My Taco Tour of Aurora
I haven’t written a post for while. Partly because I don’t think people are that interested in my writing updates because…writing updates aren’t that interesting. While I have been working a lot on my next project, I did find opportunity last week to explore another passion of mine.
Last week, my son was taking an Improv Camp at the Paramount School of Performing Arts in downtown Aurora, IL. I decided that after taking him in the morning, I would just work at the library and dedicate my day to my writing. To make it more like a vacation, I created my own taco tour where each day I would walk to a new location for lunch. After extensive research, I felt my work sampling tacos was strong enough to share with my friends, family, and writing community. This tour is designed for anyone who also has a passion for finding perfect tacos and is open to adventures.
Here are the parameters of my tour, and how I am rating each experience:
1) Each of the five locations is situated in downtown Aurora. I designed the stops to be walkable so someone could take this tour in a single afternoon.
2) The only common taco I had at each is pastor (pork). The others varied by location and recommendations by staff.
3) Each of these locations has earned a place in my heart, and as a result, each commentary will only be highlighting what I loved about the experience. Tacos bring people happiness folks, no room for haters here.
Let’s take the tour.
Monday: Taqueria El Tio & Restaurant
Just a block from the library, this was an easy start to the tour. The staff was friendly, seating cozy, and was a perfect break from writing. I ordered pastor and asada tacos, sat back, and waited to be happy. The marriage of meats and tortillas did not disappoint; I would stack these against any other location in our area. But what made it truly double-bonus amazing was the value. It was Monday, which meant dollar tacos. When I paid my bill of $3.32, I couldn’t use my card because I hadn’t hit the $5.00 minimum for a credit card purchase. What an amazing problem to have…to be full of delicious food and know you have to buy more tacos to spend over $5.00. For the value, this place can’t be beat.
Tuesday: Tecalitlan Restaraunt
This is an establishment I’ve driven past hundreds of times, always saying, “I should try that place out,” but never made the effort. I’m grateful my tour took me here, because this is a taco all others will be compared against. Why the bold statement that I assure you is not hyperbole? Simple—homemade tortillas. Only in Mexico had I experienced tacos with homemade tortillas and it truly is a food adventure that you can’t come back from. I could tell right away these tortillas were created fresh in-house and they made every taco better for it. My waitress had that phenomenal blend of being very polite, and equally assertive. My taco platter came with beans (which I hate) and didn’t touch. She asked me why and after explaining I don’t like beans, she scooped some hot sauce, stirred it into the beans, pushed my chips toward me and said, “now try, you’ll like it.” Who am I to say ‘no’ in her place? I wasn’t planning on eating beans for the rest of my life, but felt it was important to embrace every unexpected turn in my taco tour. A few chips with beans later and I was in her good graces. I thanked her for the amazing meal and let her know that my wife can’t even get me to eat beans. She told me to bring my wife in next week. Which I will, because I was not about to lie to this woman.
Wednesday: Jalisco Tacos Authentico
Just up the hill is one of the more popular taco destinations of Aurora, Jalisco’s. I was impressed with the size of the restaurant and friendly staff. What I love about Jalisco’s (and each of my stops) is they don’t skimp on portions of protein. So many Americanized tacos are notoriously short on what’s put on the tortilla. Not Jalisco’s. In sampling the pastor alone, I found it to be incredibly seasoned. It had the highest flavor content of the tour (so far…just wait). One of the perks about Jalisco’s, and why I think it’s a perfect date night, is its location next to a Mexican Bakery. If you’ve never experienced one, they are life changing. Bakeries in the suburbs have been a dying breed for years, which is all the more reason I love that Aurora offers a variety of them. Mexican bakeries are designed opposite of their American counterparts (you get a tray and grab everything yourself instead of pointing behind the counter) and have too many great pastries to name. The combination of tacos and a treat at the bakery—don’t waste that evening on a casual date, save this for when you found the ‘one.’
Thursday: La Chinta de la Reys
Full disclosure—I had a meeting at my day job on Thursday and wasn’t in Aurora. But, to keep in the structure of this post and the tour I will discuss the only restaurant I have frequented many times that fits the parameters of tour. You know how when you find a place you like, and you’re too afraid to venture away from it? That’s La Chinta for our family. We’ve been coming here for years and it never disappoints. This is one of the larger places, with multiple floors and outdoor seating. What makes this a worthy stop is all the extras. Salsa can be great anywhere, but salsa made at your table for you? Guac to go with it? That’s just something you can’t get most places. And if you do go, aim for a Friday evening. Having amazing tacos with fresh salsa and guac while the horns of the Mariachi band blast energy into the hearts of taco lovers…just an experience you have to try for yourself.
Friday: Taqueria Durango
You know that feeling when you walk into a new restaurant…it’s loud, no tables are open, and only one server is manning the entire place? When I see that, I immediately think, “this place is for real.” Taqueria Durango is for real. I had my oldest with me for lunch and after shifting a table around were able to find a seat. I noticed the tacos seemed slightly pricier than the other places on the tour, but didn’t pay much attention to it. When my son’s 3 pastors with cilantro and onions arrived, I saw why. Never in my life had I seen seasoned pork spilling from a tortilla like this. It was beautiful. And delicious. After finishing our meals, I went to the counter to pay and realized why Taqueria Durango did the pigs who dedicated their life to tacos justice. Spinning, glowing, and dripping for all to enjoy was the pastor wheel. If you’ve never seen a pastor wheel, it resembles a gyro spire. The pork is seasoned and stacked 2 feet high, with pineapple on top allowing the sweetness of the juice to counter the salt int he pork. If you’ve never had pastor tacos with meat shaved fresh off the wheel, you may not want to. Every other taco will disappoint you. That’s a promise.
While all of these restaurants serve tacos, I loved seeing the different personalities and flavors of each venue. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
Part of being a teacher is you are allotted a little more freedom in the summer for adventures. While my destination of downtown Aurora is only a 14 minute drive from my house, I’m grateful to the city for giving me a great library to work in, and amazing tacos to build a tour around.