JUSTICE, Ill. (WLS) -- There are dozens, if not hundreds of taquerias in our region, but what makes one stand out from the other? Homemade tortillas for one; but also a kitchen that takes the time to prepare its fillings from scratch, in some cases, slow-cooking to achieve perfection.
At the Blue Star Taqueria & Margarita Bar in southwest suburban Justice, they're combining old school with new ideas for toppings.
"We still use authentic herbs and spices that come from Mexico, yet we give it a modern flair with our toppings," said Sandy Martinez, Co-owner.
The old school part is their handmade tortillas.
"Lupe comes in every morning and makes our tortillas handmade, and we also make the blue corn tortillas by hand," she said.
Martinez says that's only half the battle. The key is making sure someone is trained on how to eyeball size and doneness.
As for the fillings, that's where their classically-trained chef comes in. Consider the effort that goes into his birria de res tacos.
"We use chuck roast that's been marinated for 48 hours in its own juices, so it's really juicy," said Martinez.
Cumin and Mexican oregano are the stars. Submerged in citrus juices and wine, the beef is covered with avocado leaves and slowly cooked until it falls apart.
"We put it on the flat top with Mexican cheese so it melts really nice and then we serve it with the birria au jus sauce," she said.
At the table, be sure to dip the tacos into that flavorful consommé. Another unique approach of theirs is the cod they use in their fish tacos.
"The base is a beer batter, but then we also add different spices that have Spanish flavors," she said.
Covered with slaw, chipotle tartar sauce and finely-chopped pico de gallo, it's served in a blue corn tortilla.
Abuelo's Carnitas are based on the chef's great, great grandfather's recipe, calling for deep-fried pork that's pulled and shredded, served with fresh cilantro and chopped white onions.
You might also want to keep an eye out for their special pork belly tacos, with pickled parsnips, carrots and red onions.
The margaritas are made-to-order, and Martinez said as much as they work on their tacos, they know customers will ultimately judge them on the quality of their salsas.
"We have four different salsas that we serve. Salsa Negra - which is guajillo, pasilla-based. And it's more like a smoky taste. We have our Mango-Habanero, which is our sweet-tangy. Salsa verde, which is our typical green sauce that's made with fresh avocados and tomatillos and onions; and then we have our salsa de arbol for those that like it spicy, that is really spicy," said Martinez.
Blue Star also has burritos, tortas and quesadillas along with the dozen tacos on their menu, which are all on those handmade tortillas.
Besides margaritas, they also have a great range of micheladas to try.
Blue Star Taqueria & Margarita Bar
8350 S. Roberts Rd., Justice