Type: Mexican Restaurant Tacos
On their website it says that the Chicago Tribune gave them the title “Best Tacos in Chicago.” We shall see about that. Arriving at Tio Luis, we noticed a police car outside, which is usually a good sign. Cops drive around a lot and really enjoy eating, which i’m sure you know if you have ever seen a Chicago cop. The place is bright and friendly, and there are lots of tables. We were able to sit wherever we wanted, and they immediately brought out some chips and roasted red salsa. They also had squeeze bottles of tomatillo salsa, red salsa, and a green creamy sauce I’ll call soylent green.
The roasted salsa was tasty. It was chunky and garlicky, with lots of flavor. If this salsa were a rapper, it would be Flavor-Flavio. The red and green salsas were much milder and a little watery, but not terrible. However, the soylent green was the most offensive of the three. It tasted like nothing and everything at the same time. I actually think it was a kind of creamy cilantro concoction, but it just didn’t work for me. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo, so you will have to use your imagination or go and try it yourself. They also had a little box of pickled carrots, and pickled snacks are the best of all the snacks. In case you didn’t know, in heaven there are pickled vegetables everywhere.
So far what I’ve learned from eating tacos from all over Chicago is that different taquerias usually specialize in making one or two types tacos really well. I have yet to visit a place that knocks every single taco out of the park, but it’s better to be good at one thing than mediocre at everything, right? Tio Luis is no exception.
I ordered steak, al pastor, and chorizo tacos. Unfortunately they had run out of barbocoa, which I was keen to try. They did have tongue tacos, but I wasn’t really in the mood for tastebud on tastebud action.
I forgot to ask, but I’m pretty sure the tortillas were made in-house. They had that freshly matted feeling to them, like they were just pressed the same day. They also did not fall apart, which is a sign of a fresh tortilla. All the tacos automatically came with cilantro and onions, which scores bonus points in my book. Get that lettuce and tomato outta my face!
The chorizo taco was damn good. I gotta say, I feel like a lot of the time chorizo tacos are overpowered by the marinade. I think it’s because the pork is ground very finely, which allows for excess marinade to really saturate the meat and seep out when it’s cooked, drowning the taco in chorizo juice (somehow that sounds dirty). I’m not sure what kind of Santeria is being practiced here, but Tio Luis was somehow able to avoid that. The balance of marinade and meat was perfect. Maybe some more veggies or a little potato in the mix would have been nice, but really it held up on its own quite well and the pork was delicious.
The steak taco was the most disappointing of the three. The chunks of steak were too large, which resulted in my taking a bite that caused a steak tug-o-war between my my mouth and the taco. Not cool, Tio. I also found the steak itself to be pretty bland and a little dry, but the delicious salsa and freshly made tortillas made up for it. A bad steak taco is a sin, and if I am starving, aka hangry, I might hulk out and flip tables over a bad steak taco.
The staff was overly friendly and multiple people checked on us regularly. They were so nice, in fact, that it got a little weird and I was starting to wonder if there was some kind of hostage situation going on in back. We paid credit, and they had no problem splitting the bill. There is plenty of parking on Archer, but it’s all metered. Although their al pastor is nothing to scoff at (indeed it is quite good), I would not say this place is worthy of the title “Best Tacos in Chicago.” I’m not sure who’s being paid off at the Trib, but I will have to see about getting on that taco payroll.
I give Tio Luis Tacos 3.5 out of 5 chiles.
Tio Luis Tacos can be found at 3856 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL (773) 843-0098