Cities! Do you like soft shell, hard shell, corn or flour, chicken, beef, beef tongue, pork, steak, fish or shrimp? There are as many preferences for taco lovers as there are options. The Quad Cities Hispanic culture is an integral part of this family of communities along the Mississippi River. Many family-owned businesses have become an important part of our community, and that includes the wonderful restaurants serving up authentic cuisine that provides delicious diversity to our local menu choices. La Rancherita Restaurant at 4118 14th Avenue, Rock Island and 2139 16th Street, Moline, is known for its softshell steak tacos and classic tacos de lengua. You will also like the extra helpings of chips and homemade salsa. Try a cold glass of their traditional Horchata. It’s delicious with your meal. La Rancherita serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Every day must be Tuesday in the Rockford region because we have amazing tacos served up fresh on the daily. All of our taco dreams have come true with the large range of authentic and traditional local eateries in addition to modern/urban local eateries that serve up a ton of delicious taco variations. If you are visiting Mexico Clasico be sure to order the table-side handcrafted guacamole along with your Tacos De Asada or Enchiladas Rojas and a fresh margarita. Lucha Cantina offers up seven different homemade salsas to go with their list of tacos. The Carnitas and Serrano tacos are delightfully paired with their famous Pico De Lucha. For the vegetarian enthusiasts, the Roasted Cauliflower Tacos are a go-to topped with the Pina Poblano hot sauce. The Ginger Pig Trio at Octane or the Mahi Mahi tacos at Olympic Tavern are unique, flavorful and a must-try while visiting our destination. These are just some of the many memorable Mexican and Latino Cuisine options you can enjoy here in the Rockford region.
Let’s taco ‘bout tacos in Williamson County! With over a dozen restaurants and food trucks serving up this southwest favorite, there are tacos for every tastebud. If you want to create the taco of your dreams, check out the La Galeria taco bar. If you love unique flavors, El Jalisco’s Chipotle Mango Chicken Tacos may be your new favorite dish! The Purple Taco Truck is serving up a flavorful variety of tacos on the go, including breakfast tacos! With so many delicious options, you’ll want to try them all! We’ll let you decide which tacos are best when you visitSI!
Tacos, Tacos, Tacos! Who doesn’t love tacos? Meet Tacology 101, these people know their tacos! After spending 19 years in the restaurant industry, Chef James Hamilton decided to do his own thing. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America, and honing his skills at several critically acclaimed restaurants, James, his wife Antoniette and business partner Sue started his first restaurant! Located in the heart of downtown Springfield, the cuisine of Tacology 101 is based on authentic Mexican street food. Yes, the tortillas are handmade…and yes, the food is delicious. It is without doubt that Springfield is filled with plenty of opportunities to enjoy an amazing taco or Mexican dish! For example the crave-worthy Azetca restaurant and food truck where Chef, Nicolas Paz invites you in like family! For a full listing of these and other Mexican gastronomy head here.