High End Mexican Twin Cities
Thank you for all the suggestions. Pancho Villa is the only one on the list that we have never been to and looking forward to giving it a try. We actually ended up in D'Castellano's. The restaurant is located in a strip mall on 1011 Meadowlands Dr. in White Bear. Chips were freshly made and the Guac was excellent. I had the half pineapple filled with seafood and my partner had pork stuffed with dried fruit.
The good - the menu is filled with interesting items moving away from the usual taco-burrito-enchilada usual pretend to be Mexican fair; the service was excellent, the pineapple dish is beautiful to look at and the seafood inside having marinated in pineapple juice was quite good, alcohol is available and the bill was reasonable.
The bad - both of our dishes were covered with melted Kraft like shredded cheese, the pork was tougher than I would have expected from the tenderloin described in the menu.
Overall a nice change from the usual and possibly the beginning of a "high-end" Mexican market easily available in cities like Chicago and in many southwest cities like Denver, etc. However I don't think I would go out of my way to drive to a strip mall in the burbs for a repeat experience. I probably would go back if I lived (god forbid) in the area.
I would have recommended Salsa di la Salsa (or a la, depending on which sign you read) a year ago, but in addition to the consistently abysmal service, their food has slid downhill as well.
Instead I strongly recommend Pancho Villa, at the bottom of Eat Street near 28th. I have had consistently excellent food and service there. They make their own horchata, they serve their raw oysters with little slices of avocado, the fiery hot michelada is made with Dos Equis but you can substitute any beer you want, their shrimp cocktail is a little sweet but very flavorful, their nachos are carefully hand-made, and their chilaquiles are apppropriately mooshy.
The ambience is best described as casual, but I've seen several parties (mostly Mexican or Central American) celebrating their birthdays there because it's so-o-o-o good.
The fanciest "good food" Mexican place I know is Me Gusta. But it's not very fancy, and I haven't been there for years. (There's so much else to try these days!)
El Nuevo Rodeo isn't fancy (there's a walk-up-to-order counter in the back), but they are slightly more upscale than most of the places on Lake Street. And they have a full bar and a nightclub upstairs, so some of the patrons are really dressed up (white cowboy hats and tight pants are popular).
I would NOT recommend Salsa a la Salsa. Although they have a liquor license, it's not particularly fancy, and the food isn't good enough to make up for the embarrassingly bad service. On my last visit, everyone was so unhappy with the experience that it killed our dinner conversation (they were too polite to say what they were thinking...). Plus the place is painfully noisy, even when only a quarter full - it's too loud to talk.
If Latin-American food would do instead, try El Meson. They specialize in Caribbean food with some Spanish dishes (and the current chef is Mexican). It's a nice place with good food.
Good luck, and let us know where you end up!