When it comes to Mexican food in general, I follow one simple rule: make a good taco! Whether it's carne asada, carnitas, al pastor, barbocoa whatever! Just please make it good.
My logic is this, if a place cant even make a good taco then 99% of the time the menu probably wont have anything else I like either. So this is one way to filter out the places worthy of exploring the rest of the menu. Granted this is not ab absolute litmus test for going to a Bayless type place, but lets face it, in Lake County where most of the Mexican places are family owned, very regional, with typically the Abuela in back, possibly hand making tortillas, tamales, asada or mole, this simple test ferrets out the dives from the stars.
Not to mention it gives me chance to check out the overall menu, sauces, inspect the environment for cleanliness and if there is a unsavory crowd there or not, (after all, allot of this is in Waukegan!).
1) Order the tacos, ask what the house specialty is, order one of those; typically its carne asada (steak), or al pastor (pork), but if they offer up anything else get one!
2) Order it the way they would sell it to the average Joe, how they say they make it, no specials/ or custom jobs, if you rebuild it whats the point? I want it the way they intended it to be presented and taste.
3) Eating: make sure the first bite is just out of the wrapper/foil plain, take the second bite with lime if given, third & forth with the house red and/or green sauces or any other sauces they give you.
4) Finally rate it, what was on it? Onion/cilantro? tomatoes? how was the tortilla? flavor of the meat, flavor of the sauce etc.
I'm working my way west starting from Waukegan (which has undoubtedly the largest Mexican population outside of Chicago) going towards Round Lake and then on to Mundelein and beyond.
That's the plan, I'll post results as I go. Anyone interested in joining me on this quest please feel free to post your results or if you spot a place that I've missed, please let me know.
1000 Belvidere St, Waukegan, IL
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