Tacos are an integral part of one's diet, to be consumed whether its the AM, the PM, or some nebulous time in the middle where you’ve had a few pops and aren’t sure/don’t care what time it is. For those times, these taquerias that cater to the late-night crowd will give you some much-needed sustenance on the trek home. To be added to your “stumble upon” list, here are nine late-night taco shops that all share a closing time -- if any -- of well past midnight.
What you're getting: Carne asada tacos
Despite being open 24 hours this Clark Street strip-mall taqueria serves tacos that are still expertly prepared at all hours of the day. You don’t have to have been drinking to enjoy the meal, from the silky smooth suadero (beef brisket) to the extra-tender lengua (tongue) you will eat well and get friendly service for it being ungodly late/early.
What you're getting: Taco al pastor
Even in a steadily yuppie-ing neighborhood, late nights at Arturo’s still draw a nice eclectic crowd. When nine out 10 places serve al pastor meat that never came from a cone it's great to find a spot that’s still carving its meat at all hours. The tacos al pastor and other house favorites are very solid after-midnight eats.
What you're getting: Cheeseburger taco, fish n' chips, rotisserie chicken
This Texas import serves non-traditional tacos that are much better than they have to be, especially for the Viagra Triangle last-call crowd. Try interesting takes on global dishes that come served on fresh tortillas made in-house and enjoy a spiked frozen margarita while doing so.
What you're getting: Suadero taco and fish taco
The best late-night tacos on Ashland Avenue are just North of Chicago Avenue at this long and narrow taqueria. It already has a cult following that's known what's up forever but the swift service will expedite the taco-eating.
What you're getting: Carnitas
This local favorite on 31st Street has been serving fresh carnitas al estilo Michoacán and barbacoa since 1989. You can order either by the pound or in taco form. For the adventurous that have an Andrew Zimmern-like hunger there's the Mexico City-favorite tacos de buche aka pork stomach.
What you're getting: Taco de panza
At some point, every Chicagoan has wandered to Big Star’s to-go window after a much-too-late night in Wicker Park, like the North Star guiding you past bad decisions. Here, you can eat quality pork belly tacos, make use of the spacious patio, and possibly gain a second wind before going back into Estelle’s to rescue your friends.
What you're getting: Tacos al pastor, steak tacos
Allende has been serving up the epitome of cheap and greasy late-night tacos longer than most of its neighbors have been around. Perfect for a post-Lincoln Hall concert food stop and also for the college students that live nearby.
What you're getting: Steak tacos, Taco Bravo
With a handful of locations scattered throughout the city you're never too far from solid Mexican from El Gallo Bravo. We tend to lean towards the North Side strip-mall location due to the grillman's excellent ability to get the steak meat crispy and the burritos ain't too shabby either.
Pilsen (Blue Island Avenue location)
What you're getting: Ribeye taco with cheese
Raymond’s draws a loyal following for its cheesy tacos which are made by melting a slice of salty American cheese in between two tortillas before piling on the fillings. As you can imagine, these are best consumed after midnight.
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1. El Rey Del Taco7104 N Clark St, Chicago
2. Arturo's Tacos2001 N Western Ave, Chicago
3. Velvet Taco1110 N State St, Chicago
4. Taqueria Traspasada811 N Ashland Ave, Chicago
5. El Molino3945 W 31st St, Chicago
6. Big Star1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago
7. El Gallo Bravo #51429 W Montrose Ave, Chicago
8. Raymond's Tacos2406 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago
At all hours (literally) you can expect high quality tacos from this strip-mall spot. It might look unassuming, but check out the carne asada tacos or suadero tacos for a killer late night snack (read: meal).
The name may say tacos, but the menu includes breakfast (or desayunos), burritos, chiles rellenos, enchiladas, chimichangas, and full seafood entrées.
Slinging more than a dozen modern and traditional varieties, this Texas-based taco shop planted its first non-Texas outpost right in the Viagra Triangle. Try the Indian-inspired crisp tikka chicken (spicy pepper sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, and Thai basil), the American-inspired bacon burger (served on a flour tortilla, of course), and a side of elote-style rotisserie corn with the famous red-velvet cake for dessert.
This Avondale spot might not look like much from the outside, but once you bite into their chicharron burrito with salsa verde, nothing else matters.
This Little Village local favorite has been serving carnitas and barbacoa for over 20 years. You can order the meat by the pound, or just get it in your tacos, at almost any time of the week -- even late night.
A lot of things about Wicker Park's Big Star will make you feel like you're in Texas. First, there's the taco-centric menu that features a dozen taco varieties and necessary sides like guacamole and queso. Then there's the drink selection, which is heavy on whiskey, tequila, and craft beer. The massive outdoor patio begs for you to order a margarita and drink the day away, especially during the summer when the seasonal music series is in full swing.
There's more than one Gallo Bravo in the city, but #5 is our favorite. You can place your order online, and also stop in in the middle of the night. What more could you want?
One of a few Raymond's locations across the city, this location is known for its tacos. The tacos are made after a slice of American cheese is melted between two tortillas -- it's hard to imagine a better late night eat.