I ride my bike to the windy city's hidden gems, lost goldmines, new kids on the block, and old standbys then tell you what to think and what to order. Check, czech, Česká it out...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Street (Food) Fight: Part 2, Taco Tango

Let's talk tacos. They're freaking delicious. They're the perfect storm of meat, tortilla, and condiment. Besides being bastardized by Taco Bell, tacos are pretty hard to fuck up. But they are also hard to perfect. In this way tacos are like so many other seemingly simple art forms (the blues, jump rope, bikinis, my hair); easy to understand but near impossible get just right.

Enter the Reigning King: Chipotle. That guilty pleasure so many of us indulge in, with their gigantic burritos, surprisingly strong margaritas, and the less gut-busting/colon-threatening offering of, you guessed it, tacos.

Enter the Scrappy Upstart: Flaco's Tacos. Flaco means skinny in Spanish, while I'm not sure how eating tacos is going to help anyone's waistline I do appreciate their rhyming skills. It's straightforward menu reads like a Mexican street food addict's dream; TACOS, TAMALES, TORTAS!

The Similarities: Both of these Mexican themed establishments offer a bevy of classic options (quesadillas, burritos, etc.) and both want you the think of them as "fresh" and "green." They're both fast and pretty cheap (much like my ex girlfriend).

The Differences: Chipotle is a huge corporate gorilla; there are over 40 locations in the Chicago area alone. Flaco's is a small Chicago based private business, with only two locations. Chipotle gives you dozens of options to spice up or down your burrito/taco/quesadilla with salsas, lettuce, beans and cheese. Flaco tells you how it is (tacos come with cilantro, cheese and onion) leaving you only the option of removing ingredients (blasphemy).

In the spirit of fairness I got two tacos from each place (one chicken, one steak). Then I ate them.

The Results: The Flaco tortillas were greasy and delicious, but lacked the tenderness and pliability of their rival (also like my ex girlfriend). Flaco's steak was succulent, and had a very steaky flavor to it (which is what you want when you order steak). By comparison Chipotle's steak and tortilla combo was lacking in juiciness, grease, and steaky aroma/flavor. The chicken tacos showed reverse results with Chipotle's chicken being moist and seasoned perfectly while Flaco's bird was dry and almost flavorless (and no amount of tortilla magic can save flavorless dry chicken).

Bottom Line: Chipotle is doing good things with their fowl taco (no beans, pico de gallo, lettuce, and cheese), and when you go to Flaco's you will not rue the day you ordered one or seven steak tacos with the works. As Guadalupe Hidalgo once said "¡Viva los tacos!"
Flaco's Tacos on Urbanspoon
Flaco's Tacos


  1. First! ;). Best tacos I ever had were at Mercaditos, but that's a slightly different price point.

  2. http://timeoutchicago.com/restaurants-bars/239753/taco-throwdown-taco-joint-and-barrio-taqueria check it out, boy scout

  3. oli- i've been trying to get over to mercadito for a minute (i mean that in the cool, slang way not the literal way).
    adi- great link, i def want to try taco joint. also, do you secretly work for timeout/opentable?