Scene in South Bend: Taqueria Chicago
Carlos De Loera | Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Looking at all the places featured in Scene in South Bend articles, there seemed to be a general trend: People (myself included) were not visiting the West Side of South Bend. But why is this? I think part of it is that there has been a lot of revitalization going on in Downtown South Bend, so it’s getting more attention and sparking more interest. Another factor, I think, is that people are told that the West Side is not the best/safest area.
With this in mind, I decided to go to the West Side because life is about breaking down barriers and venturing into places where others have yet to wander, right? I had also heard wondrous tales of delicious Mexican food in that part of town, and my little Hispanic heart could not resist.
So, on the day after Thanksgiving, a day on which I engorged myself with more turkey than I could reasonably digest, I decided to feast on a variety of tacos and made my way to Taqueria Chicago.
Sitting in my Uber, as golden domes turned to rusted underpasses and as signs outside of stores changed from English to Spanish, a wave of familiarity came over me. It all reminded me of my hometown just outside of Los Angeles — a very welcome experience considering I didn’t have a chance to go home for Turkey Day.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived to Taqueria Chicago was the large piece of art that covers much of the side of the building. In graffiti-like letters, the words “Restaurant Taqueria Chicago” are sprayed in green, white and red (the colors of the Mexican flag) and circle a drawing of the Chicago skyline. Even before I enter the restaurant, I’m digging the vibe it’s putting out.
Upon entering, I am welcomed by the sound of Mexican banda music playing and the sizzling of the grill. I also quickly take notice that I am the only one in the restaurant. The restaurant is mine. Taking a seat at one of the many available tables, I survey the place. Apparently, they just got new tile for the eating area — looks nice. Scanning again, I see an assortment of Mexican candies placed at the register, behind the counter I see a very young girl (my waitress’s daughter) playing a game on her phone and behind her, a mainstay of many Mexican restaurants: the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe (I may have escaped campus, but I am forever under the watch of Our Lady).
I am handed a menu and immediately lock eyes with the taco portion of it. I know what I want: un taco de asada, dos de lengua, dos de tripa — all on corn tortilla (if you get flour tortilla, you ain’t real). Turns out they’re not serving tripa tacos that day. I mourn my loss, but recollect myself and instead get dos de barbacoa. Throw in a fruit punch Jarritos and I’m ready to chow down.
The tacos come out, I dress them in salsa verde and lime and go in for the kill. The carne asada taco is solid, with the real standout being the tortilla. Overall, 6.5/10. Next up, barbacoa tacos. These are exceptional, juicy and packed with flavor — 8.5/10. Lastly, I go to my all-time favorite type of taco, lengua. Most people are put off at the thought of eating beef tongue, but if you give them a chance you won’t regret it. The lengua tacos at Taqueria Chicago are the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly chewy, juicy and nicely complemented by the salsa verde and lime — 10/10.
Right before I get ready to ask for the check, my waitress informs me that they are serving menudo. They usually only serve it on the weekend, but I am told they sell it on Black Friday “pa’ la cruda.” And while I was not hungover from the night before, I was drawn to the menudo because it featured tripa, which you will recall was not available for tacos. I got a bowl of the soup to go and had it for dinner later that day. No regrets, only satisfaction in my tummy.
While I may not have been able to go home for the holiday, I was able to, even for just a meal or two, feel like I was in the confines of LA county. And because of that, I am truly thankful for Taqueria Chicago.