The Latin Tongue: El Loro

Part of making this eating adventure work involves a lot of flexibility. I've said it before and I will say it again, I am sure. It comes down to the fact that when you don't really know what you are doing or what you are getting yourself into, you cannot be attached to the outcome. So, like the fool I am, I sent us on another wild goose chase. It started when I was on my way to a sheet metal shop for some home repair work and I swore that I saw something resembling a Latin eatery. All it took was a quickly read sign with a "La" something or other and I was ready to go.


Charles of course was all but willing to believe that out in Robbinsdale I had found our next hidden gem. He's quite the trusting guy and I am grateful to him for always being present. Well, we pulled up and sure enough, it was a Latin something, but upon closer inspection, we had no idea as to what it was...if it even was. As we tried to communicate what in the heck we were doing there, we found out that indeed, it was soon going to be an eatery, El Salvadorian, with pupusas, tamales and the like. The near future wasn't going to feed our rumbling bellies, so we asked for help. Once you've struck out in the suburbs, things can be a bit disorienting. In the end, they led us to El Loro with some questionable but accurate directions. 


Now, El Loro wasn't really on our radar. For one, it is a local chain. Secondly, I had peeked at some less than flattering reviews on yelp and the like. But, the fates had guided us and who were we to make a tough decision while extremely hungry. Let's see what we can learn, huh!?


Situated in a strip mall, the place is actually quite bustling and pleasant to be in. Had we no further agenda, they also had a full bar and margarita specials for lunch. However, we remained professional and decided to do this right. As laid out by our ground rules in the intro article, we would order tacos and tamales. The tamales were easy as they only had chicken. The tacos were another story. As with so many places who are trying to keep their roots but also cater to a somewhat novice American crowd, finding just what you want can be tricky. You see, they have tacos, but their default version is crispy shell, next default, flour tortilla. If you persevere, you finally discover that indeed they do have soft corn tortilla tacos. Ok, but you are not done. You the have to request onion and cilantro with the meat if you want it done a la Mexico.


The only potential snag comes if you are like some of the reviewers who cannot see through the menu to find what they are looking for. I know you used to live in the Southwest or have been to Mexico once, but some of us are not so snobbish and when you find yourself with more taco options that imaginable, it is pretty easy to look at that as a good thing. We are not in this game to be negative.


The hugeness of the menu doesn't end there. It is quite daunting (about 30 different combo options alone) and we found ourselves ordering way too much food. Ala carte chile rellenos, something called tostaguacs and a huge Molcajete. Our hunger took us way over budget, but hey, our wives would be happy with the leftovers.


Tamal de polloTamal de polloTo begin, the tamal was actually quite good. It was the kind that was smothered in sauce, not unlike a generic "taco" sauce, the kind that is sort of reddish brown and according to our server, house made. Anyway, the masa was super creamy and mild and the chicken was tender and tasty. Was it the best tamal ever? Nope. Would I order one again? You bet.


The tacos were also surprisingly good. The carnitas were very
tender and well done with a hint of grill Tacos the way we like them...corn tortillas, cilantro, onions.Tacos the way we like them...corn tortillas, cilantro, onions.smoke. They were also quite generous with the portions. The carne asada was also excellent. It spoke of a good touch with the grill and was much better than many of the other versions we've had. If you are on the go in the suburbs, a couple of these tacos could tide you over.


The tostaguacs were sort of like a tostada, but not fried. It was a tortillas piled with meat, cheese, lettuce, guacamole, etc. So, imagine a big, tasty salad on a tortilla. The ground beef was greasy and tasted like it was flavored with a "taco seasoning" packet, but in a strange way, it reminded me of being a kid in the Midwest with my German family trying to make Mexican food. It was typical and uninspiring, but tasty and kind of satisfying. As a matter of fact it was more tasty than the chicken version, which was a bit more bland.


The relleno was an example of how things can go a bit wrong if you are not careful about how you order. A lot of dishes at El Loro have this "nacho cheese" sauce which is a processed, melty cheese. It is the type of dish that my family always ordered, but I never knew why. The relleno could have had real promise without this addition. The breading was very eggy and good and the sauce was satisfying, but the nacho cheese was just too rich for me and hid the flavor of the pepper.

Chile relleno. Mucho queso.Chile relleno. Mucho queso. 

We finished with the Molcajete (pictured at top). It was our first in these Latin eating adventures. We have seen it a number of times, but usually it is quite expensive. At El Loro it is $13 and plenty of food to share. We were happy that we gave it a shot. Not only does it come in a huge stone bowl, but it is absolutely loaded with peppers, onions, grilled tomatoes, cactus, Mexican cheese and delicious grilled meats (the fajitas were highly recommended, but why not try the tasty meats in this more adventurous form?) Top that off with a delicious stew/sauce and you have quite the good lunch (for two or three.)


To sum up, we were quite surprised with El Loro. I think that we had the advantage of knowing how to order and what to avoid, combined with absolutely no expectations. This was a recipe for success. The question we always try to finish with is, "what would we order if we returned?"


Well, it really depends who I was with. This seems like the perfect sort of place to take my family or other folks who are a bit skeptical of those less "Americanized" eateries. Regardless, I would definitely order the Molcajete again and most likely some tacos and tamales. Keep it simple. There were also the tempting dishes called chile verde and chile Colorado, which are often quite safe orders and give you a taste of a cooks take on roja and verde sauces. 


Here are the details:

El LoroTostaguacsTostaguacs

99 willowbend 

Crystal, Mn 


+ 14 locations in Eagan, Coon Rapids, Mound and many other suburbs. 



Tacos $2-3

Tamales $2.5

Lunch specials (25 items) $6-7

Combos (30 options) $8.50-9

Rellenos $3.25

Tostaguacs $3.5-4

Enchiladas $9-10

Chile verde/colorado $10

Molcajete $13

Carnitas $11

Vegetarian options (6 separate options) $9

Surprise: Full bar, huge menu and the fact that much of the food was fresh and homemade.

Language: Obviously, as these are in the suburbs, communications/menus were not an issue.



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. Our last Latin Tongue eatery review was: Taqueria Morales/La Poblanita.