Slideshow: Best Chicago Tacos of 2012

Grilled Sweet Potato Taco at Bullhead Cantina ($3)
Grilled Sweet Potato Taco at Bullhead Cantina ($3)
"Sweet, spicy, and crunchy, there's enough different flavors going on to keep things exciting, but not too many to distract from the sweet potatoes. If you've ever suffered through an uninspired vegetable taco at a joint around town, then this is the antidote." Read more here >>

Bullhead Cantina, ‎1143 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-772-8895; bullheadcantina.com

Tacos Ensenada at Mixteco Grill ($7.00 for two)
Tacos Ensenada at Mixteco Grill ($7.00 for two)
"As the only tacos on the dinner menu, the Tacos Ensenada ($7.00) could have been tacked on to appease picky eaters, but instead these two incredibly light fish tacos showcase the same level of care and craft that Mixteco puts in all of its other dishes." Read more here >>

Mixteco Grill, 1601 West Montrose Avenue Chicago, IL 60613 (map); 773-868-1601; facebook.com/Mixteco-Grill/‎

Tacos de Champigñon at Masa Azul ($7)
Tacos de Champigñon at Masa Azul ($7)
"Mushroom tacos are usually the neglected vegetarian option, but the tacos de Champigñon could please anyone. The ancho-marinated mushrooms take center stage, arriving with only some crunchy fried onions and salty queso fresco. Instead of watery and flabby, these are juicy and oddly meaty." Read more here >>

Masa Azul, 2901 West Diversey Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-687-0300; masaazul.com‎

Salmon Poke at Big & Little's ($7.50)
Salmon Poke at Big & Little's ($7.50)
"I was completely surprised how much I enjoyed the sushi tacos, especially considering how many times I've had a lackluster variation of this concept. Too often the fish comes off bland and watery next to the salty, crunchy tortilla shell. But Big & Little's solves that problem by doubling the amount of fish and by pairing it with a creamy wasabi-laced sauce. The fatty flavor of the salmon held up exceptionally well to this format." Read more here >>

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

Sambal Fish Taco at Del Seoul ($3.95)
Sambal Fish Taco at Del Seoul ($3.95)
"The tempura frying method is an inspired choice, since it produces a particularly crackly crust. It easily stands up to spicy sambal sauce, losing none of its crunch along the way, while the crisp cabbage just adds to the harmony of textures." Read more here >>

Del Seoul, ‎2568 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-248-4227; delseoul.com‎

Carnitas Taco at Carnitas Uruapan ($2.29)
Carnitas Taco at Carnitas Uruapan ($2.29)
"If, unlike me, you remember to specify if what part of the pig you'd like, you can get a taco full of deliriously fatty cuts. But even if you forget, you're still in good hands. Usually the leanest parts of the pig dry and tough, but not at Carnitas Uruapan. Here the meat is tender and juicy, but not greasy, while the edges are crisped up and brown. You can tell they care about the product." Read more here >>

Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant, 1725 West 18th Street, Chicago, IL 60608 (map); 312-226-2654

Pork Carnitas at Antique Taco ($7 for two)
Pork Carnitas at Antique Taco ($7 for two)
"These are not just tacos, they are taco concepts. Each one arrives at the table uniquely dressed and ready to go. Take my favorite taco of the bunch, the pork carnitas ($7, for two), which comes with something of a bacon and spinach salad on top, a seemingly odd choice. So, why does it work so well? I'm thanking the tamarind glaze, which adds an unmistakable citrus zing to each bite, making what sounds like an over-loaded and fatty taco taste somehow balanced and restrained." Read more here >>

Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-687-8697; antiquetaco.com

Carne Asada Tacos at Zacatacos ($2.00)
Carne Asada Tacos at Zacatacos ($2.00)
"Thinly sliced sheets of beef are tossed on the grill, sprinkled with seasoning, and then cooked until browned. They are moved to the chopping table, where they are allowed to rest for a few minutes, and then sliced up. This is just about everything you could want in a great carne asada taco: extra beefy, well seasoned, and juicy." Read more here >>

Zacatacos, 3949 West 71st Street, Chicago, IL 60629 (map); 773-582-9701; zacatacos.net‎

Chicken Tinga at Huaraches Doña Chio ($2.50)
Chicken Tinga at Huaraches Doña Chio ($2.50)
"Huaraches Doña Chio makes its tortillas to order using fresh masa, and they are wonder—thick but soft, fluffy yet substantial. They have a pronounced corn flavor, and are so big and warm, I kind of want to curl up in them. Honestly, I haven't seen tortillas like these outside of the Maxwell Street Market... I was particularly pleased with the tinga, where braised chicken comes bathed in a well spiced red sauce. It's so flavorful, you don't even need to add salsa, though the restaurant's green and red salsas are both very good." Read more here >>

Huaraches Doña Chi, 1547 West Elmdale Avenue, Chicago, IL 60660 (map); 773-878-8470