he pescadillas taco at Bien Trucha, shredded swordfish in crispy shell topped with avocado-habanero salsa, is the best hard shell taco in town. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune)By Nick KindelspergerContact ReporterReporter Nick Kindelsperger is eating tacos every day in May in an attempt to complete six challenges posed by his co-workers.Read his list of challenges.Catch up with every day he's eaten tacos so far.Tacos eaten: 7Restaurants visited: 2 Total tacos eaten this month: 223 Total restaurants visited this month: 81 When most people think of hard shell tacos, they immediately picture a crunchy taco from Taco Bell — the U-shaped fried shell stuffed with ground beef, sour cream, lettuce and cheese. But not me. Instead, I think of the fresh and lively poke tacos from Big & Little's, or the potato stuffed offerings from Taco Tequilas. For each of these, the fried shell plays an important crispy counterpoint to the filling. Over the course of the month, I found even more great fried tacos, which will hopefully change your mind, too. These are the five best hard shell tacos in Chicago and the suburbs, answering one of this month's challenges — Are there any good hard shell tacos? — with a resounding, yes.RELATED: TRENDING IN FOOD & DINING THIS HOUR1. Bien Trucha: PescadillasOne of the stranger tacos I ate all month was also one of the best. Shredded swordfish is encased in a crispy tortilla and topped with an avocado and habanero salsa. The flavorful fish still shines through, while the salsa adds a genuinely spicy kick. My only regret is that I'll have to travel all the way to Geneva the next time I want one. Bien Trucha, 410 W. State St., Geneva, 630-232-2665,
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The salmon poke taco at Big & Little's is packed with fish. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune)2. Big & Little's: Salmon poke tacoIf you associate hard shell tacos with greasy gut-bombs, this is the taco to change your mind. Filled to the brim with lightly marinated salmon, each bite tastes fresh and flavorful. The crunchy tortilla provides the perfect counterpoint to the juicy cubed fish.Big & Little's, 860 N. Orleans St., 312-943-0000, www.bigandlittleschicago.com
Fresh corn tortillas are stuffed then fried for the crispy beef taco at Taco Mex. (Nick Kindelsperger/Chicago Tribune)3. Taco Mex: Crispy beef taco The only hard shell taco on the list with any relation to the classic ground beef and lettuce taco, Taco Mex's offering actually differs in a few key areas. Instead of using pre-fried taco shells, fresh corn tortillas are stuffed and then fried. The tortilla becomes crackly instead of just crunchy, making for a more flavorful and structurally sound bite. Taco Mex, 10658 S. Torrence Ave., 773-734-4321
At Tacos Tequilas, mashed potato-filled tortillas are rolled and fried then topped with tomatillo salsa and crema. (Nick Kindelsperger / Chicago Tribune)4. Tacos Tequilas: Papa y epazote crispy tacosMashed potatoes are mixed with epazote, a wonderfully fragrant Mexican herb, like a cross between tarragon and mint, and then rolled up in tortillas and fried. The tacos are topped with a spicy tomatillo salsa and cooling crema.
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