Chicago has quickly become the capital of Mexican food north of the border. Are we biased as Chicagoans? Yes. Does that make the statement any less true? Nope. As residents of this fair taco-filled city, we felt it was our duty to investigate one of the West Coast’s top contenders. So when we hit California, we beelined for the the Mission District.
Our Tour Guide
Led by our San Fran tour guide, left, we made our way over to Taqueria Cancun. As you can see in the photo, he was hand-selected based on his hunger level, his capacity to eat while walking, and his propensity to try new foods.
That’s not completely true; he’s a friend… but those are still important things to look for in a friend/tour guide.
Chips and Guac
First things first: three Pacifico beers with limes and an order of chips and guac. As you can see in the photo, Chao had some difficulties holding himself back while I took a photo.
We both agreed: the chile flake tortilla chips were extra-thin and crispy, something you don’t always find in Chicago. Spicy guacamole, paper thin chips, fresh salsa–it was hot and crunchy at its finest.
Next up: tacos. We tried the taco de cabeza (beef head) and the taco de lengua (beef tongue). Each was loaded with meat, enough meat to require two tortillas (at the risk of everything falling apart).
The meat, although tasty, was pretty much the bulk of the taco – a definite switch-up from what we’re used to in Chicago (the land of sauce and fillings).
The winner of the day–maybe the trip–was the fried pork torta. This was truly one of the best tortas any of us had ever tried. It was that perfect blend of melted, creamy goodness but without any sacrifices on flavor.
It was an explosion of fresh guacamole and tomatoes, sour cream, melted mozzarella, and fried pork. The salty/savory flavors of the fried pork playing off the smooth-and-creamy awesomeness of the guacamole… We really should have titled this post “Ode to a Torta.” Or, “The Creamy Pork Sandwich That Changed My Life.”
So, if we had to choose between the Mission and Chicago? Had to decide between Taqueria Cancun and, say, Big Star?
Well, the people behind Big Star have truly hit the trifecta: price, quality, and authenticity. AND, they only use one tortilla in their tacos (which may seem like a petty criticism, but two tortillas are just too many).
The Mission was incredibly authentic and beyond affordable, which made it fairly easy to overeat (if there is such a thing). But, from what we’ve tried, Chicago does have something over the Mission. What the Windy City lacks in proximity it makes up for in flavor. Now, if only we could find a torta like that in Chicago.