After five years in Chicago, I've tired more than my fair share of Mexican restaurants (probably in the hundreds right now). So with Cinco de Mayo coming up on Sunday, I decided to pick out the essential Mexican dishes in Chicago.
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How many great tacos are there in Chicago? Well, there are enough that I was able to try a new restaurant or taqueria every week for a year and never come close to exhausting the possibilities. Sure, some were simply mediocre, while others were merely adequate, but occasionally I'd stumble upon a true find.
La Chaparrita is not only one of the best taquerias in town, it's a Chicago dining experience unlike any other. The only way I felt like I could celebrate it properly was to try every single taco on the menu.
La Chaparrita offers a number of fillings for their taquitos de canasta, but my eyes went straight for the Chicharrón. The fried pork skin is simmered in some of the same salsa the tortillas are dipped in, which amounts to a filling that tastes like the richest, most flavorful barbacoa ever.
Every year LTHForum.com releases an updated list of "Great Neighborhood Restaurants," which celebrates the many amazing local establishments around town. Though you can endlessly debate what was included and was left off, it's always a fascinating mix of old school joints and new chef-driven concepts.
It didn't matter where I looked in Chicago this year, I could always find something truly delicious. Some weeks it was about a little taqueria with killer tripe tacos (La Chaparitta), while others it was a restaurant recreating fine dining in Paris circa 1906 (Next).