Monday, May 18, 2015

Chicago Taco Crawl

Hola amigos! Let's talk tacos.

As I mentioned last week, my plans for my birthday weekend included a taco crawl with friends. And, in the interest of sharing my newfound taco crawl wisdom with the masses, I thought I'd give a rundown of how it went!

Chicago has about 3892 taco places, and endless lists of actually serve the best tacos. I knew where I wanted the crawl to started based on my own *~*scientific research*~*, so I started with that, read way too many of the "best of" lists, and then planned the crawl around places that were all located fairly near to each other. So, while the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago is known for having some of the best taco places in the city, we didn't make it that far from our starting point (but I definitely would do a Pilsen-only taco crawl in the future, though). On with the show!

First stop? Big Star, taco mecca of Chicago and located in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Big Star is known for its large patio, long lines, hipster crowd, and, of course, the phenomenal tacos and margaritas. Knowing we had a group of ~15, we planned Big Star as the first stop so that we could arrive soon after it opened and hopefully grab a table for the group. Big Star opens at 11:30am on Saturdays, so we got there at noon and were seated around 12:35ish. 

We ordered a few pitchers while waiting for the table and the rest of the group to arrive. Their margs are good and pretty traditional, but also very(!) strong. By the time we sat, we were more than ready to chow down. Since I hadn't eaten breakfast, I started with my two Big Star favorites: pescado (fish) and al pastor (pork), hold the cilantro pro favor.

Definitely some of the best fish tacos in the city.

Two tacos (... and multiple pitchers between the group) later and we were ready for our next stop, conveniently just a 10 minute walk away.

I'd heard and read rave reviews about stop #2, Antique Taco, so I was more than ready to experience the hype for myself. Antique Taco is known for its unique twists on standard favorites, as well as their Instagram-worthy mason jar margaritas. Spoiler alert: neither disappointed. 

Antique Taco requires ordering at the counter, and then sitting at the table while you wait for the food to be delivered. Fortunately, the system works pretty well to ensure that everyone has a seat once they order, and even more fortunately we were able to snag a huge table that fit most of the group. Knowing that we were still at the beginning of our taco pilgrimage, my friend and I opted to split an order of two shrimp tacos and OH MY GOD THEY WERE SO GOOD. The shrimp tacos featured deliciously-marinaded shrimp, some type of cauliflower slaw, and a crispy salty topping of crumbled kale chips. These might be the best tacos I've ever eaten in my life (and clearly I've eaten a lot of tacos). Post-crawl, my friends and I decided that Antique Taco is definitely a spot we will visit to enjoy much more of the menu. And, their seasonal fresh strawberry ginger margarita was another standout of the day. Highly recommend. So while we could've camped out there for the rest of the afternoon, we still had four more stops to go!

Me and my bff, Andy Cohen.
As we rallied the troops outside of Antique Taco, we had a little brush with fame. My BFF Andy Cohen has a show in town this weekend and when he heard it was my birthday he just HAD to have a picture with me (just kidding, I might have accosted him like a fangirl while he was trying to be incognito and wait for his uber. Sorry Andy. Thanks for being a good sport. You're just as handsome in person as I hoped). 

Stop #3 was to a lesser-known spot called Takito Kitchen, about a 15 minute walk from Antique Taco (told you this route was convenient). Upon our arrival, we were bummed to learn that the kitchen was actually closed from 3-5pm to prep for dinner (we showed up around 3:45). So I can't speak to taco quality, but their Paloma (grapefruit tequila cocktail) was on point. Unfortunately our server seemed 0% excited to serve our table (and truthfully, we were a well-behaved large group and the only table in the restaurant), but I might give them a second chance to experience the tacos next time. However it was on with the taco crawl show to the next stop!

Another 10 minutes of walking down Division and we found ourselves at Stop #4, the famed La Pasadita. Aside from the authentic and delicious tacos, La Pasadita is probably most known for (formerly) having three separate taco shops on the same corner (!?!?). They're down to only one now, but the taco hype doesn't lie. By far our most authentic stop on the crawl, La Pasadita's menu is quite small, but what they do, they do well. Because we had ground to make up after missing out on tacos at the last stop, I re-fueled with a carne asada taco and a pollo taco (sans cilantro). My tacos were simple and tasty, but admittedly I was jealous of my friend's barbacoa tostada, piled high with tender marinated meat, guacamole, and sour cream. It was at this point that much of the group was getting to the point of uncomfortable fullness, but we had one final stop on our crawl, so onward we went.

A 15-minute bus ride down Division, followed by a 5 minute walk led us to our final taco crawl stop, located in Chicago's Gold Coast: Velvet Taco. Anyone I'd talked to about tour taco tour had raved about Velvet Taco's buffalo chicken, so naturally that's what I ordered. Unfortunately I failed to read that the taco included blue cheese (rookie mistake), but aside from that, the taco was delicious. The menu also contained a number of other non-traditional tacos like rotisserie chicken and falafel (and is conveniently located within walking distance of my office), so I will most certainly be back to try out more of their offerings.

Overall, the taco crawl was a great success and a muy fabuloso way to spend a birthday afternoon! My only minor regret is that we couldn't test Takito's tacos, but I think our stomachs were happy to have the brief reprieve anyway. Based on the variety of offerings, quality of tacos and plentify beverage options, I'd highly recommend this route for other Chicago taco crawlers. Olé!

Have you ever planned a food crawl? Where should I venture for tacos next time? Is there such thing as too many tacos? (Even after the tour, I don't think there is).


  1. Sounds like the taco crawl was a success! I had never actually thought of doing a food crawl before. But now I might have to keep it in mind should the opportunity to put one together arises. Hope you had a great birthday!

  2. It was great -- and definitely recommend a food crawl as a great way to spend a sunny afternoon!

  3. I love tacos! And all Mexican food! This looks awesome!!!

    Also, love the celebrity citing! Glad you got a photo with him. :)