Carlos Luna and Bernice Vargas, owners of El Hongo Magico Taqueria, have won the hearts of vegans and meat-eaters alike with their plant-based tacos.
In 2021, Carlos adopted a plant-based diet to manage chronic illness. Once Carlos and Bernice saw the impact the diet had on their life, they knew they wanted to share this lifestyle with their community.
Shortly after transitioning to plant-based foods, the couple visited Mexico City. Here they were introduced to the use of mushrooms in many of the vegan restaurants they visited. Inspired by the plant-based Mexican cuisine and the traditional Mexican flavors Carlos and Bernice grew up enjoying, they decided to start their own business and bring their spin on Mexican cuisine to Chicago.
In 2022, Carlos and Bernice opened El Hongo Magico Taqueria, which is Spanish for The Magic Mushroom Taqueria. They provide customers with authentic Mexican flavors using whole food plant-based ingredients, namely mushrooms.
“We rely on mushrooms, rather than any processed meat alternative, to satisfy integral aspects of the dining experience many people believe could only be found in animal meat, such as taste and chew,” said Carlos. “Our menu provides customers and community members with an alternative way to view food and their relationship with it.”
In December 2022, Carlos and Bernice received a small business loan from Allies for Community Business. The couple used the funds to secure equipment and pay vendor fees at various festivals. “A4CB was an integral partner for our first year,” said Carlos. “[The funds] allowed us to present our plant-based cuisine to people who may not have otherwise given us a try.”
El Hongo Magico Taqueria has exploded in popularity and was awarded the Readers’ Choice Award for “Most Impressive Cult Following” from the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Tribune also featured the taqueria in a review of Chicago’s plant based taquerias.
El Hongo Magico Taqueria currently offers their products at farmers markets and community markets throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. They also cater for events. In September 2023, El Hongo Magico Taqueria will be one of six restaurants featured in the PlantX XMarket Food Hall, the largest vegan food hall in the Midwest.