Get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will transport your taste buds south of the border. In our guide to the Best Mexican Restaurants in Chicago, we’ll take you on a flavorful adventure through the city’s vibrant Mexican dining scene. From sizzling fajitas to mouthwatering tacos, Chicago offers a diverse array of Mexican culinary delights that will satisfy even the most discerning palates. Whether you’re a fan of traditional dishes like enchiladas and tamales or craving modern twists on Mexican classics, our carefully curated list will lead you to the finest Mexican restaurants in the Windy City. So, prepare to indulge in the bold and savory flavors of Mexico without leaving Chicago’s lively dining landscape.
Near the Westin Chicago River, North Hotel is Barrio. This is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city if you’re looking for a more elegant dining experience. The interior is what people call industrial chic and has a large circular bar, dim lighting, and staff who know how to go the extra mile. Barrio’s menu has a little bit of everything. They have salads, tacos, burgers and sandwiches, and starters to share with friends. One of the most exciting and tasty items is their adobo fried rice. If you want to try a taco recipe you’ve probably never had before, their truffle mushroom taco. It has garlic crema cheese and is worth trying.
5 Rabanitos Restaurante & Taqueria
One of the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago is only a few minutes away from the National Museum of Mexican Art. 5 Rabanitos Restaurante and Taqueria artistically serves authentic Mexican cuisine. The restaurant is vibrant with bright colors, beautiful artwork, and a friendly atmosphere. The menu at 5 Rabanitos is extensive with all your favorite Mexican dishes. They have everything you could want, from tacos, burritos, tamales, and more. My eyes immediately went to their main courses and went with their enchiladas de mole. They were chicken enchiladas with sour cream, cheese, and their delicious rice and beans.
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Frontera Grill is on North Clark Street, only a few minutes away from the entrance of Navy Pier. The restaurant is festive with lime green walls, dark curtains, and unique artwork, like a metal dragon statue. This is chef Rick Bayless’ flagship restaurant, and while it appears very upscale, it’s relatively casual. The menu features classic Mexican dishes with a creative twist. They’re open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. It’s an excellent place for lunch before heading to Navy Pier. Some of my favorite menu items are their famous tortilla soup, the duck carnitas, the champagne margarita, and their spectacular flan for dessert.
If you want to eat at Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant, you have two locations to choose from. One is on West 18th Street near the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the other on West 55th Street in the Gage Park neighborhood. Both locations are the perfect casual dining spot when all you want is traditional Mexican food. Carnitas Uruapan’s menu revolves heavily around pig meat. So, you’ll see plenty of pork on the menu. Since that was the focal point of their menu, I had to give several dishes a try. I loved the crispy pork skin, pork carnitas tacos, and Mexican Coca-Cola.
You’ll find Mi Tocaya Antojeria on West Logan Boulevard, in Palmer Square. It’s a bit outside of the craziness of the city, which can be a good or bad thing, but it’s worth visiting. This is a casual and laid-back joint with beautiful tiled floors, bright colors, and dim lighting at night. I love their patio when the weather’s nice. Mi Tocaya Antojeria has many of the classics you want in a Mexican joint. They have fantastic guacamole, burritos, and enchiladas. I can’t recommend starting your meal with ceviche enough. That plus a house margarita is the perfect thing to hold you over until your entree arrives. Their fried oyster taco and steak burrito are my favorites.
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Topolobampo is on North Clark Street, about a mile and a half north of downtown. This is another one of Chef Rick Bayless’ restaurants in Chicago. The restaurant is more refined and features elegant decor, with muted greens and yellow shades of furniture throughout. It’s a little more upscale but still informal. You can order from the traditional menu at Topolobampo, but for the full experience, you should try and book a tasting session. You’ll start with appetizers and drinks in the main room before moving to the main dining area to taste some of the chef’s best dishes. I loved their crispy and smoked short rib if you’re not doing the tasting.
Mas Alla del Sol is less than half a mile from Lane Beach on North Broadway. The restaurant is in a beautiful brick building with a small patio out front. The walls are bright red and green when you walk inside, and the atmosphere is friendly and laid-back. The owner grew up in Mexico and shared his family’s recipes with Chicago. Mas Alla del Sol’s menu is extensive and offers classic Mexican dishes, margaritas, and other cocktails. If you love appetizers like me, you have to start your meal off with their chorizo queso dip. I could eat the entire bowl myself; it’s that good. As for entrees, the steak tacos and chicken and shrimp plates are perfect.
Seven minutes from the Lincoln Park Conservatory is Chilam Balam. You’ll head into the building’s basement to arrive at this excellent restaurant. Once downstairs, the floors are tiled, the walls have stonework, and the lighting is reasonably bright for being underground. It’s a fun and intimate environment. The menu at Chilam Balam is limited compared to other Mexican joints in the area. All their options are still outstanding. Some popular items are their empanadas, pork ribs, and their chunky guacamole. While they don’t serve margaritas here, patrons can bring their own liquor.
Carnitas Don Pedro is on West 18th Street in the Pilsen neighborhood. The restaurant is in a brick building and is very unassuming from the outside. When you walk inside, this bare-bones restaurant is casual and low-key. There’s minimal seating, and you can see the chefs hard at work preparing your food. The menu here is limited, but everything is delicious. They have their menu separated by weekday and weekend entrees. Their chicken tacos are one of the most popular items on the menu. They’re traditional street tacos with onions and cilantro. Don’t forget to ask for a side of their salsa verde.
There are two locations of La Chaparrita Taqueria for you to visit. One is on South Whipple Street near La Villita Park, and the other is on South Richmond Street near Gage Park. Both restaurants are Mexican grocery stores with minimal seating and a cozy eating environment. La Chaparrita Taqueria features a menu with tacos, burritos, tostadas and more. Their tacos have several protein options like chicken, steak, tripe, and more. I went with the tripe tacos and wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t leave without trying an agua fresca. I ordered the guava, and it was fabulous.
Tzuco is less than a mile from the Museum of Contemporary Art on North State Street. This is an upscale and elegant restaurant with muted earth tones throughout. The brown shades make this a cozy restaurant to dine with friends, take a date to, or celebrate something good that happened in your life. The menu at Tzuco is unique because it combines all the best things about Mexican and French cuisine. When I ate here, I went with their barbacoa and a side of fideo secos, which was squid ink secos. If you want a cocktail, you can’t go wrong with their house-made sangria or orange liqueur margarita.
Just north of downtown on North Clark Street is XOCO. It’s a fast-paced, counter-service restaurant that’s popular for people on the go in Chicago. It’s a friendly atmosphere, casual, and the perfect place for a quick meal before heading out to continue exploring the city. XOCO serves the chef’s take on Mexican street food. My favorite part of this restaurant is the guacamole bar, where you can fully customize your dip. Their tortas, bowls, and tacos are very popular. The best torta, if you ask me, is the Baja chicken. If you’re craving something sweet, the glazed churros are delightful.
Big Star is a lively and fun Mexican restaurant on North Damen Avenue, near Wicker Park. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see plenty of patio seating with hanging lights, a large brick building, and a line at the takeout window. The space feels modern, and there’s almost always a crowd. When you dine at Big Star, you can expect to see menu items like appetizers, salads, and several tacos. Tacos are the star of the show here, and they have several recipes to choose from. The crispy pork belly tacos, potato tacos, and classic beef tacos are some of my favorites on the menu.
You’ll find Birrieria Zaragoza on South Pulaski Road, ten minutes from Midway Airport. The restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the food is out of this world. When you walk inside, you’ll feel like you’re eating at your friend’s home since it’s cozy and friendly. You’ll order at the counter before grabbing a seat. Birrieria Zaragoza’s menu focuses primarily on large Mexican plates. You can order birrieria per pound. It’s a great idea to get enough for sharing when you’re with friends. If you want to try something unique, their goat head taco is the way to go.
Mercadito is on West Kinzie Street, minutes from the Chicago Riverwalk. This lounge and restaurant are stunning with intimate lighting, greenery lining the walls and parts of the ceilings, and wicker chandeliers throughout. It’s a semi-casual restaurant, and it is perfect for drinks and a meal with friends. Besides the food, people come to Mercadito for handcrafted cocktails. Their strawberry margarita was perfect. Tacos, salsas, and other Mexican staples dominate the menu here. If you want to try something different, their mac and cheese are ideal. They use Mexican cheese to create something rich and unique. Besides that, their street quesadillas are delicious.
Eight minutes from Goose Island is Alegrias Seafood Chicago. Nestled on North Ashland Avenue, this small but vibrant space is worth checking out while in the city. The interior is relatively small and features bright teal walls, framed pictures of staff, and one of the most welcoming atmospheres in town. As the name may suggest, Alegrias Seafood serves delicious Mexican seafood. A handful of oysters or their fresh ceviche are ideal to start your meal. They design their entrees to share. You and a friend or friends can order crab legs, lobster, octopus, and shrimp. The stuffed crab with seafood mix is popular.
Sol de Mexico is on North Cicero Avenue in Kilbourn Park. The interior feels like many classic Mexican restaurants. The walls are a deep orange, there are blue glasses on the table, and an assortment of Mexican decor along the walls. It’s a relaxed environment where the staff is very friendly. Menu items people like to order here are the potato and chorizo taquitos, Mexican caesar salad, and chicken enchiladas. If you can save room for dessert, their coconut pie is the best way to end your meal. Also, they have an extensive tequila list that’s worth looking into if you’d like an alcoholic beverage.
4305 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
El Tezcal is an authentic restaurant on North Kedzie Avenue in Horner’s Park. This vibrant restaurant has blue, pink, and orange walls inside. There are colorful blankets throughout as decoration and handmade tablecloths. The food at El Tezcal is about as authentic as it comes to Mexican food. People rave about the mole here and everything else on the menu. Whether you order beef enchiladas, a burrito, or tacos, you can’t forget a side of rice, beans, and guacamole. They’re the best additions to any meal here.
You’ll find Jarabe Mexican Street Food on West Taylor. It’s a very low-key establishment with minimal seating, menu items written on chalkboards, and quick service. Jarabe’s menu features tacos, burritos, and plenty of Mexican side dishes to order. Their tacos come with two per order, and all the corn tortillas are handmade. I asked the person taking my order what they liked to eat here, and it was their fish tacos. They were absolutely delicious, and the guacamole was a great topping.
Chilango Mexican Street Food is on West Taylor Street, only minutes from Arrigo Park. The restaurant is casual and beautiful. There are chalkboards with written menu items, wood panels on the walls, and colorful murals. It’s common to share menu items here so you can try a little bit of everything. The menu’s focal point at this restaurant is empanadas. They also have plenty of salads, tortas, and other Mexican classics. Some of my favorite options here are their taco salad, Hawaiian empanada with pineapple and ham, and the beef and rice empanada. If you want something sweet, their banana and Nutella empanada is divine.
Lena Brava is on West Randolph Street, minutes away from West Loop Gate. It’s a sophisticated restaurant with a large marble bar, plenty of seating in the dining room, and a view of the kitchen where they cook over an open flame. The staff here are very knowledgeable about the menu and their cocktails. You’ll see a lot of Baja-inspired cuisines here and plenty of items they cook over a live fire. Their signature dish is a striped bass with habanero sauce and a salad. I chose their wood-fired oysters to start and the short ribs for an entree. Regardless of what you order, you’ll want to look at their Mezcal and Agave menu.
El Nuevo Mexicano Restaurant is in the Lakeview neighborhood, just north of downtown Chicago. This stylish restaurant features exposed brick walls and bright colors on the others. The space has an elegant yet casual feel with white tablecloths on the tables and a relaxed atmosphere. The cuisine here is a combination of authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex. If you’re dining with friends, sharing their nachos as a starter is a great idea. My favorite dish here is their shrimp fajitas. I love that they have a lengthy vegetarian menu to accommodate this dietary restriction.
Uncle Julio’s is on North Avenue, only a few minutes from Goose Island Brewhouse. While I usually avoid chains while traveling, this one is worth mentioning. The restaurant is large with brick walls, an open kitchen, and dark wood furniture throughout. It’s usually pretty busy, but getting a table is not difficult. Almost everything at this restaurant is made from scratch daily. They’re known for their fajitas, so you can’t go wrong with these. I love the bacon-wrapped shrimp and chicken fajitas and their cheese and onion enchiladas. They have a new margarita recipe every month, so check for that.
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