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St. Louis Mexican

Gabriel Solis Mar 30, 2000 02:05 PM


St. Louis Chowhounds. If you haven't yet eaten at the Taqueria Azteca on Cherokee, run, don't walk, there as soon as possible. I was glad to see that the RFT finally ran a review of this (and the other new Mexican places on the block) recently, but they missed a few things (this was a review written by someone who doesn't really know anything about Mexican food, as far as I could tell): Most importantly, the best stuff is not on the menu. DOn't get me wrong, the stuff on the menu--tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tortas--is all superior. The tortas in particular are nice, since the bread is really fresh, baked at the panaderia next door, as far as I can tell. But they make specials every day, and perhaps it's because I'm anglo, but I have to ask before they'll tell me what they are serving. If they have it, get the Pozole. I had it recently and it was perfect. The broth was rich and had a nice hint of chili without being hot; the hominy was fresh--not canned, that is; best of all there were nice big hunks of meaty pork neck bone to gnaw on. Also, get them to make you Sopes (I think the carne asada is the best, though the al pastor is pretty good, and if they ever get a supplier, I would die to have some with tongue). They're not on the menu, and, unlike a lot of places, they don't make the masa cakes up ahead of time. THat way when you order them they get patted out by hand to order and fried up right before they serve them. They are crisp and meaty, just as perfect as can be.

Of course, the best thing is that, like many small, family owned places, the people there are really great. The waitress speaks a little broken english, and we speak a little broken Spanish, and together we usually get what we want.



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    Jim Leff RE: Gabriel Solis Mar 30, 2000 02:09 PM

    Gabriel--you know where they're from? Most Mexican immigrants in the NYC area are from Puebla...I'm wondering about St. Louis. If you're not sure, maybe I/we can help you determine this from their menu

    If their tortas are good, ask them to make you a pambazo (they might look at you like you're crazy, but plug ahead....it's worth it!)


    4 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff
      Gabriel Solis RE: Jim Leff Mar 30, 2000 03:01 PM

      I don't know where they're from, though the salsa on the table--a fiery, vinegary, thin sauce with that unmistakable sweetness of ripe Habanero pepper--is not like any I've had before.

      The al pastor doesn't taste at all like what I'm used to from the Northern-style joints in California. Thinly sliced pork, instead of shredded, and a dry sauce, rather than a moist, barbeque-like sauce.

      I've considered asking for pambazos (they have all the makings on the menu--you can get chorizo on almost anything), but the specials are always so tempting...



      1. re: Gabriel Solis
        Jim Leff RE: Gabriel Solis Mar 30, 2000 07:06 PM

        Well, cal-mex is a bit of a wild card...the cooking style there derives from Northern Mex, but it's really morphed into its own (delicious) thang. And you won't find it much elsewhere; there's no migration pattern.

        Sounds like your guys are making fake al pastor, not actually spinning a gyro-like log of the stuff but just doing plain old meat on a grill. A standard shortcut. But if I'm wrong, the thing to check for is adobo. northerners keep al pastor very elementally meaty, sans sauce (think texas bbq), while the southerners use a reddish, aromatically spiced seasoning called adobo that's fairly invasive toward the meat flavor.

        Do they make panuchos? That's a sure sign of Yucatecans. I doubt they're Oaxacan, since you haven't singled out the moles. Do they do a lot of stuff with fish? How do they serve their quesadillas and sopes?


        1. re: Jim Leff
          gabriel solis RE: Jim Leff Mar 30, 2000 07:31 PM

          Yeah, nothing other than the salsa seems Yucatecan. Also, the al pastor is dry (and, yes, not from the rotating slab), not with adobo, like I'm used to. No moles, I'm pretty sure they're not Oaxacan or Pueblan. The quesadillas are two corn tortillas with cheese between them heated on a grill. You can get beans, nopales, or bistec in with the cheese if you want. The sopes are exactly like I get at the taco trucks in the central valley: masa cake with meat, lettuce, tomatoe, salsa, sour cream (maybe crema fresca, but not usually), and queso añejo on top.

          By and large the food says northern to me, maybe from Chihuahua, but they don't have that super bitter, thin red salsa I associate with that cuisine (incidentally, do you know the salsa I'm talking about, and if you do, do you know what's in it?) The Pozole also said northern to me, though I may be wrong to associate that version of the dish with northern Mexican cuisine.

          The thing I miss most from the CA Mexican places, especially the trucks, is the ability to get cabeça (or caveza or cabesa, or any other combination of those letters) tacos any time, day or night, any day of the week. I just assumed it was a normal menu item, but other places I've been people look at me like I'm crazy for wanting it for just any old meal. The cook at the taqueria here said, basically, "If I can't get a supplier for lengua, how do you think I'm going to be able to get cabeça?" Bummer.

          Hey--I suppose this is really a question for the Pennsylvania board, but...We're moving to Philly in a couple months. Know any good Latin American food there?


          1. re: gabriel solis
            Jim Leff RE: gabriel solis Mar 30, 2000 08:11 PM

            sorry, can't help you with Chihuahan salsa ingredients...not my specialty!

            "The Pozole also said northern to me"
            why, was it red?

            My hunch is that these are people who've been up north for a while...it all sounds like the regional jags and quirks have been rounded off (what's that artificial accent TV anchormen do, they call it like "General American" or something? This sounds like the Mexican-American immigrant analogue).

            Bummer indeed about the cabeza. If St. Louis gets more immigrants, the suppliers will spring up to serve them, though.

            I've never had Mex in Philly, but I'm not sure you'll have much better luck there. Why not start getting acquainted with our Pennsylvania board in the meantime...ask around over there?


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