Different tortillas, alternate breads and a limited number of meats, plus a few nods to Southern California are all in the mix.
Most taquerias hew to tradition when it comes to things like fillings and tortillas. But the family behind El Santo is adding things like rice bowls and blue corn to their menu, trying to shake up the traditional Chicago taqueria menu with a few twists, even adding a Mexican-inspired mac and cheese.
You'll spot the differences pretty quickly at El Santo, located along Foster Avenue in Albany Park. There is a Day of the Dead theme, repeated in the skulls and other original artwork that grace the walls. There is also a difference on the plate, noted by the blue corn chips that go with the guac - itself subject to interpretation with add-ons like corn or bacon - as well as the blue corn tortillas used for the tacos.
"So we serve everything from tacos to cemitas to rice bowls and even things crazy as mac and cheese. Really there's something for everybody here," said Mark Walters, one of the managers at El Santo.
There are just three options for meat, including beef, chicken or pork - all of them braised and shredded. You can also find veggie-friendly options.
Fried onions play a big role in the rice bowls and sandwiches, also known as cemitas. For the rice bowls, they might co-mingle with corn, carnitas and sauce, along with crumbled cotija cheese and fresh avocado. For the cemitas, they could possibly join a base layer of melted cheese and fried jalapenos for a creamy-crispy-spicy kick.
"It's a take on what a cemita can be. So we serve all of our cemitas on brioche buns and then pack it with fresh vegetables and our daily braised meats," Walters said.
Cinnamon-y sweet Horchata or jamaica, the fabulous Mexican hibiscus drink, are made in-house. While those drinks are traditional, the Pig Mac, with it's fried onions, carnitas and cotija, is less so.
"It's a delicious mac and cheese that's going to keep you full for the rest of the day," Walters said.
In Steve's Extra Course Video, he takes a look at one of the massive breakfast sandwiches they make each morning at El Santo.
El Santo Taqueria
3352 W. Foster Ave.