Chicago’s Best Mexican Restaurants for Cinco de Mayo and Beyond

Did someone say artisanal churros?

Mi Tocaya Antojería
Mi Tocaya Antojería | Photo by Marisa Klug-Morataya
Mi Tocaya Antojería | Photo by Marisa Klug-Morataya

Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and that’s good news for Chicago. Because with crowd-pleasing cocktails, laid-back vibes, and plates packing big and bold flavors, there’s much to love about Mexican restaurants, and luckily, the city is home to plenty of them across its 77 neighborhoods. Whether you’re dining onsite or ordering in, raise a glass to our southern neighbor’s diverse geographical regions and storied culinary traditions at these standout Chicagoland destinations.

Old Pueblo Cantina
Old Pueblo Cantina | Photo courtesy of Alexis Cohen

Old Pueblo Cantina

Lincoln Park

This corner cantina has been quick to gain a loyal following for its approachable fare, upbeat environs, and attention to detail like an open-flame grill and guac made to order. Kick things off with an order of chicken or steak skewers, then head straight to the venue’s signature dish: the Sonoran Cheese Crisp, an open-faced quesadilla in a medley of variations (e.g. three-cheese, green chile, and spicy chorizo, to name a few). Pair any of them with a round (or two) of margaritas, which rotate seasonally and span flavor combos like watermelon and jalapeno, pineapple and cilantro, and hibiscus and mint.
How to order/reserve: Reserve via Resy or order takeout and delivery via ToastTab.

Mi Tocaya Antojería
Mi Tocaya Antojería | Photo by Marisa Klug-Morataya

Chef Dana Dávila helms the kitchen at this neighborhood favorite, where she honors her Mexican heritage through bold takes on regional classics. The menu is a thoughtfully-composed progression of plates that draw on Davila’s upbringing, from Peanut Butter y Lengua (peanut-based salsa and braised beef tongue) to Cochinita Pibil (Yucatan-style slow-roasted pork wrapped in banana leaves) and Enchiladas Potosinas (chile-spiced masa with queso ranchero and salsa). As for cocktails, opt for the “Chicana,” an herbaceous melding of Espolon Blanco, bergamot liqueur, and clove-cardamom Pajarote.
How to order/reserve: Reserve via Resy or order takeout and delivery via Caviar and directly from the restaurant.

tzuco
Tzuco | Photo by Neil Burger Photography

Tzuco

River North

After a year exploring his native country, chef Carlos Gaytan returned to Chicago to open Tzuco, a restaurant that approaches Mexican flavors with honed French technique. Find the two styles interwoven throughout the menu in options like guajillo-roasted octopus, steak tartare with pickled jalapeno, and French onion soup with poblano peppers. Don’t dip out on dessert, either—pastry chef Jesús Escalera has garnered impressive accolades for his whimsical finales (think: white chocolate rice pudding with pink peppercorn ice cream or frozen yuzu honeycomb with chamomile pavlova).
How to order/reserve: Reserve via Resy or order takeout and delivery via CaviarGrubhub, and UberEats.

Mesa Urbana

Lincoln Park

This artsy newcomer boasts a sprawling patio in the heart of Lincoln Park, just steps away from some of the neighborhood’s top attractions. The menu features Mexican dishes with fun, season-forward twists, like guacamole with watermelon radish and yellow beets or pechuga de pollo with farm-raised chicken and rainbow carrots.
How to order/reserve: Reserve via OpenTable.

La Chaparrita

Little Village

If you’re in search of the city's best taquerias, look no further than this Little Village hangout. Perched on the corner on 25th and Whipple away from the hustle and bustle of 26th Street, this joint started out as a true hidden gem—but these days, any taco-lover worth their carnitas has it firmly on their go-to lunch list. And if you somehow missed the memo, you're sleeping on the closest thing Chicago has to an authentic Mexico City taco stand, where nothing costs more than $5 and everything is on point.
How to order/reserve: Stop in for carry-out or order delivery by calling 773-254-0795 and via Grubhub.

Owner Alfonso Sotelo came to this neon-splashed Pilsen outpost from Xoco, where he trained under Chicago mega-chef Rick Bayless. So when you eat here, expect long-standing family recipes and contemporary renditions alike, from stuffed jalapenos and enchiladas de mole to goat adobo barbacoa and cochinita pibil. And, of course, it’s all delicious.
How to order/reserve: Reserve by calling 312-285-2710 or order take-out and delivery via Postmates.

Taqueria Varitas

Bronzeville

This South Side mom-and-pop shop offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner picks with adventurous flavors, plenty of vegan options, little to stress over budget-wise. Bring along a buddy and go dutch on an order of the fully-decked-out al pastor nachos—you’re welcome.
How to order/reserve: Stop by for carry-out, call 872-244-3360 or order delivery via Grubhub.

Big Star
Big Star | Photo courtesy of H2 Public Relations

Big Star

Multiple locations

When this “late-night honky-tonk” first came to Wicker Park, diehards immediately flocked to the space for bourbon, beer, and dynamite tacos. So when the team announced a second location in Wrigleyville, folks were almost as excited as when the Cubs took the 2016 World Series (almost). The food menu is curated by executive chef Paul Kahan (of icons like the Publican and avec) alongside chef de cuisine Chris Miller, and their queso fundido and pork belly tacos are must-trys.
How to order/reserve: Reserve via Tock (Wicker Park, Wrigleyville) or order take-out and delivery through Toast (Wicker Park, Wrigleyville) and Doordash.

Cafe Tola & Dona Tola

Southport Corridor

There are several locations of this empanada mainstay, but the OG location opened its doors on Southport Avenue mere steps away from the team’s most recent debut, Dona Tola. Named after owner Victoria Salamanca’s grandmother, the menu covers all the “abuelita-inspired” bases, from taquitos al pastor and enchiladas del mar to succulent pollo poblano, served alongside a fleet of fancy libations like tamarind negronis and smoky mezcal old fashioneds.
How to order/reserve: Order take-out and delivery from Cafe Tola via ChowNow; Reserve a table at Dona Tola via OpenTable or order take-out and delivery online.

Dos Urban Cantina

Logan Square

For upscale Mexican fare with a date night-worthy vibe, this Logan Square stunner is a must. Try the quesadillas and tortas (Baja-style fish and carne asada, respectively), then peruse an array of veg-friendly options like crispy cauliflower “wings” peppered with sesame and cilantro. Post-supper, coconut tres leches is calling—and maybe throw in a slice of their chocolate cake, too, touted as one of the city’s very best.
How to order/reserve: Order take-out and delivery only via Tock.

Xoco

River North

Chef Rick Bayless is the driving force behind a full seven of the city’s Mexican mainstays. At Xoco, he offers contemporary takes on regional marketplace staples including empanadas, tortas, caldos, and—perhaps their greatest claim to fame—churros, fried to crispy perfection and dusted with heavenly cinnamon-sugar. Try them with a side of chocolate or cajeta (AKA goat’s milk caramel) dipping sauce or go hard with glazed variations like pistachio, hazelnut, and chocolate-peanut.
How to order/reserve: Stop by for first-come, first-served indoor and patio dining or order take-out and delivery via ChowNow, DoorDashCaviar, and GrubHub.

Nicole Schnitzler is a Thrillist contributor. Follow her on Twitter at @write_to_eat and Instagram at @WriteToEat.