The Latin Tongue: El Bravo

This is a part of an ongoing adventure in Latin food eateries. Read our intro article to find out why.


Part of the adventure involved in trying new restaurants is the air of wonder. I love the mystery of an unknown menu, not to mention the particular take one chef may have over another. El Bravo was an adventure of all sorts. We had absolutely no idea of what to expect. As a matter of fact, the only thing I knew about El Bravo was a picture of the front of the building that I has seen online when searching for directions. It was one of those entrances that make me drool. Old flashing neon sign, stucco painted in bright colors and that's about it. Looking back on this, I suppose it doesn't take much to make me hungry.


It was just past lunch time and there were still plenty of folks eating and chatting away. Upon sitting down and glancing at the menu, the first thing I noticed were the prices. Cheap, unless the food proved to be tapas-like in size ( wasn't). It also became clear that this was a mix of Mexican and American. The menu was filled with combos of all of the standards: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, and fried chicken. Yep, one combo came with fried chicken.


Opposite the combos was an irresistable little box with the "restaurant's specialties" including: Chile Verde, Chile Colorado (red chile), Mexican style steak, Chile Rellenos and Menudo. We had found our lunch. 


Per our agreed upon rules for this Mexican mission, we would order a taco, tamale and then we would ask our server for their recommendation. Our server was Ruth Ann, sister-in-law to the owner. Not only did she inform us that the fried flour tortilla tacos and enchiladas were the go-to items, she explained that her brother-in-law has been operating El Bravo for 43 years! We were taken aback and even more excited to see what he cooked up for us. We ordered the Chile Verde, a bowl of Menudo and a combo with two tacos and two enchiladas. They have no tamales at El Bravo. Despite this huge feast, we easily slid under the $25 budget.

 Chile Verde!Chile Verde!

Ruth Ann assured us that everything was made from scratch. It was quickly obvious that this was true. The Chile Verde was delicious and flavorful and I appreciated the large cubes of potatoes to accompany the tender pork. Surprisingly the dish was not at all spicy as I was accustomed to after many months spent in Santa Fe searching for different green chile dishes. The beans and rice that accompanied the dish could have stood alone as they were really well spiced and tasty.


The tacos were as described. A soft flour tortilla, fried to mimic a hard taco shell. They were more like "American" tacos with yellow cheese, meat or beans, shredded lettuce and tomatoes. They were certainly tasty, but they got a little lost with all of the other flavors on the table. The enchiladas were worth every penny, if for no other reason than to try and describe the sauce. They called it a mole sauce, but not the type with chocolate, lots of aromatic spice and a rich brown color. This homemade house mole was green, thick and savory and more reminiscent of a green mole sauce I have had made with pumpkin seeds. It went well with the meat and cheese and was definitely something I would order again. 

El Bravo taco and enchilada comboEl Bravo taco and enchilada combo

The Menudo stole the show for me. I am not one to gush over soups with strange meats in them (Menudo is a tripe soup), but this rich, deep and complex stew had us both mesmerized. Unlike some tripe dishes, this one did not overwhelm with it's aroma despite a generous amount of meat. It had just enough hominy and a flavor profile that really held its own and balanced out the tripe. It was a perfect, wholesome dish for a winter's day in Minnesota and easily our favorite of the trip.


Here are some other details to know:


El Bravo: 538 Rice St., St. Paul




Average dish $5-7

2 tacos with rice and beans, $6.50

1 burrito, $2.75 or 3 for $6.50

2 enchiladas, 2 tacos with beans and rice, $7.50

Chile verde, $8.95

Large bowl of menudo, $5.95

Kids menu (mix of Mexican/American items), all under $5


Surprise: Fried chicken and 43 years in business! Congrats. 


11-8:45 Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays.



Cash or credit



Probably both. Server spoke English, menu was all English.


Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at 
Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at