Much like Cinco de Mayo, Mexican food is an American tradition. Mexican food after hours - even better. Right now is the season where I want to do less intensive cooking, and sometimes no cooking at all - which usually means heading to one of these places to grab some lunch, dinner, or post-dance floor nourishment.
I should note that many of the Mexican joints I've frequented in the city are comparable with each other - cheap and tasty tacos, quick and efficient service, and unlimited chips and salsa when I dine in - so this list is more a reflection of my most frequent locations, not necessarily the "best tacos" in the city. These are also my go-to's when I have out-of-town guests who want a taste of my neighborhood(s). They're not fancy, but they're mine.
Good for: tortas, tacos, salsa, birthday parties, random live music.
Ambiance: part sit-down casual dining, part taco takeout, all hours of the day.
Notes: Lazo's is the larger next door neighbor to Arturo's and has an actual dining room and bar separate from the kitchen area. It's location several blocks from my house ensures my loyalty. Open 24 hours!
Good for: tortas, tacos, when you want a change from Lazo's.
Ambiance: greasy spoon, Mexican style. Lots of booths and tables are squeezed into their tiny space, but they make it work.
Notes: the little guy next to Lazo's, Arturo's is louder and more diner-esque. It is also only several blocks away from my house and open 24 hours, so when I'm not feeling Lazo's, to Arturo's I go.
Tony's Burrito Mex
Good for: tacos on the go and plenty of guacamole.
Ambiance: basic counter service plus a few booths, rarely occupied (everyone gets theirs to go).
Notes: Tony's is several blocks from where I work, and conveniently located on my way home/next to my bus stop.
Good for: post-dancing nourishment, burritos, keeping the night alive.
Ambiance: bar close hangout for taco lovers and college kids.
Notes: you guessed it, Allende's two locations are located by several bars near De Paul (read: lots of college kids). It's also one of the first places Jesus bought me food (a burrito, which I probably inhaled), so it will always be close to my heart. And my stomach whenever I go out in Lincoln Park.
Extra-Special Shout Out:
Tierra Caliente #2: not a late-night Mexican place, but this grocery store/grill has the great luck to be located just steps from my front door (and, arguably, the best tacos of this roundup). I've dined in, gotten takeout, and (when I'm feeling more industrious) picked up carnitas from the meat counter to "make" my own tacos. They're also a great go-to when I run out of eggs or tortillas or if I just need a horchata to sip on come summer.