Slideshow: The La Pasadita Throwdown: Which One Is Best?

The La Pasadita Throwdown
The La Pasadita Throwdown
A group of us set out to try four different menu items at four different La Pasadita locations. Each item was scored on its filling, tortilla, and condiments. In the end we consumed nearly 24 tacos (2 of each at every location) and four massive burritos.
"La Chiquita" 1141 N. Ashland Ave.
The oldest location—it's been open since 1976—is also the only one on the east side of Ashland Ave. With only a few stools, it is the smallest location by far, which partly explains why it is called La Chiquita on the restaurant's website. Honestly, I've never once heard it referred to by that name, but for the sake of clarity, I'll refer to the locations by their nicknames.

La Pasadita 1141 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622 (map) 773-278-0384

"El Largo" 1140 N. Ashland Ave.
The second location opened in 1981, and it features an identical menu as La Chiquita. The biggest difference is that it is much bigger. The restaurant's website refers to this one as El Largo or "the long one." It's true.

La Pasadita 1140 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622 (map) 773-278-2130

"Express" 4968 N. Elston Ave.
La Pasadita Express locations started to pop up a few years ago. Though the name implies that they are smaller and more stripped down than the already spartan original locations, that's not really the case. In fact, its menu has more in common with El Nuevo than La Chiquita.

LP Express 4968 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60630 (map) 773-282-8226

Carne Asada Tacos
Carne Asada Tacos
(Clockwise from top left: La Chiquita, El Largo, Express, El Nuevo)

If La Pasadita is specifically known for anything, it's for carne asada. At its best, the hunks of beef are tender, juicy, and just slightly salty. Though it honestly looked the best, La Chiquita's tough and under-seasoned version came in last. Both El Largo and Express were better, but the clear winner was El Nuevo. Though a little under-seasoned, it was the juiciest of the lot.

Barbacoa Tacos
Barbacoa Tacos
(Clockwise from top left: La Chiquita, El Largo, Express, El Nuevo)

When it's on, La Pasadita's barbacoa—or "steamed beef" as the menu describes it—is extraordinarily tender and sort of unnaturally beefy. When it's off, the meat is tough and greasy. The latter is what we encountered at both La Chiquita and El Largo. Once again, first place went to El Nuevo, with Express coming in second.

Carne Asada Burritos
Carne Asada Burritos
(Clockwise from top left: La Chiquita, El Largo, Express, El Nuevo)

We didn't realize until the second location that not all of the burrito ingredients were available at all the locations. Both El Nuevo and Express had a "Super Burrito" on the menu—a massive creation featuring meat, cheese, beans, rice, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. While both were good, El Nuevo's version won in the end. Unfortunately, neither La Chiquita or El Largo had beans or rice. At both locations we ordered the burritos "with everything," but each came to us looking wildly different. El Largo's version was absolutely drenched in sour cream, while La Chiquita's version was so bad it ended up with lowest overall score of the night.

The Salsas
The Salsas
All of the locations featured a bottle of fiercely hot tomatillo salsa. While fine in small doses, it could completely overwhelm the fillings if applied too generously. Much better was the roasted jalapeño salsa, which had a smokier and more complex flavor. Unfortunately, it was only available at El Nuevo and Express. Why this wasn't available at the other two locations was a complete puzzle.
The Tortillas
The Tortillas
While there were some ups and downs on the adventure, the corn tortillas were the only element that was subpar throughout. Loads of great taquerias use factory-made tortillas, but most griddle or steam them to order. Every single La Pasadita location we visited microwaved them, leading to tortillas that were crumbly and dry. The flour tortillas, on the other hand, were all griddled, making them the preferred option.
Best Taqueria
Best Taqueria
Considering it ran away with every category (except for best chile relleno taco, which none of us ever really want to eat again), it's no real surprise that El Nuevo came in first. It was followed closely by Express, which featured both the "Super Burrito" and the roasted jalapeño salsa. My number one pick before the adventure started, La Chiquita, came in dead last.