In the world of brick-and-mortar businesses, Taylor's Tacos (1512 W. Taylor St.; https://www.taylorstacoschicago.com) is finally making its mark, as the place selling authentic street-style tacos with soulful twists is firmly ensconced in Chicago's Near West Side/UIC Medical District.
However, the story of Taylor's Tacos began years ago, even before wives/co-owners Taylor and Maya Mason met in 2016 at The Promontory. ("We met randomly and I thought she would be a friend," Taylor admitted, with a smile. "But she came over one day to make tacos and she looked kinda cute.")
Taylor, who graduated from Chicago's Whitney Young High School, developed her love of authentic street tacos while in CaliforniaPepperdine University, to be exact. "I went to Pepperdine on a full basketball scholarship after going to a junior college," Taylor related. "My friend and I may have made some unauthorized trips to Mexicoit's only a two-hour drive and the drinking age is 18and that was the first time I had a true taco experience."
"In 2016, I decided to quit my job and just go at this full-force," Taylor said. "But in 2018and I'll forget itI asked Maya to help after she was done with work. She was looking tired and we just decided to put all of our efforts into Taylor's Tacos." That's when the business officially launched.
Things started small. "We started in bars, lounges, clubsmaking sure people have something in their stomachs while they're drinking," Taylor said. "Then we got calls to do live service at events." But then the COVID pandemic hit and, like so many other businesses, Taylor's Tacos had to adjust. "We thought, 'We have to figure this out quickly,'" she added. "But the pandemic was good in that it got us to do things we hadn't done before, like self-serve taco bars and pre-made taco trays." Taylor's Tacos also had a very successful pop-up/ghost kitchen at 135 N. Kedzie Ave.
When asked about the struggles the couple went through to get to this point in their culinary journey, Taylor replied, "We don't have enough time for that. There were definitely struggles with money, but when you start you don't have enough. Luckily, we were able to get some grants. Also, during the pandemic, some people actually realized that racism existed," she added with an understandable eye roll. "But since I started the business, I've been lucky to have been part of so many cohorts and programs where I can just learn about business. I'm a lot further along than other entrepreneurs I know, but there's still a long way to go."
On the day this writer talked with Taylor and Maya, there was a steady stream of customersfamiliar and newfor a soft opening of the cozy and colorful space. R&B music was piped in and the vibe was relaxed.
Of course, the food is the star of the show. Taco varieties include extra-juicy chicken, savory steak, shrimp (called "really sexy shrimp") and even asparagus but there are also items such as #nottacos (ground turkey-and-cheese empanadas), eloTAY CORN + street mix (capitalizing on Taylor's name) and the MAC-nificent lettuce wraps.
"I want the food to be a true fusion of Mexican tacos and Black soul," Taylor said. "I want everything to be true to who I am." By the way, she added that "there are about 20 different tacos that we do, but at least six will always be here."
By the way, the Masons also have a catering menu (with even more taco options) and there's an event space, Taylored, at 2451 S. Oakley Ave.
"The journey is still going," Taylor said. "We're going to take it in before [continuing]." And Taylor is definitely thinking about the long term although she added that "my mantra since I've been 16 is that I never want to bite off more than I can chew. We going to see how the catering goes with [having the brick-and-mortar restaurant] because it's all a process, you know?"
And as for the decision about the spot's location, she had a quick response: "It's Taylor Street! When we visited, I knew I had to have it."
Taylor's Tacos is open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 11 a.m.-7 p.m., with possible occasional closings on Wednesdays. Call ahead at 773-615-0947 to confirm that the space is open.