Only a few days after my incredible experience with Mexican food at Tarascas International, I was out in the suburbs. I felt as if it would be wrong of me not to compare it with my reigning favorite Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda. La Hacienda is located at 1571 Lake Street in Addison, IL (same parking lot as the Marcus Cinema. They also have several other locations) and their website is http://www.fernandezfoods.com/. Let me tell you, this was a heavy weight bout, not unlike Rocky Balboa v. Ivan Drago. The haymakers were flying, the salsa was flowing, and Hearts on Fire was blaring over the radio. In the end, only one could be victorious.
While Tarascas was dimly lit and laid back, La Hacienda was brightly lit with eye-popping colors and Spanish-style architecture. Basically, La Hacienda looks exactly like most other Mexican restaurants. However, they do earn points for resisting the urge to have a mariachi band. I do not much care for crowded or loud restaurants for the most part, so the winner of this round is clear.
If I had written this post two years ago, I would not have even mentioned this as a category since they were exactly the same. However, sometime in the last couple years, La Hacienda lowered their prices by about a third. I think it was $8 for their tacos whereas it was $11 at Tarascas. Not that $11 is that much for dinner in the city, but it is something to consider.
Winner: La Hacienda
I usually don't like focusing on service since I'm in it for the food, and I always think the service is fine unless it is so unbelievably awful that it can't help but bear on the experience. I know this is a dealbreaker for some people, so I'll mention it, but I feel like focusing on the service at a restaurant would be like focusing on the wall paint at the Louvre. Anyway, Tarascas service was fine. It was really busy, so the waitress was not hovering over our table at all points in time, and we probably waited a few extra minutes than normal. It wasn't anything that really caught my attention. La Hacienda, on the other hand, had the opposite problem. They did not have many people there, so service was way too fast. The main course came out while I was still eating my soup, and not even when I was nearly finished either. I'm pretty sure I've had slower service at Chipotle. When I go to a restaurant, usually I'm not looking to speed my way out of there, so if I have to choose one, the choice is clear. Keep in mind that this is not a weighty factor in my mind.
This is undoubtedly the most important factor for me, and it was a difficult decision to make. On one hand, the tacos at La Hacienda are fantastic. The chicken is perfectly seasoned and is unbelievably juicy. The cheese is tangy and is a perfect counterpoint to the strong flavor of the chicken. On the other hand, Tarascas has the best enchiladas I have ever had and they managed to nail mole (which is pretty easy to screw up). This was pretty close to call, so I'll also mention that the rice at La Hacienda was significantly better than the rice at Tarascas, which I felt was kind of chalky. La Hacienda also serves (for free) a bowl of soup that can only be described as Liquid Taco, it is delightful with its smoky cumin and tomato flavor. In Tarascas favor; however, was the margarita. I did not have a margarita at La Hacienda, but there exists very little doubt in my mind that Tarascas would win that one, but the doubt does remain. By the slimmest of margins (pending my drinking of a La Hacienda margarita).
Winner: La Hacienda
Now comes the round-by-round scoring. Tarascas wins the atmosphere and service rounds. It also comes within a dangerous proximity of winning the food round. La Hacienda wins the Price and narrowly escapes with a win from the Food round. Since the Food column is more important than the others...the WINNER by split-decision AND STILL CHAMPION IS............... La Hacienda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That being said, if I were taking someone on a date or something like that, Tarascas would hands-down be my decision. Not only is the atmosphere more date-compatible, but you will not be out of there in twenty minutes like you would at La Hacienda.
In any event, here are some pictures of La Hacienda.