Chicago Taco Trails: 106th Street

Pic 1

Chicago: Taco capital. Home to Rick Bayless, the chef who helped changed Americans’ minds about Mexican cuisine and turned south of the border foodways into a fine-dining force, and a sizable, diverse Mexican immigrant population, offers aficionados of Mexican food, plenty of options. Chicago is also home to Titus Ruscitti, author of the Chicago Taco Tour blog, the tacologist behind the @tweetsoftacos Twitter account, and contributor to Serious Eats, LTHforum.com, Thrillist and Travel Wisconsin. We at the Taco Trail are honored that Titus, or Taco T, as he’ll be known here, is also Taco Trail’s newest contributor.

Without further ado:

Today we head to a part of Chicago rarely seen to those not from here. Actually, the same goes for many who do reside in the city. The East Side of Chicago sits in it’s own little part of the cities landscape. Most people see it driving over 106th Street while taking the Chicago skyway in or out of the city. What you also see when taking that route is the last of the industrial areas which goes by “Da Region”  amongst locals. You can check out a taco report I did on the old-school Mexican-American restaurants of northwest Indiana. But today we’re going to stay on the Chicago side and check out the trail along 106th Street, which is basically the last line between the city and the state of Indiana.

Birrieria Ocotlan

PIC 2

We’ll start off by going west down 106th. The first stop is Birrieria Ocotlan on the 4000 block. This place specializes in you guessed: goat. We’re lucky to have as many places in the city serving birria as it makes for a really nice snack on a cold winter day. The menu here is pretty damn simple: tacos and soup. Unfortunately, they don’t make their own tortillas, which can result in the tacos falling apart as you near finish. But they make up for that with properly spiced shredded goat topped with homemade hot green salsa. A couple of these after a day of working outside at the refinery factories is a good way to get warm again.

PIC 3

Taqueria Don Robe

Pic 4

Continuing west on our stroll we’ll pass Taqueria Don Robe on the Northside of the street a few blocks down. This place opened within the last year and caught my eye with their handwritten signs advertising “Tacos Don Robe” for $1. So I stopped in one day and decided to try a couple of those as well as a fish taco. The friendly folks got to work on them and I was good to go. The fish taco was pretty good, nothing special but something I’d eat if it we’re my neighborhood taqueria. The “tacos don robe” we’re pretty damn tasty. Chunks of adobado are sauteed with grilled onions and topped with cabbage slaw and cilantro. The spicy pork was cooled down with the fresh topping options. I’d eat them often if were closer to me. No need for a McDouble and fries when you got these little guys.

Pic 5

Chapala Restaurant

Pic 6

Next up is a place that caught my eye with the hand written advertisement of regular or crispy tacos for $1.25 each. As mentioned we’re not far from northwest Indiana here which is where the deep fried taco continues to live on. Research and stories told tell me crispy fried tacos have been big around the Region for a while now, at least back to the early ’60s. It makes sense because what was said to be Chicago’s oldest Mexican restaurant (RIP) featured this style of taco and was located around this way. The meat goes into the tortilla, which is held together with toothpicks while they take a trip to the deep fryer. Toppings go on after. Usually you’ll see ground beef and maybe chicken on offer for this style but they’ll do whatever taco fillings they offer here. That said, steak gets too tough when fried so ground beef will always be the best way to go when it comes to making them this way. These pretty ladies were as good as they look, even with the bottled red Cholula sauce on top.

Pic 7

Tacos Nietos

Pic 8

Walking further west we’ll come across a newer spot housed in an old fast food joint. The name however is not new. Tacos Nietos has an original location attached to a gas station on 95th Street as well as this one that I had been meaning to stop in at. This report just gave me an excuse to do so sooner than later. The al pastor spit was in motion upon entry and we were greeted with freshly fried chips and a few salsa options with it after sitting down. I decided to try an al pastor as well as a lomo (rib-eye). There’s certain little things done by taqueria that can take their tacos from the middle of the pack to frontrunners and they like to do those things here. Tortillas were properly warmed and plates came with grilled onions and jalapeños too. The al pastor was tasty and above average on this visit but my go to taco from here from now on will be the lomo. The thinly pounded rib-eye steak was as tender of a piece as I’ve had from a taco shop, no resistance whatsoever. Topped with chopped potent cilantro as well as freshly diced onions this was a very satisfying lunch plate. In a city with as many taco options as Chicago it says a lot when you stop back at a place that has nothing to do with convenience and that’s what I plan to do.

Pic 9

El Taconcito Taqueria

Pic 10

Once you hit the end of 106th Street, if you take a right on Torrence, El Taconcito will shortly appear. I’ve passed it by many times and decided to stop in and make it the final stop on this tour after being turned off by another spot I was planning on featuring. I went in not expecting to find a trompo in motion but there it was so I had no choice but to try one. In Chicago many spots cut the cooked meat off the spit and finish crisping it on a flattop. Not something I’m a fan of but I don’t think doing so guarantees a bad taco. I’d use these here as an example of why. If you’re going to finish the meat this way you might as well throw some sliced onion in there with it which is what they do here. The cone is heavily spiced and the meat used definitely isn’t lean so eat these carefully. As long as you don’t ruin a newly bought shirt with red drippings you should enjoy them as much I did.

Pic 11

See you next time on the Chicago Taco Tour.

Birrieria Ocotlan
4001 106th Street
Chicago, IL 60617
773-374-0384
 
Taqueria Don Robe
3614 E. 106th Street
Chicago, IL 60617
773-731-8131
 
Chapala Restaurant
3537 E. 106th Street
Chicago, IL 60617
773-978-3821
 
Tacos Nietos
3335 E. 106th Street
Chicago, IL 60617
773- 221-5000
 
Taqueria El Taconcito
10536 S. Torrence Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617
773-734-2901
 
Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Chicago, Illinois, Reviews, Taco Tours

One response to “Chicago Taco Trails: 106th Street

  1. awesome! yo vivia por la 87 & exchange, my old hood. love birrieria ocotlan i think that one is better than the one on 18st my new hood for the last 10 years, chapalas have a nice ceviche, i love going to calumet park to get elotes, man those elotes are the best, sweet midwest corn the mexican way!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s