445 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
All the Rick Bayless Mexican restaurants are worthy of a visit, from the gourmet Topolobampo to the torta-centric Xoco (and yes, three of his restaurant offspring are located on a single block). But don’t overlook Frontera either, which is classic Mexican food in a spacious locale (sandwiched between Xoco and Topo) with its own modern day spin. Whether you visit for lunch or dinner, all dishes are made with locally-sourced seasonal ingredients and a lot is made in house, including the tortillas, salsas and the out-of-this-world moles. And don’t forget to pair your dish with a sweet margarita.
1531 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Whiskey plus tacos equals a match made in heaven. Enjoy both on the extensive patio, as well as their indoor space, in Wicker Park. The restaurant, often packed with local hipsters, also offers a few other Mexican dishes, including ensalada de Big Star, packed with Mexican ingredients including mushroom tostada, queso fundido and a pinto beans dish. But the most popular, by far, are the tacos, with the perfectly cooked spit roasted pork (al pastor), as well as a beer battered tilapia, among others. Tequila is also on the menu here, but there are daily whiskey shot specials too. No matter what you order, bring cash — they don’t accept cards.
3300 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
There’s a lot to love about this taqueria in Logan Square, but the most popular must-try-at-least-once-in-your-life dish is their pambazo, a sandwich unlike any other. After being dipped in a smoky chile salsa, the carne asada sandwich is griddled, making it both a crispy and juicy creation. In addition to the pambazos, this cash-only establishment also offers wonderfully made classic Mexican dishes, including tacos and burritos.
Related: Best Bets For Late-Night Mexican
1835 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
For a creative and modern spin on Mexican classics, look no further than this Bucktown/Wicker Park restaurant. The restaurant has a casual vibe, but the fare is anything but casual. Pair quesadillas con tacino (made with bacon, hash browns, salsa and fried eggs -— trust us on this one), or Las Palmas Hash (chimichurri skirt steak with roasted potatoes and eggs) with their go-big-or-go-home cocktails. Their drinks even range from the classic to the more modern with unique ingredients, but all are perfectly paired with their delectable dishes.
817 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Their Humboldt Park location may have closed, but this popular Mexican restaurant has made a new home in the West Loop, right where it belongs among an array of popular restaurants. Cemitas Puebla specializes in traditional Poblano foods, and many items on the menu will be familiar to patrons, including tacos and chalupas. But where this restaurant gets its name, and what you must try at least once in your life, are the cemitas, sandwiches made with your choice of meat and served on a surprisingly tasty home-made sesame seed roll.
1515 W 18th Street
Chicago, IL 60608
Nuevo Leon’s Facebook
Nuevo Leon is a local Chicago gem that’s been around for decades. With a reasonably priced menu, and BYOB option, you can’t go wrong here! Open until 12AM, the average meal price is a budget-friendly $7. Try the Enchiladas Suizas: three corn tortillas topped with red chile, green tomatillo, or mole sauce, filled with your choice of meat, and smothered in cheese.
Related: Best Tortas In Chicago