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Jul 20, 2006 02:28 PM

Gorditas El Gordo - MSP

Despite being a gringo (in the nice sense of the word), I know enough about Mexican cuisine, or can study up quick enough to act like I know what I'm talking about. However, to date, I've done very little to expose myself to the intricacies of the gordita. Maybe it's my love for plain ol' tacos, but I just don't get around to the gordita all that often.

For a while, I've been passing by Gorditas El Gordo on Lake St. at 35W (in the old Taqueria La Hacienda space) on my way to Taqueria La Hacienda. Shortly after TLH moved, I was told by a staff member there that there was some kind of relationship between the two places (TLH displays GEG's business card on the counter sometimes).

Anyway, I finally had a chance to stop in and I was really pleased with what was going on. There were two older ladies cooking behind the counter, one of whom was standing in front of this enormous ball of masa dough and hand forming the gordita shells(?) to order. The production smacked of quality and authenticity and the result was pretty good, including a crispy, flaky empanada. Unfortunately, the meats (beef in the empanada and al pastor in the gordita) weren't as flavorful as the better places in town, but I got a good vibe from the place and it gained entry onto my list of good lunch spots.

I'm wondering if any of you with more authority on the subject of Mexican cuisine have been in there, and where these would rate on the gordita excellence scale. Let me know.

Gorditas El Gordo
211 E. Lake St

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  1. I'm far from being a gordita expert, having only had them at two places. One was at El Burrito Mercado, and it was just fine.

    But this weekend I had a gordita from Los Ocampos, in the Midway Global Market, that was extremely delicious. It was HUGE, the shell looked to be hand-patted, and it was chock-full of carnitas, cilantro, and cheese (something white and grated). It was seriously yummy.

    On an unrelated note, the tacos el pastor from Los Ocampos were the best I've ever had (again, compared to only one other place, La Hacienda, but two samples - the separate restaurant and the stand in Mercado Central). Yum!


    1. I'm not expert, but holy crap is this some of the best, most comfortable, least expensive, tasty food I have had in a while.

      Last night my wife and I were cruising Eat Street for Vietnamese ideas, but decided instead we wanted Mexican and made it to Lake Street (remembering the recent chowdown @ Mex/C.A. joints over there). If all else failed, Manny's Tortas was at the end of the run.

      We drove by Gorditas El Gordo and I pointed and yelled, "That's our spot!" We pulled around and were about to make our way to Gordo, when we saw Pollo Loco. A moment of indecision, but we stuck with Gordo. Good thing.

      The menu is short, sweet, and Spanish consisting of huaraches, gorditas, empanadas, sopes, tostadas and several other items. Not having any idea how big anything was, we just started ordering one or two of everything. Whoops. One of the bright spots for me was that they had C.A. sparkling apple juice. When working for H4H in Honduras, Guatamala and Belize, I got hooked on Manzana Sol, and this stuff tasted just like it.

      The food: As MSPD mentioned, the grill/kitchen is manned by two people, one with a huge bowl of masa from which they freshly press the shells for everything (definitely reminded me of CA street food) and a grill side. The gordita was two thin shells stuffed with beans, lettuce, queso fresco, and we added their hot salsa (tasted like ground fresh chipotle peppers). The most comfortable thing since mac & cheese IMO. While hard to eat, it had a cripiness on the outside and an ooy-gooeyness on the inside that was perfect. The huaraches were my favorite though. Beans, meat, queso fresco, lettuce, cream, onion, a little salsa on it...WOW. Wife had the sope and empanada and she loved them both.

      I have to disagree slightly with MSPD, and perhaps this has just improved over the past year, but the al pastor was perfect. It was the fatty, bacony part of the pork and crisped and curled like pancetta, and had been rubbed with something smokey and spicy. The chorizo was also very good and not of the bright red and dried-out variety. The asada's tenderness could use some work however.

      All in all a terrific meal, we will be going back soon and often. Highly recommended.

      Note: We WAY over-ordered. You truly only need one of any menu item to make a meal. We had 3 each, so we're eating leftovers today.

      1. We also hit Gorditas El Gordo at the Lake Street chowdown and reported on it here (with photos). My favorites at Gorditas El Gordo there continue to be the empanadas de pollo. I thought the al pastor was pretty week, second, certainly to that at Taqueria Los Ocampo in Midtown Global Market. Overall for antojitos (even though not all of these places have the same menu offerings, there is significant overlap), I still put Pineda and Taqueria La Hacienda, both just a block or two East of Gorditas El Gordo, ahead of Gorditas El Gordo, and Los Ocampo at the top of the heap if I were to rank them.


        2 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          That was the Lake Street post to which I was referring. Without that post, I don't know that I would have ever gone. Big ups!

          We have eaten at La Hacienda but I cannot agree unfortunately. I really feel Gordo was heads and tales above anything I've had there. Sounds like Ocampo is our next visit!

          1. re: Foureyes137

            Oh, I'm slow on the uptake here. I didn't realize that MSPD's post was almost a year old. The hard thing about the taqueria crawl was, instead of ordering the identical dish at every place we visited, we orderered whatever seemed particularly appealing at each place. And, not every place has the same menu offerings, so, even if you wanted to, you couldn't always order the same dish. So, it makes it hard to do a strict comparison. The truth is, I'll bet each place does each dish a little differently and you'd almost have to do a dish by dish comparison to do a proper ranking, and it would be just for that dish. I would love to do that "strict" ranking one of these days, but it probably takes a lot more discipline than I have. Plus, there are still some unexplored (by me) places on Lake Street!


        2. Did anyone notice whether they can make the Gorditas without meat or know whether their masa dough has lard in it?? My Spanish is so painful that I am often intimidated from stopping in and trying to ask esepcially the second question at the places along Lake Street.

          8 Replies
          1. re: RedPepper

            i'd assume that at most places the masa dough is traditional (non-veg). maybe time for a different thread on the best veg options and restaurants in all cuisines in MSP!

            the spanish word for lard is mateca, pronounced mahn-TEH-kah

            1. re: RedPepper

              The menu at Gorditas El Gordo lists "gorditas de frijoles," but I can't say whether there's lard in the masa or not--in the absence of actually knowing, I'd guess yes. Here's a prior conversation on this same topic:


              P.S. I understand your shyness about asking around at these places if your Spanish isn't that good. Do you have a friend who speaks Spanish--I know it's a hassle--but you could easily clear this up by having your friend call ahead for you and ask?


              1. re: RedPepper

                The people at Gorditas El Gordo speak English fluently in my experience.

                1. re: MSPD

                  Not to be a contrarian, but it must be hit or miss on the fluency of English among the staff, because I haven't had the same experience at GorditaS--once I asked the man at the cash register if the horchatas were from scratch or from a mix and it was clear he had no idea what I was asking.. On a different visit I asked one of the women cooking at the grill (as she handed my tray of food to me) something about the preparation of dish she was handing me (I no longer remember the question), but I got the impression her English was super-limited and so we both switched to Spanish.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Maybe they just didn't want to answer that particular question. ;-) The last time I was there a young guy rang me up -- maybe he's their resident English speaker.

                    1. re: MSPD

                      Hehe I'm willing to buy that as an explanation. It was a young man that I'm referring to as well--perhaps the same guy.

                      MSPD, have you learned any more (since your OP) about what their connection is to La Hacienda? Also, curious, what are your favorites on the menu?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I never asked about the connection after my first visit. When TLH moved out, Gorditas was open in a flash. I happened to be at TLH at the time and noticed the business card on the counter so I said, " that place good?" and the cashier (female who wasn't very fluent in English) at TLH enthusiastically said yes and something like "it's the same people as here" or something similar that, when combined with the display of the business card clearly implied a connection. As my appearance usually resembles the movie/TV stereotype of a plainclothes cop or immigration agent, I try not to ask too many questions in places like that. (that part was tongue in cheek)

                        As for the menu items, I think I've only had the gorditas and empanadas on my first visit, a chicken huarache on another trip (I was in the mood for something like Natural Escape's pibil and tried to recreate that in the huarache that day being on the wrong side of town), and then a couple more visits for gorditas.

                        I've been less of a menu adventurer over the last number of months and more of a "tried and true chow" enjoyer. Lots of visits to The Nook/Shamrock's, Highland Grill, Izzy's, El Burrito Mercado, Cupcake, Luxury Sweets in Apple Valley, Los Ocampo, Brianno's, Buon Giorno, Punch St. Paul, Rustica, Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, Little Szechuan, etc, etc. and enjoying my favorite items at each. Not much help to the Chow community which is why I probably post less than I used to.

                2. re: RedPepper

                  As TDQ mentioned, the gorditas (as well as all items) can be made with beans only, but as soup mentioned, the reason it is all so good is likely because the masa and beans have lard in them (traditional).

                  As far as I could tell, there wasn't as English speaker there last night, but I wasn't trying and just in case, all you need to know is "Me gustaria *menu item* y *menu item* y *zumo de manzana* o *agua*" If all else fails, point at the menu. That is all I did in Kenya, and it is international!