Tacos El Norte is a Mexican restaurant in Libertyville with authentic food, relaxed atmosphere and reasonably priced. During some visits, you haven’t removed your jacket before fresh chips and salsa are served. The school of hard knocks suggests to me to go easy on the chips and salsa as the servings are generous and my waistline prefers vegetables and protein to mostly carbs found in corn chips. Whether I visit with family or friends, chips and salsa are accompanied by tap beer, diet soda and margaritas.
Service is fine, especially inside the restaurant; the manager on duty will typically stop by for a brief chat and ensure you’re doing Ok. Typically, your server will do the same. I’ve never had any issues with service inside the restaurant although the outdoor patio service can be a little more challenging but with the servers coming and going, you can always flag down someone to help get your needs met.
During inclement weather, which can be 7 months of the year in Chicago, you typically don’t need a reservation, even on a Friday or Saturday night. It gives you flexibility on those nights when a group of friends or a couple can’t easily come to an agreement — Tacos el Norte will always oblige.
One thing to keep in mind on windy or blustery nights, stay after from the large windows that face west towards Milwaukee Ave. If you’re ever seated there, your coat may stay on and tea or coffee may be in order to mitigate the draft. The ambience includes typical Mexican art and culture and frankly, I’m ambivalent about the décor. Mind you, the interior furnishings aren’t a deterrent, but I believe it’s not the primary motivator to bring visitors to Tacos El Norte.
The patio is ideal, especially having a drink and watching time slowly flash before your eyes. With our Midwestern summers no longer than 100 days, we always opt for the patio even if it means waiting for a table. However, on some warm weekends, other restaurateurs have the same idea so earlier evenings are better to minimize the wait.
Trying my best to be a vegetarian, I will opt for one of three veggie dishes — including Vegetarian Fajitas, Veggie Fajitas Burrito and the Vegetarian Tortilla.
Going back and forth between the Fajitas and Burrito, I’ll occasionally order the Vegetarian Fajitas. The Fajitas are $13, include grilled carrot, bell pepper, onion, potato and zucchini, and is served your choice of corn or flour tortilla, rice, beans, pico de gallo and salad. In terms of the vegetables, onions and bell peppers consume most of the skillet — and the carrots, tomatoes, and zucchini are lightly sprinkled among the onions and peppers.
Regarding the Veggie Fajitas Burrito, it contains carrots, zucchini, potatoes, onions, bell peppers for about $8. Add $3 for rice and beans. It’s priced well and is large enough that only those with a voracious appetite can consume the entire burrito and for those discipline eaters, you can take half it home for a later treat. One factor that may determine taking something home is the amount of chips and salsa consumed before the entree arrives. It goes without saying that the Veggie Fajitas Burrito is my favorite dish. The price is right and the taste is even better. I love the combination of veggies, potatoes and melted cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla and this burrito has always lived up to my expectation on how I want it to taste.
Their beer selection on tap is reasonable and the bartender is quite gracious about providing samples to ensure I get the beer that contains the right amount of hops and barley. It’s nice to sample their draft beers with the bartender as he/she provides a little history on each of them.
One silly question that comes to mind is if Tacos El Norte serves authentic Mexican food? Said differently, will Mexican aficionados consider this food authentic? I’m not a Mexican restaurant expert but how would I define value here? The food and service is good and it’s reasonably priced but how would I really know? Well, every time I visit, there are many Mexican and Mexican-American patrons enjoying themselves. Maybe that’s the solidifier, if it’s not just targeted for gringos, perhaps my taste buds are not lying as I think about the next time I will visit. So until next time, Viva La Tacos El Norte.