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Jun 1, 2012 07:39 AM

Mexican Restaurants in the TwinCities

Hello all fellow Chowhounders!
I'm looking to try new Mexican restaurants in the TC area. I did a search and there are so many out there...ahh! There are so many places to choose but where to start? I prefer more of a sit-down style restaurant rather than a market setting.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Just out of curiosity, where have you been already?

    Barring the Midtown Global Market, my standbys are Los Ocampo's on Lake & Chicago, Las Teresitas off of 62 & 34th Ave (killer salsa bar), and Pineda Tacos in West St. Paul for burritos. Both Los Ocampo's and Las Teresitas have a pretty decent menu, so if you are looking to go beyond typical tacos and burritos there are plenty of choices.

    1 Reply
    1. re: magz0r

      Most places do some things better than others, too. I would go to Gorditas el Gorda for all things masa, but la hacienda for torta milanesa, and la loma for chilaquiles.... Not really one stop shopping imo...
      Senora grill has lengua and shrimp tacos that are pretty untouchable...
      I fantasize about cataloging what is best at what place all from east to west on lake street, but alas, not yet...

    2. I'd recommend starting on Cesar Chavez Drive in West Saint Paul at Boca Chica. That's probably the most authentic Mexican sit down that I can think of. Fantastic Mole sauce too.

      There are a lot of other Mexican joints on CC Drive there too. Start at Boca Chica and then work your way through them.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Db Cooper

        I really dislike Boca Chica. I find their food desperately bland.

        For sit down, I like Pancho Villa on Eat Street. Otherwise, Los Ocampo, La Loma, La Pineda and Sonora Grill are all very good.

        1. re: kevin47

          To each their own. No hurt feelings here. I know we disagree on things from time to time. I think Saffron's food is akin to Kibbles and Bits and their staff has the manners of the Assad regime while you think it can be argued as one of the best restaurants in town. Different stokes for different folks. I do know most of my Mexican friends on the East Side of the River prefer Boca which is why I suggested it.

          Some of my golf buds were talking about a place across the street from Boca that is supposed to be really good, but not sure about the name.

          1. re: Db Cooper

            I think they settle for Boca Chica, and likely just don't want to go far. My father was good friends with the original owner(I think one of his kids or grand kids owns it now) and way back when would frequent it quite a bit. now a days, its just not worth visiting other than for nostalgia.

            1. re: getgot211

              Sad to hear. I went last year and it was actually pretty good. But to be fair, it was a Sunday night, it was quiet, and not very busy. I may have just lucked out.

          2. re: kevin47

            I never liked Boca Chica either. I'd suggest El Burrito Mercado instead, and it's on Cesar Chavez.

        2. I agree with many of these - the Gorditas, Quesadillas and Sopes at Gorditas el Gordo are the best! Almost anything at Los Ocampos and Sonora Grill is great. I love Las Teresitas for their tacos, burritos, and chilaquiles. The chilaquiles and tamales at La Loma are great. I'll add one more - I really like the enchiladas and seafood tacos at Dominguez Restaurant.

          1. I enjoy the hell out of Andale in Richfield. I had three sets of 2 tacos last night -- lengua, al pastor, and suadero (beef brisket). Normally at Ocampos, Taqueria La Hacienda, Gorditas el Gordo, and even previous visits to Andale, 6 tacos is a "right sized" supper. The guy last night absolutely loaded mine...I was stuffed to the gills. Enjoyable from a quality perspective in addition to quantity. Their tortas are massive and current favorite in MSP.

            That said, (and continuing into my next recommendations) I'm not sure to what degree you mean "sit down". Andale is "sit down" in the same vein as a McDonald's. There isn't table service.

            El Burrito Mercado is a go-to spot for me as well, and they do offer table service (I haven't tried it) as well as cafeteria line.

            I had good food at Gorditas el Gordo the other day including sopes. Unfortunately this time the masa on the sopes was a little too heavy. First time I've experienced that there though. The masa is all prepared to order, so it is more prone to error.

            Masa on Nicollet Mall is the upscale version. If you're expecting Topolobampo/Frontera Grill innovation, you won't like it (I was the first time based on the press and was disappointed). I've had some good meals there though. Their $10, three-item weekday lunch special is a steal if you work downtown.

            1. I highly recommend Taqueria Los Ocampos. I've tried their location at Lake & Chicago as well as inside the Midtown Global Market, and I've gotten consistently delicious sopes and tacos at each place. I think they have a sit-down restaurant in St. Paul.

              I also really like La Loma's tamales, especially the Oaxacan and sweet corn ones. I don't know if they have a sit-down location.

              Los Arcos in West St. Paul is excellent, too. It's sit-down, but I can't think of anything good to say about the atmosphere in there. Boca Chica is sit-down, but the food is pretty bad - more like an American chain version of Mexican food, in my opinion.

              14 Replies
              1. re: ShinyCake

                I've been a fan of Los Ocampos since the Midtown Global Market days, pretty sure it was their only location. Then the Chi-Lake (right across the street). I've been to the sit down in St. Paul (right off 94 / White Bear) and it was excellent. I had a Huarachazo (masa cake covered in stuff) that was covered in baby squash blossoms! Madness. I need to go there more.

                1. re: semanticantics

                  Los Ocampos started in Lake Plaza, they've lost a little in expanding as would be expected, but they are still my favorite for the basics.

                2. re: ShinyCake

                  Shiny cake said all I was going to (plus the bit about La Loma).

                  Piling one more rec on for Los Ocampo in St. Paul (Suburban Ave. sit down location) and Los Arcos in West St. Paul.

                  Beware Los Arcos' karaoke, though - went there on an early Sunday evening and, although the place was nearly full of families trying to have a conversation, compared to approx 4 karaoke participants, the karaoke was blasted so loud that I could't hear a word that was said at our table. Even the server was obviously irritated by the karaoke! Unless that appeals to you, I'd strongly recommend calling ahead to check whether karaoke is going on.

                  1. re: diesel

                    And I'll subtract one for Los Ocampo in St. Paul. Went there this weekend for the first time. Not good. Not good at all. Not inedible, but we won't be back. Of my list of issues -

                    1) What Spanish rice has canned mixed vegetables in it? I have never seen peas or carrots in my Spanish rice before dining at Los Ocampo.
                    2) Parmesan cheese (as in, Kraft grated parmesan cheese) on my refried beans and my enchiladas? What? I felt like I was at an Olive Garden.
                    3) Hubby ordered the spiciest chicken enchiladas on the menus and they weren't remotely spicy. In fact, very little of what we ordered had any flavor at all.
                    4) My pastor enchiladas were meh at best. I don't like a ton of spice, but SOME flavor would have been nice.

                    In all honesty, the best thing I had was the Jarritos. I was really disappointed as I've heard such good things about this place, but it was a real bust for us. Too many good places to eat in the Cities to go back there.

                    1. re: Seige

                      I'd venture to say you missed ordering the best things at Los Ocampos -- sopes, huarachazo, and the regular tacos (I like the carnitas and tinga de pollo, personally).

                      At the Suburban Ave location, they often won't give you the spiciest of salsa, but they have a green one that has quite a kick. You have to know to ask for it.

                      1. re: jaycooke

                        I agree that the best items at Los Ocampo are the antojitos which are, by definition, snack food. Something about a sit-down restaurant steers one away from "snack food" and, unfortunately, away from what they do best. I love Los Ocampo, but I recommend skipping the "meals"...


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Agree, esp. if antojitos includes posole. If not, then I'd add that their posole is pretty boss.

                          Oh, those sopes. . . so nummy.

                        2. re: jaycooke

                          That green salsa is no joke. I got some with my meal and assumed it was a normal salsa verde. Lucky for me, my tolerance for spice is quite high, because that stuff would blow away your average Minnesotan.

                        3. re: Seige

                          1. There's nothing strange or inauthentic about having veggies in your arroz.
                          2. I seriously doubt it was parmesan cheese. But sometimes cotija could look like that?
                          3. As others have said, if you're looking for spice, ask for salsa. Some of theirs is killer spicy.

                          Sorry you had a bad experience... I assume you were at the sit down location near Target?

                          1. re: mtullius

                            Yes, it was the sit down location near Target.

                            As for missing apparently what they do best, that's unfortunate because we asked the server what their specialities are and she directed us to the enchiladas.

                            I'm glad you've all had great experiences, but as I've said. We won't be back. Too many other good restaurants in the Cities to waste time at this place.

                          2. re: Seige

                            Most great authentic Mexican restaurants incorporate peas and carrots into the rice. You must have went to Don Pablo's and mistaken it for Los Ocampo because the experience you describe sounds like some made up nightmare and could not possibly happen there. The quality has been far too good for far too long. Kraft Parm really? Not likely.

                            1. re: Fudist

                              I found my one sit-down "dinner" at Los Ocampo rather ho hum, too. I don't even remember what I had, it was so unremarkable. I don't recall thinking the cheese was Kraft Parm, but I did think the rice was blah and I wish I'd just ordered a huarache instead.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                As a general rule unless you are eating Risotto or Rice Soup, it tends to be dry and bland.

                              2. re: Fudist

                                I can assure you it was Los Ocampo, not a Don Pablo's or any other type of Mexican restaurant but thank you for assuming I don't know what I'm talking about.