El Hongo Magico Taqueria is a family-owned vegan taqueria serving traditional Mexican flavors on handmade corn tortillas. We celebrate our roots with plant-based recipes utilizing the magic and versatility of culinary mushrooms to satisfy integral aspects of the dining experience.
El Hongo Magico Taqueria was founded in 2022 by Carlos Luna & Bernice Vargas. But this family-operated business was in the making long before then with culinary influences coming from family recipes, traditions, and personal experience.
In March 2021, the chronic colon disease Carlos suffers from became unbearable. For five years before that, doctors had been telling him that the only way to address the perforation and abscess on his colon was to remove it. This radically intrusive procedure was out of the question for him, at least until all non-intrusive procedures were attempted. It was at this time that he learned to listen to his body – after nearly a month of a diet consisting of mostly water and Jell-O, Carlos was introduced to juicing. This fueled his body in a way that he had never felt before! Any attempt to add “normal” food was met with discomfort and bloating; so he stayed the course of plant-based meals. One year after his last hospital stay, CT scans revealed that his body had done what doctors told him was “impossible:” no abscess nor perforation noted. It was at this time he knew that a plant-based diet was the only diet for him.
That wasn’t the only medical miracle noted in their household, however. Bernice, after suffering from early stages of Type 2 Diabetes for several years, accepted a plant-based lifestyle to make things easier around the house. What she noticed relatively quickly was only more encouraging to continue. Within six months, her A1C had gone from a 9.6 to 4.3! Again, results no doctor charged with her care was expecting to be possible – or wouldn’t they have recommended this diet change in the first place?
By no means are we saying that our tacos will heal customers from any ailments they are suffering from. But, we are saying that by replacing the Standard American Diet for a vegan/plant-based one, our bodies were able to do more for healing themselves than modern medicine says was possible. Throughout this time, Carlos and Bernice were able to explore various vegan restaurants in Mexico City and were blown away by how many options were available – and the use of mushrooms for protein. It wasn’t long before they realized this was something they wanted to share with their community in Chicago.
Chef Michael Flores,
Culinary Director for
El Hongo Magico Taqueria
For the better part of the last decade, Chef Michael has been an integral part of some of Chicago’s most reputable kitchens. When Carlos and Bernice developed their signature tacos, they asked Chef Michael for his feedback. He’s been mentoring the pair to help bring their vision to life ever since!
His work includes:
Apolonia (2021-2022) Chef Michael served as Opening Executive Sous Chef. He helped achieve Bib Gourmand though Michelin Guide while present.
S.K.Y. (2020-2021) Served as Sous Chef. Jean Banchet Award: Best New Restaurant
Somerset 2019. Served as Sous Chef working under several Michelin Chefs while present
Boka (2016-2019) Served as Chef de Partie/Opening Chef; earning one Michelin Star each year he was present
Next/Alinea Group (2015-2016) Served as Chef de Partie. Helped to make it onto Chicago Tribune’s top restaurant lists while present