Type: Demon Tacos
Tacos aren’t just a food, they are a way life. So in my twisted mind it makes sense that it might be possible they exist in the afterlife. What would I do if you told me the devil was going to serve me a taco? You bet better I would expect that to be the best damn taco I’ve ever eaten in my whole taco eating life. So when I heard about Taco Diablo, you bet your god-fearing ass I hauled myself down there and sampled some of these demon tacos.
A little background: The original Taco Diablo, which was literally across the street from the current location, burned down several years ago. Everyone was sad, including yours truly. In the process, they lost a lot of the amazing, original art that was made specifically for the taqueria. However, the artist (who I have yet to find out the name, but will edit this post when I do) actually recreated many of the pieces as prints, and although not as cool as the original paintings, still provides a stunning and beautiful backdrop to the restaurant.
Since I was by myself and the place was incredibly busy (lunch time on a Thursday), I opted to sit at the bar, which incidentally provides faster service anyway. The bartender was friendly, however upon closer inspection of the menu, I noticed their tacos are not available a la carte. They are served “family style” (I dubbed it “expensive style”) with rice and beans, choice of black or pinto. When I asked the bartender if they would make an exception for a la carte, and he said they would allow me to add an additional taco to my order. Praise the lord! (Satan?)
I was served chips and salsa as I waited. The salsa was exquisite and made in-house. When asked if the tortillas were made in-house, the bartender informed me they were not, but the chips definitely were. Two out of three ain’t bad.
The tacos came out super fast, and were served on a metal taco holder on a wooden plate. I had ordered the pork belly taco, the grilled shrimp taco, the potato & poblano w/ cheese taco, and the carne asada taco. Pork belly being my favorite type of taco, I went to town on that one first. Solid! First i wanna say that despite the tortillas not being homemade, they were still incredibly delicious and better than most outsourced tortillas I’ve had. The pork belly, which came as a big ass slab of pork covered with a radish & cabbage slaw, was incredibly delicious, with a slight smokey flavor and cooked perfectly. It was not too fatty and wasn’t that difficult to eat. Among my top three favorite pork belly tacos. They know how to cook and season pork here, and they know how to do it well.
The shrimp taco, although not as tasty as the pork belly, was still a great taco. Granted, it was a little more difficult to eat because those shrimps like to kind of move about inside your taco as you maneuver, however the flavor of the shrimp was still spot on. You could definitely taste and see these bad boys were seasoned well and grilled over a fire, and really this is what a grilled shrimp taco ought to be. It was dressed the same as the pork belly taco, which did not befront me one bit.
The poblano and potato taco, which was BIG and tasty, was a little overloaded and difficult to eat. I think a little too much chipotle salsa was the culprit here. A good amount of spillage occurred, but that’s okay, because I scoop it right up and load it into my next taco, like spare ammo in a taco cannon. When it comes to tacos, more is always better than not enough, so really I didn’t mind if I had to use a couple of extra napkins. Back to the taco: the potato, corn and poblano rajas, and chipotle salsa, along with the cheese, seemed to all amalgamate together and create an viscous orange paste, topped with some cheese and arugula. Pasty or not, it was still a taco worth eating.
Last, and never least, I began eating my steak taco. I am unsure what kind of steak they used as I didn’t ask, but it was decent. Not too tough, and had a great grilled flavor, with a specific seasoning they used on the steak. It was dressed with red salsa and I think some onion. It was a good taco, but definitely not among their best. But don’t let this keep you from ordering it, you will eat it and you will like it. It is better than 60% of the steak tacos you’re going to eat out there. It does not, however, taste like a traditional Mexican steak taco.
One last thing I should mention is this place is not cheap. Since they do not offer a la carte, you’re dishing 15 dollars for 3 tacos, granted they do come with rice and beans. Still, I prefer to get my tacos without said rice and beans if I want and not have to pay for food I don’t necessarily want to eat. That being said, Taco Diablo still ranks among the best tacos I’ve had in Chicago, and worth the trip up the purple line to try them out. The space is super cool, the art is amazing, and the staff friendly. It’s a short walk from the Davis station and there is plenty of parking out front (although I can’t say how many spots will be open). Would I sell my soul for these tacos? Probably not. But if they cut me a deal, I might think about it.
I give Taco Diablo 4.0 out of 5 chiles.