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MPLS - Best Mexican?

I know the food scene has come a long way in Mpls lately, so I'm hoping my fellow hounds will help me out with some recommendations for favorite Mexican restaurants - preferably with an alcohol license or at least wine/beer.

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  1. For me at least, a helpful clarification would be:

    are you looking for "Mexican American" / Tex-Mex type food?
    or are you looking for an authentic Mexican joint,
    or are you looking for upscale, Mexican haute cuisine type place?

    The Twin Cities have all 3. Off the top of my head, I might recommend Boca Chica for the first type, Los Ocampo for the second (though no liquor license as far as I know), and Masa for the third.

    1. I your looking for a restaurant in Minneapolis try Pancho Villa Restaurant on eat street. Has a full bar, very good food. Boca Chica is in St. Paul

      1. El Burrito Mercado in St Paul is very good and very authentic. They also serve beer and wine.

        1. Pancho-Villa for Ameri-Mex (they have booze). Adelita's also has pretty good food in this category (beer).

          Gordita el Gordo for Mexican street food (no-booze), hell, all around - is my favorite. Los Ocampo is awesome and I think they may serve beer. La Hacienda, Pinedas & Taco Taxi are also good for street food,

          Agreed about Masa being the best/only upscale Mexican (booze served). Barrios are good but somewhat of a fusion and they definitely serve hooch...they're bars.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Foureyes137

            Tried Boca Chica in 2004 or so and it was AWEFUL! Am I missing something? Overpriced and might have well been ChiChi's was what I thought of it at the time.

            I've been meaning to get to Pancho Villa for some time. My husband and I just tried Dominguez on 50th St. and 34th Ave (just north of the airport) and it was quite good. I had the mole and it was deliciously complex.

            1. re: Foureyes137

              Just went to Adelita's tonight. My goodness do they bring the portions. I had the adobo de puerco, which had some nice flavors going on. Wife had the taco platter.

              Each was above average, as were the chips and salsa. I don't know where they get their cilantro this time of year, but it was electric. If you are looking to move from the chains to a more authentic experience, Adelita's is a good baby step.

            2. I don't understand the love for Boca Chica either. I have found it bland.

              To clarify re: Pancho Villa, they serve both American style "tex-mex" and more authentic Mexican food. They also feature the largest number of dishes that go beyond the staples, with an extensive selection of seafood. It would be a good example of what's going on in Mexican these days.

              24 Replies
              1. re: kevin47

                Agreed. Maybe not the best out there, but Pancho Villa does some great seafood and awesome Pazole. I'm a sucker for Pazole. Los Ocampo also has some good Pazole.

                1. re: churchka

                  Have to agree with MayrMN. I was born and raised on the West Side of St Paul and my mother is half hispanic so I know a little about mexican food. Boca Chica is over priced and very over rated. Nothing more than a glorified Chi Chi's IMO. If you want real mexican food do yourself a favor and head down to the El Sol district of St Paul's west side. El Amanecer, El Comal and El Burrito offer true mexican food at very affordable prices. And in the summer you will even find street vendors offering delicious tacos, and grilled corn on the cob. Also to echo churchka Los Ocampo has really delicious authentic mexican food as well. The Pazole is to die for.

                  1. re: Fudist

                    I agree with El Amanecer and Los Ocampo....El Burrito Mercado is one of my favorite stops in W St. Paul

                    1. re: mngal

                      i know it says mpls but i went to a saint paul joint today. it is a little place on university near victoria right by the "best steak house" i had carne asada it was good. i will go again.

                      1. re: zfwp

                        That Mexican place on University near Best Steak House is called Hortencia and Miguel's (aka Homi). I love their chilaquiles. Nothing else I've tried there has been super.

                    2. re: Fudist

                      Jfood has gone to Manana a few times but he is not as excited about it as he once was. Is this a good alternative; which one should be his first venture next week?

                      1. re: jfood

                        Do you want Mexican food or Salvadoran?

                        For Mexican, primarily antojitos, Los Ocampo on Lake Street in Minneapolis nearish to Chicago Ave.

                        For pupusas, El Centro, also on Lake Street (nearish to Bloomington Ave), which is east of Los Ocampo. Avoid the pupusas in Mercado Central (also on Lake Street), though (bouncing back to Mexican food now) there is a pretty solid torta place in Mercado Central.

                        Other Mexican spots (mostly for tacos and antojitos) I like on Lake Street: Gordita, La Hacienda, Pineda, La Alborada and, of course, La Sirena Gorda in Midtown Global Market. I'd single out LSG and Los Ocampo as my favs.

                        Lots of terrific Mexican bakeries in that corridor, too.

                        ~TDQ

                        -----
                        Mercado Central
                        1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Monday looks like Mexican in SP...Thanks TDQ

                          1. re: jfood

                            Sorry, I edited my post quite probably after you made yours. The Los Ocampo I was referring to on Lake Street is in Minneapolis. There is actually a Los Ocampo in St. Paul, but, *gasp*, I've never been there, though I am a big fan of Conny's Creamy Cone very nearby. (If you can't tell from my handle, I like soft-serve ice cream.)

                            -----
                            Conny's Creamy Cone
                            1197 Dale St, N St Paul, MN

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              jfood was looking at th e809 E Lake at Chicago address. then he can decide which Ice cream to go to for dessert.

                              Did the price really go up at Izzy's since last year?

                              1. re: jfood

                                Really?

                                *hanging head in shame* I haven't been to Izzy's since February.

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: jfood

                                  There's a gelato place in Midtown Global Market, but I've never tried it. Also, El Centro has a popsicles that are made locally. Not exactly ice cream, but, you know, still good.

                                  ~TDQ

                                  -----
                                  Midtown Global Market
                                  920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    did you already get to los ocampos, Jfood? at either the st paul location or the lake st. location in mpls, soupkitten recommends the carnitas alambres. think you would dig-- though the portion is so huge and greasy and delicious that *gasp* soupkitten would have a hard time eating izzy's ice cream afterward! though. . . when/if faced with a birchwood key lime pie cone with lemon buttermilk izzy. . . she'd probably find a way, somehow. oink.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      probably early next week. have a great weekend.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        jfood went this evening and he raced out of the officeand did not remember your recommendations. He ordered the chips and guac, a chcken enchillada and a steak quesadilla.

                                        Now jfood is no expert, closer to beginner in Mexican so take this as a rookie eating food. He really liked the guac and chips. the enchillada had a lot of flavor, the fresh avocado slices on top were a nice touch and the sauce had just a little kick. The quesadilla was not to his liking though, the beef was good but he found the wrapper pretty tasteless.

                                        It wasa nice change of pace and he is glad he stopped by for dinner. Thanks all

                                      2. re: jfood

                                        A double is $6.03 after tax. I have no idea if that's higher than before....personally, I don't care.

                                        1. re: MSPD

                                          Just a point of reference M, not a criticism.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            "M" meaning me? No criticism taken -- that was a "I don't care because I'll pay $10 for it. When I need Izzy's, I need Izzy's." (I'd insert a smiley face emoticon here, but as a cyclist I have to obey Lance Armstrong who, in ads, has said nobody over 30 can use emoticons).

                                      3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        I've been to the St. Paul Los Ocampo. I liked it a lot. I can't compare it to the Mpls L.O. on Lake Street, as this Minneapolis gal has never been there *double gasp*. But it holds up well to the branch in the Midtown Global Market.

                                        -----
                                        Midtown Global Market
                                        920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                      4. re: jfood

                                        I was not impressed with Manana, myself.

                                        Right across the street, at the northeast corner of East 7th and Arcade, from Manana is - and forgive the spelling - is La Tacquira El Piasanos. Got their tamales and tacos tonite. Good stuff. Inexpensive, but good cooking. A Mexican mom-and-pop-like diner kinda place. Home cooking. Talked to the little girl (she's really a young woman, but when you're almost 60 she seems way too young!) that owns and runs the place for about 20 mins regarding the offerings. All homemade, even the rice/milk drink I like so much. They had a special tonite that was a Chile Rellnos dinner ($6.50) and for $2.00/each you could get extra rellenos. They had two other specials, one a bisiteca al Mexicana, I want to say about $7.50 (8 oz sliced steak). As well as a third I can't remember. I like the place. Hearty fare, authentic, and pretty doggone cheap. My steak tacos were divine and loaded with cilantro as asked, and the tamales (pork) were LOADED little piggies with thick masa outer coverings and very pleasing and satisfying.

                                        The STP Los Ocampo is about three blocks north on Arcade from Piasanos. Doesn't excite me all that much. Too Taco Bellish for my taste as far as decor goes. And the gordita I got was two thin corn tortillas, BIG ones, and the entire thing was flatter than a pancacke. There was no 'fat' about it. Also, their prices are high, in my opinion, for whatyou get.

                                        Just about 1.5 blocks east on 7th East is La Manana. I eat here often. Good as you can get on the Westside, but only like three blocks from where I live. I love going there as it's like a trip to Mexico! Little English is spoken, but I get by. It's fun! Food is good, their refrieds are to die for. On Sat and Suns they have karoke and I have gone twice and sung (poorly and off key...) the two songs I know in Spanish. It's a family restaurant, NOT fancy, and I am always the sole non-Hispanic in there. However, I am always warmly welcomed and made to feel at home or a part of things on weekends. They also have daily specials, as well as an extensive seafood offering on the menu. I have only had one iffy meal there, in about 12 times going, and that was during Karoke a recent Sun when the cheese in my relleno was not melted and still cubey. Not enough for me to send back as all flavors were there and they WERE hoppin'!

                                        I would think jfood would be 'safe' on a Monday evening since I do not believe the place would be packed and so the food should be at the correct temp. They would also, I believe, bend over backwards to please jfood should there be something that displeased him. Just sayin'. I had to be honest about the cubey cheese in my relleno.

                                        It really is my fav neighborhood restaurant. Now I'm scared jfood will eat there and HATE it! LOL! Shades of Bishopbitters, I guess. :)

                                        Should jfood wish company other than a book for Piasanos or La Cabana and do a medley of dishes to share, I would be willing. Would be fun to share perspectives and opinions.

                                        1. re: green56

                                          thanks g...somehow jfood has vision of aqualung writing as bishopbitters as a visual. jfood appreciates the offer but he needs flexibility for the job at nights plus with traffic from the south he sometimes has to change plans mid-drive.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            I can't quit laughing! I will never see or read the two again w/o laughing.

                                            You are most welcome, jfood, and I understand. It was my pleasure to make the offer. Carry on!

                                      5. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        TDQ, why do you say to avoid the pupusas in Mercado Cental? Personally I've always found them really very good. Very authentic (I had the pleasure of living in a home that was a pupuseria once upon a time), but not greasy. And when I ask they give me huge amounts of curtido to eat on top. I really, really like that pupuseria.

                                        -----
                                        Mercado Central
                                        1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                        1. re: goproduce

                                          At Mercado Central, the pupusas are super greasy and soggy, without that crisp exterior. And I don't love their curtido as it's just big chunks of roughly-cut vegetables. The pupusas at El Centro, which is just a few blocks away, are much better, texture-wise. And, if you dine in, they just give you the whole bucket of curtido. Take as much or as little as you like. Mind you, I don't think El Centro's pupusas are the best on the planet, but I do think they are the best on Lake Street.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          -----
                                          Mercado Central
                                          1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                              2. How do you feel about Northeast Mpls?

                                Puerta Del Sol is in Columbia Heights (right by the Heights Theater, a nice dinner an a movie combo) Best Tamales near my hood.

                                The food is good. Nice portions, well priced, especially for the quality. I cant personally speak for authenticity, but this doesn't feel Americanized. The atmosphere changes depending on the specials or live music. (they serve alcohol) It might have been something like a Rax in a past life, but I get a kick out of the spanish soap operas shown on tv (not at a loud volume whatsoever)

                                http://www.mipuertadelsol.com/

                                1. I'm not sure about a sit-down mexican place. My mexican friend recommended La Perla pacifica on 60th and nicollet, but I've never been. I prefer my comida rapida. I like La taqueria Hacienda and Los Ocampo--both on Lake street. Pineda tacos used to be my go to joint--but it really went downhill.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: alpa chino

                                    I've been to La Perla Pacifica once, with Mrs. GutGrease and her parents. We all really enjoyed it.

                                    There is also a mexican joint just down the street at the Hub shopping center in Richfield at Nicollet and 66th. It's near the Walgreens, but closest to Nicollet.

                                  2. Dominguez Family by a mile! Great food, fantastic service, clean, bright, a favorite. The fish tacos, shrimp tacos, the chicken tacos on (freshly made) corn tortillas with onions cilantro, and green sauce are all delicious. Honestly some of the best food I've eaten in Mpls in the last few months. One word of warning though- the margaritas aren't very good but everything else is awesome.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: KTFoley

                                        It's located at

                                        3313 E 50th St
                                        Minneapolis, MN 55417

                                        across the street (well kiddie corner) from al Vento- just West of Hiawatha on 50th.

                                    1. I want to echo some posts from some of the other sites: I would advise against Boca Chica. Nice people but not really recommended for something special. I would rather recommend Burrito Mercado (St. Paul), Los Ocampo (Minneapolis), and I really, really have to sing the praises of Sirena Gorda in the Global Market. Really. I think that for the price, it offers some really tasty options. This place does not serve alcohol . I also like Salsa a la Salsa, which does serve alcohol.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Northsideguy

                                        The octopus tacos at Sirena Gorda are amazing. Lots of other great stuff too.

                                      2. My favorite right now is probably also Los Ocampos (not the one inside of MGM) for their chicken pozole (red) and their gordita with huitlacoche (corn mushrooms/corn smut/murky deliciousness). They have a killer spicy avocado salsa that will melt your face off (sometimes you have to ask for it.) They have beer there too.

                                        Otherwise, I love the chilaquiles verde with over easy eggs or the tamales at La Loma inside MGM, but alas, no alcohol there!

                                        Maybe I'm crazy for saying this, but sometimes I totally crave the Pina de Mariscos (half a pineapple filled with seafood in a tomato-chili-pineapple stew/sauce...I like it without the melted white cheese on top) from La Que Buena. A total seafood fix and sides for only $15! They at least have beer there, but maybe more.

                                        I also think that Masa's happy hour is one of the best in town and you can definitely booze it up there. ; )

                                        1. I really love Pineda, specifically the 311 E Lake St. location (the one closer to Hiawatha and Lake is not nearly as good). A burrito there is absolutely huge, they use fresh avocado, and the meat fillings there are stellar. If you ask for a double you get literally the largest serving of food I have ever been offered. Its nearly twice the size of a chipotle burrito and way way better. Oh and the salsa is fantastic.

                                          Homi , on University in Saint Paul is good for closer-than-most to authentic food. The Mole here is supposed to be really good. Not sure about the wine and beer license though.

                                          I second or third or generally rerecomend El Burrito Mercado in East Saint Paul. Very good. The address is 175 Cesar Chavez St. Little toppings bar, really good food, fun place.

                                          All three of these would be the second catagory from the first comment. Places where your table might be dirty when you sit down?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: larssten

                                            Just a correction: El Burrito Mercado is on the west side, not the east.

                                            -----
                                            El Burrito Mercado
                                            175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107

                                          2. In MPLS: Midtown Global Mkt, Sirena Gorda-- Authentic and casual. Masa -- higher end and not so casual. Both do what they do very, very, well.

                                            1. My favorites are Pepitos in south Minneapolis. There are two dishes there but I cannot remember the names for the life of me. I think one is flautas and the other is a bbq chicken, caesar salad taco.

                                              The pollo fundido at Monterrey's in a northern suburb strip mall is WONDERFUL. The chicken is to-die-for. It's off 35W and just past CRJ/85th.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: savvyguy

                                                In lieu of starting a new thread, I figured I could just add a 'me too' to this post.

                                                I've been to Monterrey's in Circle Pines a dozen or more times and I've never been disappointed. Last night I had the carnitas, which was (to channel my inner jfood) over the top good. The meat completely fell apart under my fork and it resulted in 3 wonderful little taco creations (carnitas + guac + pico + beans, etc). At $10, it was a steal.

                                                This place is a gem and I love it.

                                                1. re: savvyguy

                                                  Pepitos is worse than Chi Chis. Minnesota Mexican. Yuck.

                                                  1. re: nnmsgst

                                                    I really like the housemade hot sauce at Pepitos. Very smoky and smooth and addicting. I can leave everything else, but oh that hot sauce...

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                  1. This is easy - La Chaya Bistro on S 46th and Nicollet, which features Yucatecan cuisine and some of the freshest ingredients and flavors I have tasted in Minneapolis. The chicken and tomatillo soup is on my short short list of all time favorite soups - it has this wonderful herbaceous, citrus kick that I simply can't get enough of. On my most recent visit, they also featured a chilled tomato and cucumber gazpacho - maybe a little less memorable, but wonderfully seasoned and perfect for a hot July afternoon.

                                                    Achiote, a mildly floral/smoky Yucatecan spice paste, is prominent on their menu, and it adds great depth and originality to several menu items, especially their chicken. I'd actually like to see it incorporated into more of their selections (and into my pantry) - it seems like a very versatile spice. Think if ancho, paprika, and saffron had spice offspring...

                                                    I also have to give props to Christian, who has been our server for all of our visits, and is one of the most genuinely likeable servers with which I have had the pleasure of dining.

                                                    You don't hear a lot about this place, but it is truly a gem. Too often, Mexican food is pigeon-holed to the endless permutations of meat / lettuce / rice and a ball of sour cream next to a ball of guac. That's delicious, too, don't get me wrong, but the food, service, and atmosphere at La Chaya will show you that Mexican cuisine is more than just street food - it's something to be celebrated, as well.

                                                    -----
                                                    La Chaya Bistro
                                                    4537 Nicollet Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: keithinmpls

                                                      Keith, thanks for describing achiote....I knew I liked it but couldn't have described it as well. Sirena Gorda uses an achiote marinade on the mahi mahi in their fabulous fish taco plate.