Chicago Tacos

Reviews of tacos.

We Attempt to Eat All the Tacos at Big and Little's

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: We Attempt to Eat All the Tacos at Big and Little's

[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

I am no match for Big & Little's. Though I assume the restaurant never knew that we were engaged in a serious taco showdown—one where I was attempting to eat every single taco on the menu—Big & Little's never let up, never gave an inch.

Honestly, I only went for one taco. This is a place that knows how to use a fryer, so I figured it would serve a respectable fried fish taco for a roundup I was working on. But Big & Little's doesn't just have one fried fish taco on the menu, it has many, so on my first visit I sat down with my wife and devoured eight different options. I was right, of course, one did make my list. But the other seven offerings were just as fascinating. I realized that this was a menu that deserved some more attention.

What Big &Little's lacks in technical taco making prowess—the tortillas, especially, are the standard store-bought corn variety—it makes up in genuine creativity. No dish or flavor combination is too out there or too bizarre to be transformed into a taco, be it a bánh mì, sweet and sour chicken, or a lamb gyro. Everything is up for grabs. There are tacos served with sushi grade tuna, and as I've already written about, an entire soft shell crab.

I became infatuated, even if I could never figure out which experiments would lead to hilarious realizations and which ones would crash and burn in a flurry of stained napkins and slashed dreams. I couldn't get enough, though I perhaps should have counted them all up before I started.

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So. Many. Tacos.

The taco options are spread over two different menus, a regular and and daily specials menu, neither of which is available to peruse on the restaurant's barebones website. And though I have no proof of this, each time I showed up to knock out a few more I swear more tacos popped up out of nowhere. It's like the staff knew my plan and decided to screw with me, adding options after each of my visits.

Finally, after numerous visits and 18 different tacos, I was left with no choice but to raise the white flag. Big & Little's had won and done so handily. Luckily I came away with a detailed report from the battlegrounds. Here's what I found.

The Tacos

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Fried Seafood Taco (top left), Sushi Taco (top right), Classic Taco (bottom left), Themed Taco (bottom right).

By my count, there are four different categories of tacos at Big & Little's.

  • Fried Seafood Tacos: The largest group features various seafood items (tilapia, squid, shrimp) fried in the restaurant's standard batter. They are then tossed in corn tortillas, dressed with various sauces, and topped with lettuce and/or cabbage.
  • Sushi Tacos: Basically the opposite of the one above. Here the tortillas are fried, and the seafood is left raw. Some wasabi-laced sauce is also used.
  • Classic Tacos: These are the tacos you can find in just about every local taqueria, even if the Big & Little's versions don't necessarily look the similar. Examples include al pastor and carnitas.
  • Themed Tacos: Here is where Big & Little's goes crazy, creating conceptual tacos based on random dishes. Bánh Mì tacos, anyone?

The Results

Interestingly, the best tacos didn't come from one specific group, and instead were distributed equally around. I expected half of the themed tacos to fail, but that just wasn't the case.

I decided to rank these in three categories: Highly Recommended, Recommended, and Not Recommended. Of course, these exact tacos might not be on the menu when you visit, with dozens of different taking their place. Go with an open mind.

Check out all the tacos by click through the slideshow, or visit them individually below.

Highly Recommended

Recommended

Not Recommended

Big & Little's

860 North Orleans Street, Chicago, IL 60610 (map)
312-943-0000
bigandlittleschicago.com‎

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