Chicago Tacos: Shrimp Taco from Mariscos El Veneno

Chicago Tacos

Reviews of tacos.

Editor's Note: This one is pretty self-explanatory, but here we go: Chicago Tacos explores the good, the bad, and the truly exceptional taco options in the Windy City--one taqueria at a time.


[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Mariscos El Veneno

31024 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-252-7200;
Must Try: Shrimp Taco
Cost: $2.90
Other Options: Fish Taco ($2.99), Ceviche Tostada ($2.00)

After sampling some of admittedly tasty carne asada tacos from Taqueria el Asadero last week, I was in need of something a little lighter. It didn't matter whether it was actually any healthier or not, just so long as it tasted and appeared so. I knew immediately that I'd have to expand my search beyond most taquerias, which usually only serve griddled meats. Instead, I decided to look at marisquerias—restaurants that specifically serve seafood.

When I think of marisquerias, the first one that pops into my head is Mariscos El Veneno (also sometimes referred to Restaurant Veneno de Nayarit). Why? Well, I don't think I've ever driven past the storefront on Ashland and not seen a packed house. It doesn't matter what day or time it is, the tables always seem to be full. I mean, in the realm of absurdly crowded restaurants, the Doughnut Vault has nothing on this place.

The shrimp taco ($2.90) was exactly what I was looking for. The unadulterated little shrimp were sweet and plump, while the toppings were crisp and crunchy. Some incredibly spicy fresh salsa is served on the side, and it works in small doses, though the half dozen bottles salsas are good, too. If not quite as awe-inspiring as La Lagartija's fried shrimp taco, it's lighter and more refreshing.


The fish taco ($2.99) is a little less successful. Though freshly fried, by the time the taco came to the table the breading had become soft and mushy. The fish itself was tasty, but I know there have to be better fish tacos out there in Chicago. I'm just not having much luck.


I should also point out that every order begins with a Marlin ceviche tostada. Thanks to the lime, it's tart, clean, and refreshing. I liked it so much, I even ordered a second one ($2.00).

I feel like I'm just dipping my toes into the world of marisquerias and would love any advice you all may have for new places to try. But if you're interested in finding a place to start out the search, Mariscos El Veneno is as good a place as any.