Among my friends, I have been recognized as a bonafide slut for Mexican food. I could eat it at least once a day, but not all day because I still like things like pate and oysters and corned beef. Like other Mexican food sluts, it doesn’t always have to be Rick Bayless, and I’m constantly on the lookout for another one-night taco stand.
Hence my New Years resolution: Eat all 23 tacos on the Time Out Chicago list of the 23 best tacos in Chicago (http://www.timeout.com/chicago/restaurants/the-23-best-tacos-in-chicago)
This is a bold-ass statement. You don’t just throw down a list like that and walk away. It’s a gauntlet to Mexican food lovers all over the city. And I, along with my crazy-wife indulgent husband, accepted the challenge.
January 2nd: all planned! We were going to stop by the office, hop the red line up to Grand, and dine on the al pastor (my personal favorite kind) at Xoco. One side note: we’ve eaten some of these before. I am a stickler for the rules. All 23 in 2015. We’ve eaten at Xoco – but we had the braised goat. And it was Heaven. I can’t imagine the al pastor being any less delightful. He’s Rick Bayless for fuck’s sake.
So while the husband had his nose to the grindstone and I was checking online for David Bowie Is tickets, I looked up the restaurant’s website and guess what?!?!? Closed for the holiday. The one in Wicker Park is open, but that’s not super convenient to the MCA for an exhibit that would be sold out, but that’s neither here nor there. Change in plans. Review list. Find another contender in the Loop. Ooops -there are no other contenders in the Loop. Apparently good tacos can only be appreciated by people in Wicker Park and Pilsen. Neither convenient to the red.
Last digression: although we intend to be city folk soon, my husband is not as tuned into the grid system as me. I grew up in the 606. I’ve ridden the CTA more times than I can count. I know the shortcuts and how to take Southwest AND Northwest highway. Him, not so much.
So on our way to a different establishment, he took a wrong turn. Sometimes I don’t tell him when he’s taking wrong turns because I start to sound like a total bitch, and I love my husband. I don’t want to be a bossy bitch.
After attempting to right the situation, I call an audible and we end up commencing out taco journey at Tio Luis for the arrechera asada taco. (http://www.tioluistacos.com)
According to the website, they were voted the best tacos in Chicago by the Chicago Tribune. According to my Facebook page, I have a ton of latina friends who also dine there regularly. I don’t care what Phil Vittel thinks, I care what my friends who have nanitas who make the best refried beans think.
And that’s the point of this quest: they say tacos but along with them comes the beans, the rice, and hopefully the pickled veggies. If the stars align, I might get a Sol or a good margarita as a sidecar.
Tio Luis is the first restaurant I’ve been to that includes jicama in their pickled veggies lineup. Yum. Although I’m white, I speak Spanish, and I’m pretty sure that I heard the staff talking about the white girl going down on pickled carrots and jicama like it was her last day.
We ordered and both settled on the taco plate for lunch ($5.99 each). One arrachera asada and one al pastor for me, one arrachera asada and lengua (beef tongue) for him, onions and cilantro, no white people tacos. Still dining on carrots, I begin the wait. The kind where wafts from the kitchen act like a cartoon and grab you by the nose, threatening to drag you to the kitchen and act like an animal. More carrots, some chips and salsa.
The wait is a little bit longer, but oh so worth it. I threw a little earthy green salsa on my asada and died and went to taco freaking Heaven. I know people don’t like words like “moist” and “juicy” but how else are you supposed to describe a steak taco from a rough cut of meat that explodes beef flavor in your mouth? It was like the Freshen Up gum of steak taco, except delicious. I believe I may have moaned. Tom had a similar reaction. Holy shit, we’ve been just a few miles from this place and have never eaten here? And WTF is a McDonalds doing across the street? More taco, more Heaven. You can just tell that they marinade that beef for DAYS. It’s so flavorful, so incredibly tender and juicy. Ok, take a break, try the beans. Don’t shoot your wad on the first taco. Jesus H Christ, why did no one mention the beans? I looked at Tom right in the eyeball and said, “These are the kind of beans no one shares. You better eat them before I steal them.”
The lengua and the al pastor were good, but I spent my stomach real estate on asada and beans. I had the light of taco goodness shining from my eyes.
And Tom, Tom being the loving husband he is, traded his beans for my al pastor. Not only was it so incredibly freaking tasty, we skipped dinner. We were so full from the generous and filling portions, two fat people skipped dinner. Now this is a diet I can handle.
So now we are down to 22, and boy, did we ever start off right. The bar has been set fairly high, and the 22 left hopefully deserve to be on the same list as Tio Luis, his killer tacos and his luscious refried beans.
Tio Luis makes me wish he was my uncle. I’d be at his house every day looking for a plate.