The Latin Tongue: Homi

There are just some eateries that leave a warm fuzzy feeling when you remember them. Homi actually left a burning hot and fuzzy feeling, and I still feel good just thinking about the tiny establishment, hidden behind a pile of University avenue construction. From the charming owners and workers, to the absolutely amazing hand made food, Homi was just what we were looking for.


It started with another week where we were wondering just how to choose our next eating adventure. (Check out our intro article about Latin eateries to learn about what we are doing.) However, this time we had a little help. Someone had just left a comment on our original article declaring their love for Homi and as I was still waffling between a couple of eateries, a friend of mine sent me an email asking if I had yet tried Homi. Tried it, heck, it wasn't even on my list a week ago. 


Once again, we had no idea of what to expect and trying to navigate our way down University Avenue in the middle of construction hell made this even more of an adventure. I still love the fact that we entered on the alley side, seeing nothing but a few parking spots and a sign declaring the presence of Mexican food, Our mouths started to water with the idea of a lunch well earned. (Had we known that if you approach University from the south and travel north on Victoria, it is really easy to get to Homi without even dealing with construction...not to mention the easy parking, we may not have felt in such need of reward.)


Anyway, when you walk into an establishment called Homi and see that they only have about eight tables, it is extremely easy to begin feeling...well, at home, as if you are about to be cooked your own personal dish by someone's mom. Ok, that is exactly what happens. And it comes with an explanation. Almost immediately, owner Hortencia came out and did her best to explain that the name comes from a combination of her and her husband's names: HOrtencia and MIguel. She also let us know that everything they have on the menu is just the way they cook it at home. I love it. How often can you get that sort of experience, when most of the time people are trying to find a way to sell you something they think you want, instead of just doing what they are good at.


Needless to say, we were excited, but were again faced with the dilemma of what to order. We knew that we had to try the tamales and a couple of tacos, but from there, we were a bit daunted. Our young and enthusiastic server had just begun and so we asked her to go back and talk to the cooks about what their favorite dishes were. We were encouraged to try the enchiladas verdes with chicken. From there, we were left to muddle through a very interesting menu with selections like Albondigas (mexican meatballs), Nopales con huevos (cactus and eggs), Chuletas de ahumadas de puerco (smoked pork chops) and one of our favorites, chilaquiles. We finally settled on a dish called Pollo en pipian rojo (chicken in a pumpkin seed and dry pepper sauce). 


We were told that everything was made to order and that some items might take a bit of time, so we started to browse the menu to see what else we could discover. The first big surprise was the label after some items: Vegan option. For the first time in our Latin eating adventures, someone was giving a shout out to the vegans. We were pleased to talk to Miguel Jr. and learn more about Homi. His English was excellent and he told us that ever since they opened, they decided to only serve what they make at home. However, this did not keep them from having an open ear. Customers were coming in and asking if certain dishes had lard, if this or that was vegetarian. Miguel realized that there was a demand and knew how simple it would be to make many of their dishes without the presence of meat or dairy. He also told us that this is why their menu has recently expanded. You ask, they respond. If someone is persistant enough, they might just find their favorite items on the menu. This happened with the Pambazo, a fried Mexican sandwich similar to a torta (the Pambazo sounded so good, that Charles vowed to stop back and order one).


The tamales and tacos came out and we were mesmerized. I barely remembered to snap a photo as I wanted to rip apart the trio of tamales. Charles was also speechless, but it was because of the bite of al pastor that he had just eaten. I tried a bite as well and understood. When meat is prepared to order, there is a difference. Sure, meat that is kept hot for quick service can still be excellent, but this was something special. Not only was it fresh, the seasoning was amazing. It was really BBQ-y, sweet and smoky. Add to that really tasty and fresh tortillas from La Poblanita in Minneapolis and you have yourself an amazing taco. The other taco we ordered was filled with Lengua (tongue) and was prepared in the steamed manner and was excellent. Great tacos. 


As for the tamales, we had three in front of us: One raja (jalapeno, cheese and onion), one puerco (pork in a red sauce) and one Veracruzana (or as the menu states, Tamal en hoja de plantano...a tamal wrapped in a banana leaf). 


The raja is one of my favorite tamales, spicy, with just a little cheese and this one had grilled onions. It was delicious with a nice "clean" masa corn. Watch out though, it is spicy! The simple pork tamal was your typical pork tamal with a great corny flavor and plenty of meat and a nicely flavored sauce. It also passed the test of holding together, something a well-stuffed tamal is not apt to do. The tamal en hoja de plantano was, to our delight, a traditional Veracruz style tamal, meaning that it is filled with pork rib meat. These are a rare and fascinating tamal almost overwhelming in complexity. First, you have the creamy white masa that has absorbed an earthy, musty flavor from the banana leaf. Then, as you work your way through, you are confronted with a smoky, rich and spicy adobo sauce. Finally, there is the succulent meat, complete with bones to complete the experience. I would not miss these, they are fantastic.


Enchiladas verdesEnchiladas verdes

We were savoring our first course and feeling quite fine when the enchiladas came out. In our earlier conversation with Hortencia, she asked us if we liked things spicy and we said "sure". She told us that she would make the enchiladas verdes like they do at home. Our first bites told us that they have no problem with spice in their household. Wow! But it was not the heat level alone that surprised us. It was also the form. These were not your run of the mill enchiladas. Instead of flour tortillas wrapped nicely around meat and fillings, we were looking at a dish with corn tortillas, simply folded in half and absolutely smothered in sauce. Again, the tortillas were fantastic and the chicken and onions within were also quite good. The lettuce that sat on top of half of the dish was a nice balance for the sour/hot of the sauce.


Pollo en pipian rojoPollo en pipian rojoFinally, we come to the Pollo en pipian rojo. This was some dish. It is simply chicken and sauce with some lettuce and a side of rice and beans. But there was nothing simple about this sauce. It was dry, smoky, and earthy. It was also very subtle, which had us very quietly tasting it and looking about as if we were wine snobs contemplating the vintage and soil of a fine grape. However, we were discerning a fine hand in the kitchen with spice. The pumpkin seeds gave it a nice nutty grounding, but there was also a hint of spice, possibly cinnamon and clove. And, the chicken was perfectly done. Nice work Hortencia, we are impressed!


As a bonus, we offer up the following dishes which were not originally ordered. After talking with Miguel Jr. for about a half an hour, he decided that we must try the mole sauce. It was from his hometown of Actopan, in the state of Hidalgo and takes days to perfect. It was wonderful and really complex. There is definitely raisin in this sauce and pecans as well as tortilla and chocolate, plus probably about 20 other ingredients. It will be a must have for future visits and certainly something to look forward to for all of you mole fans.


Charles did return for a Pambazo and declared them excellent and also raved about the fresh guacamole, saying it was simple and perfect. Other than that, we always like to talk about what we would return for. This time, I can say with confidence...everything. I will be stopping by for the tamales every chance I get. I also really want to try the Emmoladas, a mole enchilada and Miguel told us to try the empanadas. Ok. I am also sure that next time I will not be able to resist the Chilaquiles. So, there you go, stop in and say hi to the hard working folks at Homi. Just don't go expecting perfect communication, amazing ambiance or fast might look ridiculous. What you should do is to go in expecting some of the best made-to-order, hand made Mexican food around...then you will be pleased. 


Here are the details:


864 University Ave W

St. Paul, MN



M-F 8-8

Sat-Sun 10-10

Surprise: Vegan options, no precooked meat, food made to order!

Language: Hit and miss. The menu is a bit tricky to understand exactly what you might be getting and the workers do their best to communicate. "A" for effort.

Payment: Cash or credit...and of course they prefer cash.


Average probably $7-$13

Lunch specials $6-$8

Chilaquiles $11

Burrito-10" $7, 14" $10

Enchiladas $11

Emmoladas $12

Rellenos $11

Gorditas $8

Tamale Plate $7-$8



Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at He has lately been consuming large quantities of hot peppers, so it may be advisable to stay at least three feet away...unless you are cold.