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[MSP] Mexican restaurants on Eat Street

Last night my husband and I were in the mood for Mexican food and decided to hit Eat Street. Someone had recently recommended Morelos to us so we started to head in that direction until we realized we'd eaten there before (but just didn't remember the name of the place). We thought the food was "fine" but weren't dying to go back, so we decided to pick a different Mexican restaurant along Nicollet Ave.

But we had no idea where to go. And ended up going to Little Tijuana.

What do my fellow Minneapolitans think? Where should we have gone? We live close to that neighborhood and did not want to drive much farther, which is why we didn't go to Midtown Global Market. Someplace on Lake Street would have been fine, but again, we didn't know where to go.

I feel like Mexican is the one cuisine missing from husband's and my restaurant repertoire. We have our favorite Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, etc places, but haven't found "our" Mexican place yet.

Suggestions? (Please try to limit your recommendations to places in Minneapolis west of MGM and south of downtown. We don't like to drive too far on weeknights.)

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  1. I don't know the Minneapolis geography that well, so, I hope this doesn't stray too far for your requested geography but we did explore some taquerias on Lake Street (all West of Midtown Global Market) at our "Lake Street Chowdown/Taco crawl." Pineda and La Hacienda were the overall favorites, I'd say, though there's plenty more exploration to be done.



    3 Replies
      1. re: shoo bee doo

        Where is Pancho Villas, shoo bee doo? I'm not familiar with it. Any dish there you recommend in particular?


    1. I can't offer any suggestions, but am interested in what you thought about Little Tijuana. I haven't set foot in there, but have been vaguely curious about the place.


      4 Replies
      1. re: bob s

        I used to go to Little Tijuana all the time. It's definitely not an "authentic" mexican place, more of a diner with hearty americanized Mexican. Not like Chi Chi's, more like Boca Chica. Taco Morelos used to be good but since their remodel I think they are overpriced and not very good.

        Sorry I can't recommend anything on Nicollet as I generally just eat Asian there but thought I would chime in on those mentioned. Why not ask one of the many hispanic people in the neighborhood what they think is good?

        1. re: misterpatrick

          I agree about Taco Morelos -- they've definitely "Americanized" their food. I assumed that Little Tijuana was similar, but didn't know for sure.

          1. re: bob s

            Little T's is at least cheap and revels in its dive-ness. Morelos is like a recycled Chi Chi's. I miss the dive aspect of it.

          2. re: misterpatrick

            t's USED to be cheap-- now imo it is overpriced cheap food. used to go get a $4 big american-style burrito there 8-10 years ago, now the same menu item is $10 and less than 1/2 the size. i second mersidots123's post below mine.

        2. The only time I reccommend visiting Little T's is after a couple of stiff drinks...

          1. I agree with the Pancho Villa rec. They have terrific fresh seafood, amazing camarones al diabolo, and you can wash it down with a wicked michelada made with your choice of beer. They even make their own horchata, and it's delicious. On weekends, they have off-menu breakfast items such as chilaquiles. It's a hot spot for local birthdays. It reminds me of the better off-the-tourist-grid places I've eaten at in Mexico. It is a resto, not a taqueria, with table service. It's located at the bottom end of Nicollet, a few doors up from Black Forest and across from Azia.

            I also agree that Morelos is not worth stopping for. The only time I've eaten there, the service was slow and the food so forgettably generic, that I honestly can't comment on it other than that. It reminds me of the worst of the strip mall Mexican of the deep south of about 15 years ago.

            1. Has anyone tried el Nuevo Rodeo? Whenever we've been to Town Talk, Dashen, or Midori's late in the evening there always seems to be a lot of Mexican Immigrants heading there for their nightclub.

              But, they also have a full service restaurant, open from 10:00AM until 3:30AM - and the description/menu on their website ( http://www.elnuevorodeo.com/ ) seems fascinating.

              I've never been, but I'm thinking I might have to go...

              4 Replies
              1. re: Danny

                Thank you for the recommendations. The next time we find ourselves in this situation we will certainly try Pancho Villa, Pineda, or Taqueria La Hacienda.

                As far as Little T's, I'll agree with the others who described it as Americanized and dive-y. That being said, the place is pretty appealing at 2:00 when you're sloshed because the portions are extremely generous for the price. They also have a very, um, colorful wait staff who simply add the entertaining people-watching factor.

                As for the food: I had a taco platter and husband had a something-else platter. Both looked basically the same and tasted basically the same. Like Chi-Chi's food. The same basic ingredients thrown together in different combinations and called different things.

                I don't mean to talk smack about Little Tijuana and don't regret going there. I think they know what their market niche is and fill it well. I enjoy going there when I want to get filled up on good-tasting food for not a lot of money. (Notice I didn't say "authentic," but "good.")

                1. re: Danny

                  We have been there to dance (my wife likes reggaeton) but have not had a chance to sample the chow. I am similarly curious, especially considering they have jalapeno poppers on the menu.

                  1. re: Danny

                    I like El Nuevo Rodeo, although I haven't been there for 8 or 9 months. I'd say it's good, solid Mexican food, with all the standards (carnitas, tortas, tamales, tacos), plus seafood (ceviche, tillapia, vuelve a la vida, etc.). And they have a full liquor licence, if you like that kind of thing.


                    I posted a review about my torta at El Nuevo Rodeo 'way back in ought-five:


                    1. re: Danny

                      Just ate at Nuevo Rodeo tonight! The happy hour goes from 4-7 on weekdays, with 2-4-1 drinks, $2 margaritas, and 1/2 price apps. We ordered the pork-al-pastor and the steak entrees. The pork was great, the steak was just okay. Worth stopping by for the drink specials, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

                    2. In my month-end review for April I reviewed two of these places.

                      Little T's received a rating equivalent to the Mr Yuck sticker from poison control. It's good enough for Americanized Mexican food, but the fact that you can find burgers on the menu but not camarones a la diabla, tacos mexicanos or sopes speaks volumes. It's good at 2am though.

                      I like Panco Villas food, but the dining room was more than a bit nuts when we were there (see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396842 ). Very good tamal, the tacos are better at Chiapas and Puerto Veracruz, but Villas are still very good. It's still hard to eat in there with everything that's going on though.

                      Morelos used to be awesome, but it too fell to Americanization at some point in the last 5 or so years. The food is still pretty good, but it just doesn't feel right.

                      If you haven't already, might I suggest the outstanding Latin restaurants on Central (I know, it's no where near Nicollet, but i have to hype my hood). Adelitas, Puerto Veracruz, Chiapas, Sabor Latino...all great restaurants. ;)

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Foureyes137

                        What about La Perla del Pacifico, on Nicollet and 61st? Way south of the rest of these, but I've been intrigued by the place for years yet have never gone in.

                        1. re: Jordan

                          We went there once, on recommendation because of their ceviche. I believe I got grilled shrimp and husband got the ceviche (I don't think it was called that per se, we figured it out from the description). We enjoyed the food, unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of Mexican food so I can't say how it compares to other places. They had a guitar player roaming around the tables which drives me crazy when I'm trying to have a conversation. Basically it was good, and close to our house, so I'd go again if I could ensure there was no music. Actually my husband suggested going tonight but Friday seemed prime time for music.

                          1. re: Jordan

                            My better half and I had a solid (if not exceptional) meal there back in February. I had the whole grilled fish (I believe it was tilapia) and P had a shrimp dish. The fish was better than the shrimp, if I remember correctly. We were there at about 9:15 on a Friday evening. The place had people in it but it wasn't packed. No guitar player then.

                            I'd go if I had a hankerin' and was near by. Probably not worth a trip across town.

                            1. re: bob s

                              Thanks for the comments, kate and bob. It sounds like it's worth a try, since we do live in the neighborhood.

                            2. re: Jordan

                              The Sandwich family have been to La Perla many times because we live nearby. It is respectable, but they don't seem to do any one thing as well as the best in town. For example, I have had their whole flash-fried fish more than once, but then I had La Sirena Gorda's tilapia and I was spoiled. So, Jordan, I think it is pretty good but don't have a particular dish to recommend. They do have aguachile, which is kind of a ceviche-like dish, and I can't recall seeing that anywhere else.

                              I have found it problematic that they have only round 4-top tables. We often have dined there with friends who frequent the place, and our party of six (two couples, each with a chowpup) pushes together two round tables, which makes for an awkward experience. Something to keep in mind if you have more than four people.
                              They do have 2 for 1 margaritas during the dinner hour, though!

                              In general, I am liking taquerias better than restaurantes for la comida mexicana lately, both for price and for sheer pleasure of the food.

                              I think that the most interesting mex restaurant experience is a molcajete or a parrillada. These are big giant dishes for two (or more!) people to share.

                              A few blocks south of La Perla in the Hub shopping center at 66th & Nicollet is a Morelos MexGrill, where you can get the molcajete (mole-ka-HET-ay). Yeah, same people as the 26th Street (right off Eat Street) place, which I have not been to for a few years, so I don't know if they have 'em, too. They bring out this big lava-stone bowl full of a kind of stew with all sorts of stuff in it, as well as a pile of tortillas and a plate of rice & beans. There is a meat version ($25?) and a seafood version ($35?). I like either, but you probably want 3-4 people to share.

                              A similar thing is a parrillada, which I have had at El Paraiso at 35th & Nicollet (only I think it was called El Rey de Oro back then?). It is a big metal tray of meat or seafood with a warmer under it. I think parrillada (pa-ree-YA-da) means basically "grilled," and the meat and stuff is still grilling on that thing when they bring it out of the kitchen. This also will STUFF two people and probably be just right for 3-4 people.

                              El Conde de Sandwich

                          2. I like Taqueria La Hacienda on East Lake. Mmm... al pastor. I've also had a few good meals at Salsa a la Salsa. It doesn't thrill me, but the food is fresh, the service is good, and I've tried new things there that I haven't seen at some other places. It turns out that I like cactus, which is a nice discovery. The atmosphere is nicer than Morelos. I've only ever been to Little T's when, uh, [how many sheets to the wind is it?] It is more of a place to soak up liquor and hang out in the middle of the night.

                            1. how about el mariachi-- it's in the little strip mall area south of shuang hur grocery and across the street from quang-- you have to pull into the parking lot to see it, so it is often overlooked. as i recall the menu ranged from more expensive and authentic regional mexican on the first several pages to a taco & burrito menu on the back page. we used to go there--is the establishment still open?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: soupkitten

                                I have to add voice to the decline of Morelos. Before the format change, I loved it. I don't at all enjoy it anymore.

                                Based on the recommendations on this thread, I tried Pancho Villa Saturday and really enjoyed. The prices were reasonable, the service was great, the portions were good, and the food was delicious. We had a couple margaritas (not sweet at all, and plenty strong), Viking Nachos (excellent! individually topped), burrito with rice and beans side (yummy and filling), a chili renello filled with chicken (a little watery inside, but still very tasty) with a tamal (lots of meat in it) and beans and rice side. Couple of diet cokes, and the total was $40. I was really pleased.

                                There is a little restaraunt in the back of a supermarket on 28th and Blaisdale that makes pretty darned authentic small dishes - their huaraches are good, and pretty cheap. The Strib did a write up on it a while back. I haven't been in about a year, but recall enjoying it for what it was. You won't have a full sit down experience there, but you can enjoy a quick bite there.

                                1. re: pgokey

                                  thanks for the hint on the supermarket at 28th and Blaisdale. I drive by there almost every day and did not know they had chow-worthy food. Anything else to recommend besides huaraches?

                                  1. re: bob s

                                    I've tried several other things and have felt they were good, but can't recall what. I haven't eaten there since last spring, but for no particular reason. The huarcaches stand out because it's one of the few places I can find huaraches at all.

                                    I need to give a caveat: I know a couple of people whose tastes I trust who went there and have had flavorless experiences there. (I'm not sure how much experience they have had with truly authentic Mexican, though.) I think there are a few dishes that might need hot sauce or salsa on them to get flavor - I think that's generally true of certain authentic Mexican foods, though. I found that at taquerias in California - it's all about the salsa. So, some don't like that sort of thing, and some do.

                                    1. re: pgokey

                                      OK, so I tried to go there to get a huarache tonight, being that it's been on my mind, and discovered it's closed. The grocery store is still open, but the restaurant is closed down. Boo.

                                      Anyone know of any place in the cities that sells huaraches?

                                      1. re: pgokey

                                        A bunch of the taquerias on East Lake Street have huaraches - but I can't remember which ones.

                                        But I *do* remember seeing them (or a picture of them) at Los Ocampo in the Midtown Global Market.


                              2. Salsa A La Salsa on Nicollet is outstanding. We are die hard fans of this place and go there quite often. We had our grooms dinner there and people raved about the food.

                                Pepito's at 4820 Chicago avenue is another fine choice.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: jdlyons15

                                  You must be beating the odds. The first few times were great, but soon afterwards they started their death spiral - intermittent quality of food (sometimes great, sometimes awful) and atrociously slow service. I've given them a rest for the past year in favor of Pancho Villa.

                                  If you're still eating there, and with raving success, it sounds like they've gotten their act together and worth another try. I like when places come back from the brink, but it's better if they never get there in the first place.

                                  1. re: Loren3

                                    Loren, are you talking about Salsa a la Salsa or Pepitos? Or both?

                                    I am addicted to Pepito's housemade salsa (don't know why--just a really nice blend of flavors, kind of smokey, very smooth), otherwise, I think it's just fine/okay.

                                    I haven't been to S a la S on Nicollet, but I have been to their outpost at MGMkt (once) and had a very nice chicken in mole sauce with plain (i.e., just masa, no filling) tamales. It's one of two places in Midtown Global Market that has table service (Chang Bang being the other) and it was actually nice to sit and be waited on, I thought. Full bar, too.


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      I was dissing the S ala S on Nicollet. Haven't been to their outpost at MGMkt yet. Haven't been to Pepito's yet either.

                                      1. re: Loren3

                                        i think pepito's is to mexican food in msp as white lily was to vietnamese. . .

                                        does that make sense? dining at pepito's was a retro thing for us for a while (dh's hangout after little league games in the 80's), but there are so many new places to try that there is no reason to go back. . . well maybe that salsa, that was good!

                                2. Haven't seen my favorite on here yet, unless I missed:

                                  La Poblanita on Lake St., I can't remember the cross street but it is in the same block as Ingebretsen's and Northwoods (?) Poster Co-op. La Poblanita is on the corner at the extreme opposite end from Ingebretsen's (there is another taqueria in the same block, haven't tried it).

                                  They recently redid their interior to expand into a neighboring space and now feature some lovingly painted murals and arched windows/actual roofing tiles/etc. to make it look like a mexican village. Very clean, lots of tvs often playing loudly. I think they may have karaoke or dancing on occasion. We always have some slight awkwardness when we go about whether we should order at the counter or if there is table service (there must be a certain schedule but we haven't figured it out). Either way, everyone is nice and there is always someone who speaks english. The menu is large and delicious with taqueria standbys and combo plates (including tongue and brains, all the weird cuts of meat) as well as traditional mexican entrees (like mole). Once I ordered the torta cubano (cuban style sandwich) on a whim and it was delightfully out of control (featuring a sliced up hotdog, fried egg, pounded, seasoned beefsteak, veggies-- it was huge and delicious). I also really like their sopes.

                                  La Poblanita
                                  1617 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407