Tasty, Mexican fare at Taqueria El Pastor in Chicago.
After hearing my aunt and uncle had a layover at the Midway International Airport in Chicago, I was excited to show them a local lunch spot in the heart of Archer Heights. Only an eight-minute drive from the airport, Taqueria El Pastor is a casual, no-frills spot serving up classic Mexican dishes like street tacos, tostadas, and tortas. From my research, I could see that the restaurant is a community favorite and has a constant stream of locals stopping in for lunch and dinner. Even during our visit on a weekday around lunch, most of the tables were occupied and bustling.
When you walk into Taqueria El Pastor, you’ll be greeted by someone behind the counter who
will ask the size of your party and if you’re eating in the restaurant or ordering to-go. The restaurant seems to have a lot of to-go business, so they’re set up to quickly accommodate any drop in orders for takeout. After giving the hostess our party size, she grabbed a stack of menus and seated us in a booth by the window. The menu is relatively simple, broken up into sections for the type of food (i.e., tacos, tostadas, burritos, quesadillas, and tortas) with a variety of different protein selections for each dish. We decided to start off with an order of the house guacamole and a glass of their house-made horchata.
The guacamole, served with a basket of warm tortilla chips, was creamy, savory, and subtly spicy. They also brought out a small bowl of house-made salsa, which was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy! I don’t know how many people feel this way, but oftentimes, salsas served in restaurants are not spicy enough for my liking; that was not the case here! The salsa had us reaching for our water after a few chips. The horchata was very sweet and reminded me of a birthday cake or French vanilla flavor. I would strongly recommend this to anyone with a strong sweet tooth as it did feel like having a bit of dessert.
While working through the appetizer, the server came over to get our main orders. My uncle and I opted for tacos: one al pastor and two birria. The server asked if we wanted our tacos with lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes or with cilantro, white onion, and lime. We both chose the second option, but we were impressed they offered different customizations for folks who may be less familiar with the traditional Mexican taco preparation. My boyfriend ordered a carne asada torta, while my aunt chose egg tacos for her meal.
The food came out not long after we placed the order, impressing us with the quick turnaround time. Though the food comes well dressed, the restaurant has all their tables equipped with a few hot sauces so you are able to customize each bite exactly how you like. My uncle and I were quick to try each one of the sauces on our tacos, and they were delicious!
For a bit of background, birria is traditionally made from stewed goat meat but can also be made with beef, lamb, or pork. Typically, birria tacos are dipped in the broth that the meat was cooked in (commonly referred to as consommé) and fried before being filled with the stewed meat, diced white onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Though the birria they served had less sauce than some of the other birria tacos I have tried, they were still incredibly savory and had a very authentic flavor.
The tacos al pastor were the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, with the pineapple flavor shining through. The torta my boyfriend received was spicy and very filling, with the portion being enough for one to two people. The egg tacos my aunt ordered were not what we expected. I think many of us have been conditioned to assume egg tacos include potatoes and beans, but these tacos were much more simple, topped with a folded egg, tomato, and lettuce. While they didn’t boast many toppings, my aunt said the flavor was still good and kept her full for the duration of her subsequent three-hour flight.
With this spot having quick and friendly service and tasty food, I’d recommend Taqueria El Pastor to anyone in the Cicero or Archer Heights area or anyone with an extra-long layover at the Midway International Airport! Despite how much inflation has affected most food prices, Taqueria El Pastor maintains fair prices while providing a good quality meal.