Serious Eats: Chicago
Chicago Tacos: Carne Asada from Taqueria el Asadero
Taqueria el Asadero
2213 West Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 (map); 773-583-5563
Must Try: Carne Asada
Other Options: Skip the remaining tacos, but load up on the freshly fried chips.
Ever since I realized that La Pasadita didn't serve the best carne asada in town (it's not even close), I've been on the hunt for contenders for the crown. While a seemingly simple filling to get right, carne asada requires some special dedication that most taquerias aren't willing to dedicate to it. But there are places that do. I just didn't think that one of them would be in Ravenswood.
The carne asada ($2.20) at Taqueria el Asadero is cut thinner than most versions around town, which is a definite plus in my book. When cut too thick, the meat can often end up chewy and greasy. But the thin shards here are nicely caramelized and tender—a tough sweet spot to find.
The thin steak also allows each order to be cooked to order. Instead of precooking all the beef and keeping it in a container like most places do, the beef for my tacos was put on the grill only after I handed over the money. It's not the beefiest carne asada I've had in town (that honor probably still goes to Las Asadas), but Taqueria el Asadero is definitely in the running for best carne asada in town.
Sadly, the rest of the tacos I tried didn't even seem to be from the same kitchen. I've spoken many times about not ordering al pastor ($2.20) if there is no spit, and the griddled slivers of pork here are a perfect example of why. The sweetness in the marinade burns on the griddle, lending an off flavor to each bite. Unfortunately, the al pastor taco was actually better than the remaining tacos I tried.
The chorizo taco ($2.20) was nicely caramelized, but the Mexican fresh sausage needs a partner in crime to really work in a taco (potatoes are a great choice).
The barbacoa ($2.20) wasn't so much bad as kind of bland. The lengua ($2.20), however, was both bland and greasy, with huge hunks of fat mixed in.
There was a saving grace. As Chicago Magazine has already pointed out, the freshly fried chips are absolutely stunning. Thick, warm, and crunchy, these chips are an addicting start to each meal.