On our walk to the new Uptown Borders we decided to sample some of the taquerias on the way.
First up was El Taco Loco.
This is a 24-hour sit-down joint with a pretty big menu (at least compared to the other 2 places we hit). It's got a diner feel and is a decent-sized space with sit down, waited-on service. They got points for not stale complimentary chips with 2 pretty good salsas (a green and a red, both with some nice heat). I had a taco al pastor with cilantro and onion. My wife had a chicken enchilada. We had a side of guac too. The al pastor was good. I would have liked it a little spicier, but it was tasty. My wife liked her enchilada. The guac was solid, a very pleasant surprise. A fine place to have nearby, but probably not worth a special outing.
Next was the (newly located) Taqueria Uptown. This is the one that used to be right next to the Green Mill. It is now almost right next door to El Taco Loco. It's (still) a small, rather unwelcoming place with a jukebox, 4 or 5 tables, and a gruff owner running the show. The other two folks helping (one in the kitchen and the other doing miscellaneous duties) were friendly, but the owner was very off-putting brusque, never returned a smile, etc. I again had a taco al pastor. My wife a chicken quesadilla. They have a pretty small menu. A handful of taco options, some tortas. The al pastor was good, not great. Not as flavorful as El Taco Loco's. And their house salsa was not as good either. Came with onions, but no cilantro (not sure if they were out or never have it). They don't have guac but did give a few slices of straight-up avocado.
The last stop was Carmela's Taqueria. It's been mentioned recently on the board. It's a small place, but very cozy. Newly painted walls. A little plastic kids table among the adult ones. As others have mentioned, a small menu, with just tacos, tortas, and burritos. I had a taco al pastor, my wife a chicken taco with cheese. The pastor was very good. Came with the standard onions and cilantro. Probably the best of the 3, but not by a whole lot over El Taco Loco. My wife liked her chicken taco. The house salsa in the squeeze bottle was disappointing though. Not a lot of flavor and too sweet for my tastes. No guac available.
El Taco Laco is a little more expensive than the other two spots, but you pay for the sit down, waited on experience, with chips and salsa, etc. None of what we had at any of the places was bad by any means., but neither was any of it of daydreaming quality. They all had standard flour tortillas. If any of them were homemade fresh, they didn't taste it. Based on our limited sampling, I would say Carmela's is a fine spot for a bite if you're in the immediate area. El Taco Loco seems like a nice 24-hour place to have nearby (some of their breakfast plates sounded very tasty). In my opinion, (the relocated) Taqueria Uptown is too close to other, at least as good but much nicer and warmer, places to bother with.
We tried to stop in at Don Quijote, but after waiting for several minutes and getting ignored by a man behind the counter on the phone, we decided to leave.
Just some recent (limited) data points.
El Taco Loco
1726 W. Lawrence Ave.
Somewhere in 1700s on W. Lawrence Ave (just east of El Taco Loco) used to be where Carmela's Taquiera is now
on Lawrence, just west of Broadway/the Green Mill, where Taqueria Uptown used to be located