Best places to go or Taco Tuesdays, Tacos Thursdays, or any day
Last semester my good friend and housemate, Sydney Mercado’19, started to regularly go to Los Corrales, a small taqueria located on Wisconsin Avenue, just a few blocks off campus. While these outings started out as a time with which we could just step off campus for a little bit, they soon turned into a sit ‘n’ bitch session where we discussed what was going on in our lives and drown our sorrows in deliciousness. We fell in love with this quaint restaurant because it served delicious and simple street tacos, a food that reminded us both of home. However, tragedy struck while we were all on winter break.
Upon returning to school and craving the the street tacos that we knew and loved, we learned that Los Corrales had moved to Rockford. Luckily, the store that took its place is El Neno, another taqueria.
Determined not to give up and to continue to get our weekly fix of tacos, we decided to check out some of the other local taquerias and find a good replacement for Los Corrales, as it was no longer practical to go get tacos before we had class and work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
In this review, we will be talking about a couple of close, local options that serve up solid street tacos. While these restaurants and taquerias may serve up foods other than tacos, we were not as interested in these options. We wanted a good amount of meat, double wrapped in corn tortillas, topped with onion and cilantro and the option of green or red salsas along with a lime wedge or two. Authentic Mexican Jarritos, Coke or other sodas or horchata was desirable but not necessary and it was always a bonus if they served chips with some fresh guacamole.
Taqueria La Mexicana
1501 6th Street
La Mexicana has become our regular go to place on Tuesday mornings now that Los Corrales has moved. While it is a little farther away and no longer in walking distance, it is located just across the river behind the Burger King and kitty-corner to The Rock Bar & Grill. The taqueria is attached to a small market that has some awesome fresh produce and all sorts of traditional ingredients in case you want to start making your own food as well. One of the reasons why we return here, almost habitually, is because of the fact that they are serving food at 9:00 in the morning, meaning we can easily stop in, order and eat there before having to return to campus for class and work. The employees there are all really quite friendly and always can offer up their own suggestions if you are unsure of what to order.
In terms of their tacos, they are pretty dang solid, although they still fall a little bit short of Los Corrales. They have the three standard filling options, carne asada, pollo and al pastor. They also have lengua which is super tender and flavorful if you are willing to try tongue. On the weekends, they also serve up excellent carnitas tacos. Over the past few months, La Mexicana has raised the price of their tacos from $1.25 to $1.75 each, which is a little bit of a disappointment although their tacos are still the cheapest of the places on this list, a definite bonus. La Mexicana also serves up chips and guacamole for around $4.00 which is not too bad of a deal.
Overall, this taqueria is really quite solid, although there are two things that ultimately hold it back from reaching the same level as Los Corrales. Sometimes their corn tortillas are not as flavorful as other places we have visited. There is nothing particularly bad about the tortillas, they just taste like a generic corn tortilla that can be bought in any grocery store. The other issue I sometimes have is that the seasoning of their meats sometimes is not consistent. There are days when it packs a flavor punch and other days when it is good but nothing terribly special. Luckily, the vast majority of the time, La Mexicana turns out really solid tacos, which is why it has, in a way, become the ‘gold standard.’
Super Tacos y Tortas El Neno
946 Wisconsin Avenue
El Neno is the taqueria that took over the place where Los Corrales used to reside. Like La Mexicana, this place makes are really good tacos as well. El Neno offers up even more options for filling than La Mexicana, which is nice. Not only do they have the standard meat options, they also have fillings like tripe, cabeza, alambre and more for a total of eleven different options. From what we have tried so far, most of these options are all pretty good and well seasoned. Like La Mexicana, El Neno serves their street tacos with no frills, just diced onion, cilantro and lime with sides of salsa if you want. Their green tomatillo salsa is pretty darn good, better than that of La Mexicana, although the latter, I believe, has a better red salsa. Sydney and I both agree that the tortillas at El Neno are the best out of the taquerias listed here. They are greasy, hold together fairly well for a corn tortilla and have a nice sweet and saltiness to them. Also, El Neno is open from 10:00 a.m. to at least 10:00 p.m., if not 12:00 a.m. unless it is a holiday.
The only bad aspect about this taqueria is the price. If it has not changed recently, a single taco can run you $2.50, which comparatively is pretty darn expensive. The only other qualm I have about El Neno is that it does not serve chips and guacamole, which is not a big deal but it certainly is nice every once in a while. Overall, it is nice to have a quality taqueria just a five minute walk from campus, but to regularly visit the place, I wish it was cheaper.
La Casa Grande
618 4th Street
The only reason why I am including La Casa Grande in this review is because I think that there is a pretty good chance that more college students have gone there, as they deliver, rather than one of the smaller, local, family owned taquerias in the area. La Casa Grande offers up some decent food, but it comes at a price. Typically their tacos plates start around $8.00 and they are plates, so they come with beans and rice and all of that extra stuff so if you are in the mood for authentic street tacos, this is not really the place for you. I also firmly believe that the difference in atmosphere plays into the enjoyability of the experience. La Casa Grande is kind of for big affairs in that it is fairly fancy, has a nice bar and is frequented by people that stay there for an hour or two. In all of the other taquerias mentioned, typically you go and stay for maybe 30 minutes. La Casa Grande just offers options that are meant for a more elaborate and longer meal. That being said, if you are looking to go out for a while, spend a decent amount of money and get fairly large portions, and want standard Mexican-American food, it is a pretty good option.
There are still some places that we have not yet had the chance to try out yet and we hope to get there soon. Included in that list is Taqueria Azteca, Dos Amigos Taqueria and a couple others strewn about the area. Hopefully, we will get a chance to visit all of these locations before the end of the semester. In the meantime though, if you have a hankering for good street tacos, buy local.