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Jul 25, 2007 10:35 AM

The Char Grilled Steak Taco debate continues...

While I don't claim to be an expert in the char-grilled steak taco arena, my family background gives me a very good basis for debating this topic. My parents were born and raised in Mexico but most importantly, I spent many summers as a child in Monterrey, Mexico where char-grilling and the steak taco is least back then. My first cousin ended up selling a few thousand tacos daily at his Monterrey, Mexico Taqueria...he was known to serve up some of Monterrey's very best tacos. I think you probably understand now why my family and I are obsessed with food and of course char grilled steak tacos. I like to bring a sack of steak tacos to parties and barbacues just so my friends can share in the joy.

After much recent chow-debate about the best char-grilled steak tacos, I just couldn't help myself, I day dreamed all last Friday afternoon about steak tacos from Taqueria El Asadero-Chicago(my old standard), Indio Restaurant-Cicero, and La Pasadita East-Chicago. I stumbled accross Taqueria El Asadero several years ago after a tennis game in Welles Park at Montrose and Lincoln. My friend and I rejoiced after tasting in my opinion, the very best steak tacos in the entire Chicago area. It had been years since my last visit to La Pasadita East and the name just kept popping up in the steak taco postings. I found out about Indio Restaurant in Cicero from a former Berwyn-Cicero hispanic resident. She claimed that they served the best steak tacos so I had to find out for myself.

La Pasadita East serves up some very tasty steak tacos and frankly some of the very best out there. The steak was juicy, tender, perfectly cooked, lightly seasoned, and served with a bit of cilantro and onion on two white corn (I think they were white corn). The meat-to-tortilla-to-fillings ratio was just right. The tomatillo salsa was fine.

In conclusion, TAQUERIA EL ASADERO IS STILL KING! The fresh right off the grill steak is perfectly seasoned, tender, juicy, and nearly twice the steak than La Pasadita East. Although La Pasadita East's steak tacos are excellent, Asadero's are a bit more flavorful, juicier, a bit more tender, and a better value for the quantity of steak.

Oh, as for Indio Restaurant? The verdict is still out on this one. Sorry, I didn't find the address during my initial search so I must have driven by it without knowing. I'll be back there soon. Here are the addresses;

Taqueria el Asadero
2213 W. Montrose Ave.

La Pasadita East: There are three of them (yes 3) on Ashland Avenue just south of Division within 100 feet of eachother. Go to the one on the east side of the street.

Indio Restaurant
6037 W Cermak Rd ,
Cicero, IL Phone - (708) 863-5714

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  1. Amoncada, I'm very opinionated about this subject as well, but I'm always looking for a great CHAR-GRILLED steak taco. I have an open mind, and will always try recs for new places (as long as it is verified that they char grill, of course.) Tell you what: I'll try Indio if you give Las Asada's a try. I almost made it to Asadero last Sunday per your rec in another thread, but alas, my taste for Indian food could not be ignored that day. That said, Indio would be relatively easy for me to get to, and I'll report back by week's end.
    Yes, Las Asada's has ties to La Pasadita, but IMO, they are a little better. No salsa choice as with La P east, only one green blender salsa that is usually fiery, although since it is hand made, it will vary from time to time. There are a few locations
    2072 N Western Ave
    Chicago, IL 60647
    (773) 235-5538
    3834 W 47th St
    Chicago, IL 60632
    (773) 847-1000
    There's one in Brookfield, Des Plaines, and one on 83 and Oakton too.
    I still plan on getting to Asadero, and have sent a co-worker who lives closer than me to Asadero on a recon mission as well. He has yet to report back.

    13 Replies
    1. re: gordeaux

      Hmmm, Las Asadas is right around the corner from my office, what a great coincidence! I haven't had lunch yet! I'm heading over there in 15. Thanks for the tip. I still have to make a trip to Indio.

      BTW: What Indian Restaurants to you like? I like Viceroy and Ghandi on Devon. My Indian friend really liked Babbi's the other's just south of Devon on Oakley. I'm hitting Babbi's this week.

      1. re: amoncada

        Hope you get some fresh off the grill meat.
        I'm not very schooled in all of the Indian places on devon, but I have had memorable meals at Khan's, Usmaniya, Hema's, and Sabri Nehari. Next on my list are Garab Naweez, and then Tiffin (just to say I've been there.)
        Not been to Babbi's yet - I've been discouraged by recent (post check, please) reviews of price and, um, something that's been referred to as Babbi's Surprise on a few occasions. Of course, ymmv, but I'll probably get to Babbi's eventually.

        1. re: gordeaux

          I know this is getting off topic, but Babbi's Palace (isn't that what it's called) is very good and very friendly. I've been going there since just after it opened (this was in the dead of winter, before they expanded to the second room). We were the only people in the restaurant that night. Babbi STILL remembers me and my wife and always talks to us like regulars. I can't believe it, but he still remembers where I work and what we ordered the last time we were there. It's unbelievable. I'm glad they're doing well.

      2. re: gordeaux

        I know this is about steak tacos, but... Up in Lake Villa is a hot dog place called Scott Dogs. The owners are from Argentina and they make several Argentinean dishes, one being a char grilled flank steak. The steak is marinated and tenderized and is out of this world. It's easily one the best flank steaks I've ever had anywhere. What I would give to stuff this amazing steak into a fresh tortilla...

        But this brings me to my next thought; many taquerias offer a carne asada as a whole char grilled steak served with beans, rice and a stack of tortillas on the side. Personally, I think there is something about eating my steak tacos this way that always makes me so satisfied. I guess its the traditional feel of the presentation, like how we made it growing up. Do you folks feel the same way?

        1. re: abf005

          abf005, as a lazy American, I don't wholeheartedly agree with you. Most times I prefer my tacos to be premade, and stuffed with chopped up carne asada so I can simply start stuffing my face full of the succulent meat. But, when the mood strikes me, I do prefer a platillo like this. I actually had a very VERY good rendition of this a few weeks ago. I thought it was a little bit overpriced, but it sure was a VERY good rendition, and my GAWD were these HOMEMADE tortillas phenomenal. It gets pretty good praise. I recommend it if you are ever around. There are a few locations, look them up:
          La Quebrada
          4859 W. Roosevelt Rd.
          Cicero 60804
          Iirc, the carne asada platillo ran about 12.00. I could have easily fished it all if I wasn't tempted by the meal my D/C had. D/c had cheese enchiladas in mole - a little bit on the sweet side, but we ate them all, and laughed because we both thought that we might not like the dish after we first tried it. We cleaned the plate so it obviously grew on us. That was my first visit to that place, and I WILL be going back - no question about that. On my next visit, I'll have to try one of each kind of taco to:
          A: See if the steak in the tacos is also char grilled
          B: Check what other meats they do well.

          1. re: gordeaux

            gordeaux; I tried the steak, barbacoa (steamed pot roast), and chicken tacos, plus some rice and beans at Las Asadas at 2072 N. Western Ave. Funny, I drive by this place almost daily. People in the neighborhood gave it high praise. Anyway, the steak tacos were quite good, the barbacoa was decent, and the chicken only so so. It's right around the corner from my office so I'll definitely be going back. Thanks for the tip! I'll have to make a trip to La Quebrada and Indio Restaurant too.

            btw: the mole, chicken tostadas and sopes, tamales, chilles rellenos, picadillo platter, pork in chile verde is superb at La Casa del Pueblo in Pilsen on Blue Island at 18st. Been going there since birth nearly 40 years ago.

            1. re: amoncada

              Glad you liked it. I do Las Asadas for steak only. Many of the customers order la lengua tambien, pero no me cae bien. Ok, but for the big question... How did it stack up to El Asadero??? I have a feeling (from your post) that Asadero gets the nod over Las Asadas? If so, I have GOT to get there ASAP.

              1. re: amoncada

                Also, you say "nearly 40 years?" any chance you remember a place called Las Americanas on Belmont just W of Southport? About 15 years ago, that was the best taqueria in town - and even better than all of them are now as far as I'm concerned. It may still even be there, but I went about 6 years ago, and it was being manned by what appeared to be people of Indian decent. There was celery in the salsa - nuff said.

                1. re: gordeaux

                  Yep, I remember Las Americanas. Why stop at celery, why not add cucumbers too lol.

                  TAQUERIA EL ASADERO I NUMBER ONE! Stick to the steak burritos and steak tacos. Make sure you get steak fresh off the grill. Say hello to the owner for me; Efrain Flores. He's a really nice guy. Alex

                  1. re: amoncada

                    Well, just got finished with my taco trial from Indio. I was standing in line at the place, and almost turned right around since these are NOT char-grilled steak tacos. I was there, I was hungry, so I decided to stick it out, and give it a try. My standard order at a new taco joint is to basically try one of each of the taco offerings to try and find what they do good. I went with:
                    2 steak tacos. Grade: c.
                    Since they are not char grilled, this is a pretty good grade from me. I'll never understand why people prefer pan fried steak over char grilled steak, but, to each his own. The C grading comes from the fact that this wasn't overly chewy garbage meat that most people claim is the "best taco in the city."

                    1 Chorizo con papas. Grade: B.
                    Well done here. Chorizo was not overly salty garbage that most places tend to use. Best taco out of the lot for me.

                    1 Al pastor. Grade C+.
                    Decent rendition of pastor here. Not overly salty, a tiny bit sweet. Liked this one too. The plus was for the fact that it was not overspiced or oversalted which is what I find most places tend to do for some reason.

                    1 Chicken. Grade: C-.
                    Standard chicken breast boiled in red sauce here. Didn't finish it. No reason to.

                    Salsa: F-.
                    Canned red variety. Perhaps El tapatio brand salsa roja?

                    Overall grade: Looks like a C to C-.
                    Will I go back? Definitely not. There is a Zacatacos just down the street which makes this place completely useless. Zacatacos char grills their steak, and has salsas with a kick.
                    Indio pros:
                    Dirt cheap. Tacos de asada run 1.50.
                    Steak was not chewy
                    Flavors were not mostly simply salt

                    Indio cons:
                    Pan / griddle fried steak.
                    Horrible salsa, and I mean this was something a taqueria should be embarrassed to serve since homemade blender salsa is SOOOO easy.

                    The cons here are two total deal breakers for me. Especially since I know of three places in the immediate are that are WORLDS better.
                    Amoncada, when you try this place, don't say you were not warned.

                    Next on my list: Onward to ASADERO! :-p~

                    1. re: gordeaux

                      Wow, what a report! I'l take a pass on Indio Restaurant since the steak is fried on the griddle rather than char grilled. Stick to the char grilled steak tacos and burrito's at Taqueria El Asadero, everything else is average at best.

                      1. re: amoncada

                        Your summation of Asadero reminds me of a place that is somewhate in reverse of Asadero. It is in Oak Park on Roosevelt road just E of Harlem avenue. Ino's tacos. Best chicken taco/burrito I've had in Chicagoland. EVERYTHING else is horrible, but the chicken is stellar. Simply griddled dark and white meat with no disgusting red sauce. Simply delicious!! If you are in the area (like in Indio's area) I give this place a big thumbs up for the chicken only - remember, EVRYTHING else is absolutely horrible except for the chicken.

                        1. re: gordeaux

                          Actually, the griddle made chicken tacos and burritos are decent...all white meat here. Works well with the tomatillo salsa. Don't forget to order a pina jarrito.

        2. OK, I just couldn't live with the fact that I had not been to the "proper" La Pasadita (on the east side of Ashland) so last night I made the pilgrimage from downtown out to this wonderful place. You are to hold this location in a higher regard than other two across the street!!

          I had two tacos; one barbacoa and one carne asada. I also ordered several carne asada burritos one of which I ate there and took a couple to go as well. The food was very simple, in fact, it was very basic; the tacos and burritos only consisted of the delicious charred steak, onions, cilantro and cheese on request.

          Overall, very good, better than across the street, best in town? Not quite, but I'll be back for sure.

          5 Replies
          1. re: abf005

            I am glad that you liked the place.

            Now, I would suggest that you give Carniceria Leon, just three blocks north, a try. Like Pasadita East, their carne asada and barbacoa are quite good. In fact, many folks prefer their versions.

            What Carniceria Leon is best known for, though, is their "al pastor" spit-roasted pork. You often hear/read reports about the pork being uneven, i.e. not adequately crisped on the spit, but in my experience the spitman has always told me when it will be "ready." He'll have me wait a few minutes, or he'll have me come back another time. When it's done right, though, it's real, real good.

            Let me know what you think.

            Carniceria Leon
            1402 N. Ashland

            NB Carniceria Leon is a neighbourhood grocer and the tacos are sold from a counter in the back of the shop. The business hours of this entire establishment are different from your average tacqueria. I don't believe that they are open much past 6 or 7pm.


            1. re: Erik M

              Tell you what, Erik, and Amoncada -
              If C Leon, and Asadero are better than the tacos del carbon I got from the Las Asada's in Des Plaines today, I could die a VERY happy person after I try them. For anyone who is regularly in the Des Plaines Las Asada's area - they got the good sh*t goin on these days. Tacos were absolutely bursting with nice juicy chunks of char grilled skirt steak, no sinewy bits. This is the stuff that I could eat for three meals a day until the supply is gone. This stuff has your mouth watering even though you are "Thanksgiving" full.

              1. re: Erik M

                I just moved and I noticed a storefront on Damen (Damen and Winnemac area) that is named Carniceria Leon. Any relation to the one on Ashland? Has any one tried it?

                1. re: lbs

                  Yes, I've shopped there for odds and ends but never for the meat. It pales in comparison to many of the larger Hispanic Grocers in the area.
                  I prefer Cermak Foods on Kedzie and Berteau. They stock very good meat. This place is packed 7 days a week so the fresh meat, fish, produce turns over quickly. Give it a try.

                  1. re: amoncada

                    Thanks for the tip, Amoncada.I've been so used to Edgewater Produce from my old neighborhood that I am a bit lost in this one. I'm carless but recently bought my first old-lady shopping cart so I'll have to start using it. All I need is a kerchief and tie up oxfords and I'll be my Grandma.

            2. Erik M, Gordeaux, & Abf005, on another note, here's a must try; La Casa Del Pueblo on Blue Island just south of 18 street accross the street from Church's Chicken. The chicken, bean, or pork tamales, picadillo platter, chicken sopes and tostadas, chiles rellenos, red mole, pork in chile verde, are fantastic. Leave your calorie counters at home! I've been dining there since birth nearly 40 years. It's cafeteria style. It closes early. There is nothing like it in the entire city as the food is homestyle. Not a taco burrito joint. This is where Mexican Families dine. The waitstaff has been around for generations.

              14 Replies
              1. re: amoncada

                I agree that La Casa del Pueblo restaurant is a special place with a lot of homestyle food. Here's a link to something I wrote about sopa de fideo there. There's a picture of the soup a little further down, too.


                La Casa del Pueblo Restaurant
                1810 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60608

                1. re: amoncada

                  Got a chance to sample El Asadero last night. Grade A stuff. Definitely a good spot for carne asada. I've had better at Las Asadas, but it's really splitting hairs. I could see either Asadero or Asadas having better stuff depending on when you go. Last night, the steak at Asadero was a little on the salty side, but I've run into that same issue at Asadas from time to time also. Amoncada - thanks for the intel on this place. Always nice to know of carne asada al carbon. Thanks!!!!!

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    Glad you like the carne asada tacos at El Asadero. I just had the carne asada dinner at Las Asadas yesterday for's conveniently located right around the corner from my office. The flavors and overall quality of the meat is very similar to El Asadero's. One clear advantage with El Asadero is the larger portion of meat. The salsa verde is best at Las Asadas, 2nd at El Asadero, third at La Pasadita East.
                    Don't forget to try La Casa Del Pueblo in Pilsen. The homestyle food is fantastic!

                    1. re: amoncada

                      I thought the same thing about the meat being similar. I would not be surprised at all to find out that they are connected in some way. The La Pasadita folks are also related to Las Asadas, and La Palapita as well. Thanks again!! I view all of these places as gold mines, and now I've got a new one!

                      1. re: gordeaux

                        Taqueria El Asadero is independently owned by Efrain Flores y familia. It's possible however that the Pasadita group and El Asadero use the same supplier.

                        IMPORTANT NOTE: It appears that there is a new Pasadita taqueria in North Andersonvile/Edgewater on Clark Street. It's called something like; Las Pasaditas.

                        1. re: amoncada

                          I'm thoroughly surprised that they haven't opened more already. Once the masses figure out that steak in a taqueria doesn't have to be disgusting, then all of the burrito stands that have been surviving off of the drunk late nighters will start to vanish.

                          1. re: gordeaux

                            Efrain recently sold Taqueria El Asadero #2. It was on Fullerton near Pulaski. There were already too many established Mexican restaurants nearby when he opened for business although their steak tacos were not nearly as good.

                          2. re: amoncada

                            I spoke with the owner of Las Asadas today who said this place you are referring to on Clark has no ties to La Pasadita, (Ashland )or Las Asadas (various locations.)

                            1. re: gordeaux

                              Yeah, I went the other day and found out the same. Thanks for the correction. What's your favorite place for mole or tamales?

                              1. re: amoncada

                                Really? My kitchen.
                                I'm not a huge mole fan, although I did used to frequent the Bahena spots. Mostly Ixcapuzalco as I lived only a few blocks away. Really used to like moles from that place although the prices were high for what it was. I'm going to guess that La Casa Del Pueblo is going to be a mole rec from you, no? Any others?

                                Tamales? I make my own for the most part, although I am always searching for good ones. A steady source for the past year or so has been:
                                Los Tamales
                                5735 W. 16th St.
                                Cicero, IL 60804
                                Phone: 708-222-3544

                                I haven't ventured to the spots up north on Clark since I am rarely in that area, but I have heard good things about:
                                Tamales Lo Mejor de Guerrero 7024 N. Clark.

                                1. re: gordeaux

                                  My favorite moles are my moms. She's an amazing cook. I love to cook but haven't tried making mole or tamales yet. I've been thinking about it a lot though.

                                  Yeah, La Casa Del Pueblo has great everything...although, the mole was a touch sweet on my last visit. The Tamales melt in your mouth.
                                  Yeah, the mole was quite good at Ixcapuzalco and I agree, it was pretty darn expensive. My last meal there was for lunch. Our lunch for two with one drink each was expensive at $75.

                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                    Gordeaux- Are Los Tamales the heavy dense Masa like homemade using real lard? Or are they more like really light fluffy kind you get at Topo?

                                    1. re: abf005

                                      Like homemade using real lard? I guess, but, I have an issue with your wording. Masa is only heavy and dense if the fat is not whipped enough to make the dough light and fluffy. Lard, shortening, butter - it doesn't make any difference WHAT fat is used. If the fat is not creamed enough, the masa will be heavy. The old trick is to place a dollop of your final masa into a cup of cold water. If your masa floats, your tamales will be light and fluffy - it does not matter if lard is used or not.

                                      Ennywase - Los tamales masa is a little on the heavy side (although I have had heavier.) I really like their pollo verde / puerco verde offerings for the price. They usually run pretty spicy, and three will fill you up nicely.

                                      1. re: gordeaux

                                        Spicy is always good! But overstuffed or over-sized Tamales are a negative in my book. If it has too much meat and not enough masa it just doesnt work.

                                        Next time I'm out by Cicero I'll have to give them a try to see for myself. Thanks for the rec.

                    2. Can you eat at Las Asadas (on Western)? Or do you have to do takeout/eat in the parking lot?


                      6 Replies
                      1. re: leek

                        I believe Las Asadas has a small counter you can eat at.

                        1. re: leek

                          Think it's really just a few (5 or so) stools, and a counter along the windows. All of their locations are set up differently. Some bigger than others. The one on Western is pretty small, but I love the dive joints that can pump out better food than most or all of their competition. So funny that most of the sit down joints that have carne asada on their menu for 5 or 6 bucks more don't even hold a candle to this place. (Lalo's definitely comes to mind.) Too funny what the sheeple will eat.

                          1. re: gordeaux

                            I do love me some Arturo's late at night, though I'm more of a taco fan. It's a secure feeling, what with all the police that eat there ;)

                            1. re: leek

                              As I recall, Arturo's did not char-grill their steak offerings. They may have other meats that are better than Asadas or Asadero, but their steak was the same old tired "look at what the drunk people will pay for" offerings of griddle fried garbage meat. I am a taco fan as well, but I prefer steak tacos made of meat I would be happy to serve to guests at my dinner parties. Asada's and Asadero will have your mouth watering like a Pavlovian experiment at their mention. If you think Arturo's steak is good, then try this experiment: Buy a choice skirt steak, grill it over charcoal. If you think Arturo's steak pales in comparison to that, then now you know why there is a thread devoted to searching for tacos with char grilled steak. There is a thread over on lth with some mentions on Char grilled steak Taquerias. Looks like leek has seen it already? Asadas, asadero, Pasadita, Garcia's, and Carnicaeria Leon are all mentioned. As one poster attests: "The skirt steak char grilled cannot be beat as you said, and like many others sadly, I just didnt know any better until I took my first bite out of a Las Asadas burrito." You can apply the same sentiment to the tacos. Same meat.

                              1. re: gordeaux

                                Ah, I don't normally get the steak taco at Arturo's. I get the al pastor. Plus at 3 am one's options are limited ;)

                                1. re: gordeaux

                                  I just dined at Taqueria El Milagro (yes, the owners behind El Milagro tortillas and other Mexican foods) on Blue Island in Pilsen on Saturday afternoon for the first time...I used to order tacos at the Tortilleria a couple of doors away. Anyway, the decor was bright and colorful and a few notches above the typical taqueria. Man, did they spend a bundle on outfitting the kitchen!
                                  I ordered the chicken tamale dinner and one steak taco. Everything was excellent. The tamales were melt-in-your-mouth tasty and not greasy at all. The steak taco consisted of two regular sized corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, a whole skirt steak, and couple of other ingredients. The steak was perfectly seasoned and grilled just right! I will definitely go back. This place is really clean too. Next time I will try the red mole and pork in tomatillo sauce.

                          2. One of my favorites is the steak taco that is sold outside the Cermak produce on North Avenue just east of California. Nothing fancy. Just steak on a Weber grill with onions and cilantro. The guy is super nice and there from 11-7pm most days while the weather is good. Yum.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: browntowner

                              Hmm, I had better make a trip before the weather gets cold. It's conveniently located near my office. Cermak produce is quite good too.