Smile Politely

A review of Taco Shack in Campustown

Oh, Green Street, how I’ve missed thee — but only as a student. As a non-student, it’s an utter nightmare to navigate in a vehicle. And to sound more like a crotchety, old alumna, I spent far too long looking for Taco Shack, a little joint tucked into the east side of the street, sandwiched between Brother’s and another restaurant that wasn’t there when I was years ago.

Finally abandoning the car and pursuing on foot — a decision that should’ve been the only one — I found it, realizing why it was difficult to spot: it didn’t yet have a sign mounted above its doors. Green Street is an ever-changing retail landscape, but here’s why I hope Taco Shack can stick it out amongst the competition and campus-central location.

An exterior photo of the front door of Taco Shack showing that they are open and the hours. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

Once I went into Taco Shack, I was greeted by a now all-too-familiar 2020 sight: an empty restaurant floor. Bright orange chairs were stacked on tables and any other form of seating by the window was just gone. But any feelings of pity were quelled by a friendly face from the staff at the register.

The interior of Taco Shack in Champaign is empty. There is a long counter on the left and several tables on the right with orange chairs stacked up tall. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

Everything looked super clean, and both staff I saw were masked and gloved. Ordering was easy since they have a pretty basic menu: tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas, and nachos.

I ordered chicken tacos traditional style (cilantro and onion), steak tacos “T.S. style” (guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream), a pork quesadilla, and a chicken burrito.

A chicken taco with guacamole on top in a tin foil wrapper. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

Starting off with the tacos, I’m just going to come right out and recommend your tacos T.S. style. I’m a fan of sour cream on anything, so naturally I liked these more than the traditional. However, my chicken tacos oddly came topped with guac, but no complaints here.

A steak taco sits in a tin foil wrapper. The taco is covered in salsa and sour cream. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

I also liked the steak more than the chicken, as it seemed seasoned better. While the steak was a bit tough and the chicken a little dry, they were still more than edible. Both were tasty. You can order three steak tacos for $8.99 or chicken for $7.99. Plus, $9 for fresh steak tacos with guac, pico, and sour cream is a pretty good deal. I’d definitely order these again.

I really wanted some nachos because #nachosareeverything, but for some reason they weren’t offering them the day I went. Otherwise, they come topped with beans, melted cheese, pico, jalapeño, and sour cream, and vary price-wise depending on your choice of protein. They offer chicken, steak, pork, and tofu for their protein options.

A full burrito with light brown grill marks sits in tin foil. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

So instead of the nachos. I went with a chicken burrito ($7.99). Controversially, I don’t really care for burritos because I just find them too difficult to eat. Half or more of it usually just ends up falling apart onto the plate. But, everyone else loves burritos, so it was the next best option.

A sliced open burrito reveals rice, beans, and meat inside, sitting on a tin foil paper. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

In all transparency, the burrito was really disappointing. It didn’t taste seasoned at all despite being full of promising ingredients: rice, beans, pico de gallo, cheese, and sour cream. It didn’t taste as good as it looked. Neither the meat nor rice tasted seasoned, and the beans were dry and gritty.

A pork quesadilla has light brown grill marks and sits inside a tin foil wrapper. The quesadilla and tin foil are inside a white styrofoam container with two mini salsa containers. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

But, I saved the best for last: the pork quesadilla ($8.25). When I tasted it, I literally said “Oh, my god,” out loud. It was that yummy.

A side shot of the quesadilla showing the meat, beans, and salsa inside. Photo by Remington Rock.

Photo by Remington Rock.

It was seasoned beautifully and was juicy. The quesadillas come with these options: plain cheese, chicken, steak, and tofu. The quesadilla was filled with cheese, pico de gallo, and sour cream: all good things. And as a bonus, it was also pretty good leftover. Alongside the quesadilla came red salsa and salsa verde, both of which I loved. The red was smoky, and the verde tasted really fresh and homemade. I’m not actually sure if it’s made in-house, but I’d believe it.

An overhead shot of Taco Shack's meals on a brown tablecloth. Photo by Remington Rock.

I would 100% go back, and order the pork quesadilla again. Granted, there’d be more incentive to go again if the students were gone because then there wouldn’t be so much traffic.

If you didn’t want to brave going in person (totally relate), Taco Shack is on Chowbus. They’re also supposedly on DoorDash, but when I initially tried to order it that way, I had zero luck: neither pickup nor delivery was an option for some reason. I didn’t have to wait long at the restaurant at all, so going in person still isn’t bad; it just isn’t as convenient.

If you have a craving for tacos or quesadillas, give Taco Shack a try. Either try to order delivery or just go in person, especially over winter break. This little hole-in-the-wall genuinely deserves a chance after my experience. It’d be nice to see a slower turnover rate on Green Street, especially after the loss of longtime staples like Zorba’s. I had almost forgotten what it was like to interact face-to-face with nice restaurant staff, even before the pandemic. Taco Shack is a little hard to narrow down, from finding a connected phone number (use the one on Facebook) to a delivery option, but don’t let the inconvenience stop you from supporting this local spot.

Taco Shack
611 E Green Street
10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., daily

Top image by Remington Rock.

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