Taquerias: Highland Park and Highwood [Project LTH]
A while back ett094 inquired about my surveying taquerias in my locale of Highland Park and Highwood. I promptly collected the information required, then like a hen have been sitting on it for a while.
TACOS EL NORTE, Highwood
Years ago at a St. Joseph’s Day Dinner I won a $10 gift certificate to Tacos el Norte in Highwood. This small gesture converted me into a regular customer for over 10 years and running. My favorites have shifted over the years. Initially I regularly ordered tortas usually with steak asada or lengua (tongue). Later burritos filled with pork al pastor or chili rellenos consumed my thoughts. During Lent I often get the shrimp de ajo and a friend has fried fish filet, which we then share. We especially like eating the fish in tortillas dressed with their salsa. Costilla de res is another favorite, though it was better when first offered because they included cebollitas or grilled green onions. Probably due to cost, they discontinued cebollitas though I have them grill white onions instead for my order.
My current favored order is a la carte: a tamale, taco al pastor always, then either one or more tacos filled either with cecina, lomo or barbacoa and occasionally an enchilada. They no longer offer sesos (brains), which probably delights my family who carry on about mad cow disease. They do offer chili rellenos tacos, which I like though there is a minimum order of two pieces. While no place in my locale has an al pastor spit with the pineapple on top, Tacos el Norte does the best grilled version.
Taco el Norte’s Gordita and Taco both served Al Pastor plus a tamale in the background
Until two years ago, they charged $1.50 for chips and salsa, which is now offered free. Their salsa is made in-house and wildly inconsistent, you never know what to expect until you’ve dipped your chip in for a taste. When they got a liquor license, the refrigerator space for beer came at the expense of dropping Mexican Coke, which was my usual drink.
Tacos el Norte
118 Washington Ave
TAQUERIA LOS MOGOTES DE MICHOACAN, Highland Park
Largely because my favored lunch friend isn’t fond of this restaurant, I don’t go as often as I prefer. If you come around 10:30 any morning, there is usually a lady forming masa for huaraches, quesadillas, gorditas and sopes.
Huaraches al pastor and quesadilla huitlacoche
When I come to Los Mogotes, I am not there for tacos. I am there to get the stuff I used to think I needed to drive to Chicago or visit the Maxwell Street Market: Quesadilla flor de calabaza (squash flowers) or Quesadilla huitlacoche (corn smut) with a side order of cebollitas (grilled green onions). I am also especially fond of the huaraches with al Pastor my favored choice, though they offer other meats, my other favorites are nopales (cactus) and rajas con queso (pepper strips with cheese). These items and sopes are not offered by Tacos el Norte, which is why I gravitate to them.
For this survey, I did order tacos al pastor, steak asada and chorizo, which were fine in every way. Their choices of taco fillings are not as varied as Tacos el Norte, though as I stated before I don’t go to Los Mogotes for tacos.
They do not have a liquor license. They offer a fairly wide range of Mexican soda pops as well as fountain drinks.
Taqueria Los Mogotes De Michoacan
2069 Greenbay Rd.
Highland Park, IL 60035
Tel: 847/ 432.5667
LA UNION, Highwood
La Union is not a restaurant, rather it is a Mexican grocery store with a take-out counter. I was unaware of the food offerings provided until I took a tasting tour of Highwood last summer. There is a lot packed into this relatively small space. There is a fresh meat counter adjacent to a steam table with ten different prepared foods from roast pork with skin-on to pork verdi ready to pack up and go. They also offer tacos, burritos as well as a pollo dinner to go:
La Union offers elotes and fresh fruit cups, which if I was in Chicago I would obtain these from a pushcart. Since I was driving away, they very kindly sliced the prepared corn kernels into a Styrofoam cup adding a bit more mayo and cheese on top. It was great to learn I don’t have to drive to Chicago for this treat.
If you are not going home, then you can sit in your car or go to Moraine Park on Sheridan Road (east and south of La Union) complete with picnic benches and full service toilets with running water.
My friend Helen and I brought our selections from La Union to the park recently for lunch. Helen really liked her steak asada tacos. While I thought they did a poor job with my al Pastor taco, I absolutely loved their tripe tacos which frankly looked like pig ear cross-sections to me. While I prefer eating elotes off the cob, I was not unhappy eating it out of a cup because it had been a long time since my last elote. Afterwards we had flan and fresh sliced mango for dessert.
La Union Grocery Store
489 Sheridan Road
Highwood, IL 60040
LA CASA DEL GORDO, Highland Park
La Casa del Gordo would have been a subject for comparision in its former life and location
where Pancho Viti’s
When La Casa del Gordo moved to its new location
.Their owners from Once Upon A Bagel made a decision to hire a chef and do a more upscale treatment from the lunch room like taqueria at its former location.
I went to La Case del Gordo specifically for this project. When I scanned the menu, I found most of the offerings much different and higher priced than before. Tacos were not available a la carte, instead you had to buy a plate meal with only two tacos, rice and beans for approximately $9. While they may be super duper absolutely stunning tacos, they are priced beyond tacqueria level and I left for cheaper pastures.
While Highland Park does have Pancho Viti, Las Palmas, Hot Tamales and La Casa del Gordo plus Las Tres Hermanas in Highwood, they were not included in this survey because they represent pricing and ambitions beyond modest taquerias. I did not ignore the obvious, I simply consider them a different category of restaurant.
While Tacos el Norte is my default choice of long standing, I am equally comfortable suggesting either La Union or Las Mogotes. Fortunately they all offer something unique from the other with some overlap, ultimately final choices are made by whim.