To say fish tacos are a passion of mine is an understatement. Combining my favorite cuisine (Mexican) with my favorite protein (seafood), I look for them on every menu, everywhere I dine.
They’ve recently been popping up on unexpected menus as chefs are constantly coming up with exciting and unique ways to create the classic dish. Having eaten fish tacos at what feels like almost every spot in the city, I can easily say these are Chicago’s top five:
Gold Coast | 1110 N. State St.
This spot opened not too long ago and it’s making huge waves already. Their menu is incredibly unique and their chef-driven taco creations are outrageous and delicious. I’ve tried their fried calamari steak taco with feta and Kalamata olives and an Asian ahi-tuna poke taco in a lettuce wrap before. But by far their stand-out fish taco is their Fish n’ Chips taco.
It’s beer-battered Atlantic Cod with curry mayo, lettuce, skinny little malted French fry crispies, and pea tendrils. Chocked full of some of the highest quality fish and chips I’ve ever had, and with an Indian twist, it’s truly out of this world.
Wicker Park | 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Antique Taco is just cool, plain and simple. The ambiance is laid back, the drinks are stellar, and the tacos are some of my all-time favorites. Their crispy tempura fish taco is made with Sriracha Tartar sauce (mind-blowing), crisp cabbage, and topped with sesame and pickled red onions. Thankfully “dos” come in an order, because one of these just isn’t enough.
GT Fish & Oyster
River North |531 N. Wells St.
It’s no secret GT Fish & Oyster is my favorite restaurant in Chicago, and the fish tacos are a big part of what gives this spot a special place in my heart. Their wizard of an Italian chef, Giuseppe Tentori, has mastered the art of the legit Mexican fish taco. He uses house-made corn tortillas with grilled fish in a garlic marinade, topped off with chipotle aioli and crumbled up chicharrón on top. It’s a unique, simple, and tasty way to do surf and turf.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, & Stone Crab
River North | 60 E. Grand Ave.
Joe’s is not the place you’d typically think to go to for casual fish tacos, but we need to have a paradigm shift here, as Joe’s nails this scrumptious seafood taco. They top grilled mahi mahi with avocado, jicama slaw, and tomatillo salsa. Simple but with so much flavor.
— Joe's Chicago (@joeschicago) May 4, 2015
Wicker Park | 1531 N. Damen
It’s almost impossible to do any kind of taco list without giving some love to Big Star. They’ve been the revered king of Chicago tacos for years, and an outspoken cult favorite. Their Tacos De Pescado are phenomenal and resoundingly live up to the hype. I’m not usually a fan of tilapia but when it’s beer-battered, tilapia takes on a whole new meaning. The red cabbage, lime, chipotle mayo, red onion, and a healthy dose of cilantro make this well-balanced, authentic, and full of flavor. No surprises here, just taco heaven.
Kelly Rizzo is a food, travel, and music writer living in Chicago. She hosts her own web series, Eat Travel Rock TV and is also is a VH1 contributor. To get in touch with Kelly, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or visit EatTravelRock.com.