In our last post about the 10 most memorable Latin eateries in the Twin Cities, we promised to deliver a tour of tacos and tamales. With a spicy integrity, we are going to deliver just that. Here and now. A guide that hopefully will continue to grow if you, dear reader/eater, will share your favorites and then share this list of Mexican manna, El Salvadorian sanctity, of Peruvian piety with anyone and everyone you know who loves Latin food.
So let's get down to it. We originally started this survey of south of the border savories by making the promise to always try a taco and tamal if they were on the menu. So it seems fitting to begin with tacos and tamales. The rest of the categories are based on our ordering whimsy and the recommendations of the workers themselves to guide us deeper into the realms of Latin food.
Tried and True Tacos
Maya Cuisine -- Great selection, handmade tortillas, and nice folks. Win!!
El Ranchito -- Juan really knows his meats and has served tacos in Mexico, CA, and MN.
Aurelia's -- Creative tacos that don't adhere to typical standards. The pastor and fish tacos are just about the best around.
Cocina Latina -- Simple, cheap, and absolutely loaded with amazing carnitas and carne asada.
Taco Taxi -- It's the meats for me. I love the birria (goat) and lengua (tongue).
Mercado Central -- The most options for your taco pleasure. Plus, El Huachi has tacos with egg, chile relleno, and potato!
Homi -- Such quality, such amazing flavors. Above and beyond.
La Poblanita/Taqueria Morales -- House made tortillas, great meat, especially the cecina.
Marissa's Deli -- Easy, quick and cheap. Better than you'd ever guess.
El Taquito -- Hands down the best in our opinion. Well made, super tasty spiced masa, and you can order them by the dozen.
El Ranchito -- Good selection. Rajas are amazing and smoking hot.
La Guadalupana -- Best Oaxacan/Veracruz style we found, made with ribs!!
La Loma-Mercado central -- Consistent and outstanding in quality and form.
Homi -- Amazing Veracruzana style, plus great puerco and raja tamales.
Maya Cuisine -- Its not just for the weirdness of fruit filled tamales or the mushroom, cheese, and spinach tamal. They are also very well made. The barbacoa tamal is outstanding.
Andale -- Huge and well-formed. A great grab and go meal.
Hilda's -- One of the best chicken tamales we've had. All of the four we sampled were amazing in this former La Loma spot. They obviously learned something
Smokin Salsa Selections
Las Teresitas -- The large salsa bar in the middle of the restaurant is certainly a good reason to stop by. With 8-10 selections, it is the largest we found.
Maya Cuisine -- They have a small salsa bar which is excellent. Even better are the mysterious bottles that are behind the counter. Just ask them!
Vicious Salsa Verde
La Poblanita/Taqueria Morales -- The most memorable to me by far. Just really good, well balanced, and fresh.
Homi -- Smoking hot, but tangy and addictive.
Gorditas el Gordo -- Somehow, it was just amazing. Make sure to ask for extra.
La Mixteca (Now closed!)-- The barbacoa was very like bbq beef should be. I loved how present the guajillo pepper was. The barbacoa here is almost more like a stew, saucy and a bit greasy. I'm okay with that...actually I rather prefer it.
Taco Riendo -- Super greasy, messy...yet addicting. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but it I loved it.
Nacho's Supermercado -- The barbacoa was surprising and had me pausing to taste and think. Certainly there was some lingering smoke from the barbecue. There was also the great stew-like flavor of beef cooking in its own fat and juices. Finally, there was something extra lingering in the background, quite mysterious. It could have been a guajillo pepper or a bit of clove.
Andale -- The guajillo sauce of their barbacoa was tart and tangy. The meat itself was also stewed down to the tenderness that comes from slow cooking.
Maya Cuisine -- It had that amazing spice of good barbacoa grounded with guajillo chiles. It was obvious from the start that this was one of their signature meats. Think flavors of beef, raisins, clove, guajillo, and smoke and you begin to understand.
Taqueria Hacienda -- The home of "authentic al pastor" also does pretty good job with barbacoa. It was well seasoned with a good amount of sauciness, while not being too greasy at all. It also had a nice citrusy quality that I enjoyed.
El Taco Riendo -- A great dish with fried eggs or meat upon request. Pretty darn spicy, which was perfect.
Marissa's Deli -- Made with salsa verde, the dish is actually yellow in appearance.
Hilda's -- The best or at least the most memorable that we tried. The fresh fried chips were left mostly whole and maintained a wonderful texture. Excellent cecina, excellent beans, grilled onions. Just perfect.
Amazing Al Pastor
Aurelia's -- Charred just enough to replicate an open fire cooked meat. Served with charred onions to enhance the effect. One of our favorites.
Taqueria la Hacienda -- It is their specialty and part of all of their marketing efforts. For all of that, it is actually pretty darn good and one of the few we found served off of a vertical rotisserie.
Mañana -- Marinade/sauce was nicely done. So good, we ordered another.
Homi -- Perfect seasoning and plenty of it. Sweet, smoky, spicy, charred.
El 7 Mares -- Although technically it was called abodaba (pictured at top), it was too good to not get some attention here.
We Love Beans
Catalina's -- The best, no one else was even close. Not refried.
Taqueria Morales -- Homemade. Refried and tasty. Not completely pureed.
Taqueria Hidalgo -- Amazing black beans.
Cocina Latina -- Fantastic beans in a variety of offerings.
Mañana -- The quintessential pupusa. Greasy and delicious with an amazing and spicy curitdo (cabbage slaw).
Pupuseria La Palmera -- Fresh, not too greasy, and well made. The Loroco and Rebueltas were our favorites.
Taco Taxi -- Just my favorite. Perfectly fried, great spicy salsa, and those amazing meats. Yum.
Marissa's Deli -- A must have with carnitas.
Bymore Taqueria -- With how well Bymore does with their meats, we should have not been surprised. Be sure to check out their cool tortilla press they use to make their masa delights.
Nacho's Supermercado -- Hand pressed to order. Very well done.
And all of our other favorites
Chile Rellenos: Catalina's -- Made to order, lightly breaded. Amazing.
Pata des res: Taqueria Morales -- Cow feet? Yup, and served in some of the most amazing salsa verde we had.
Elotes: La Loma -- Great with some cafe con canela.
Oaxaqueno tamal: La Guadalupana -- A tamal with bones? And how!
Mushroom cheese tamal: Maya Cuisine -- One of the biggest surprises. So good.
Mushroom tripe quesadilla: Bymore Taqueria -- A hand pressed corn tortilla. A perfect combo, but they may not always have mushrooms. You have to ask.
Machacha: El Taquito -- The one and only time we had seen this on a menu. Great with breakfast.
Champpurado and atoles: Maya Cuisine -- Fascinating and good.
Cebiche w/toasted hominy: Somos Peru -- Our favorite with tons of black pepper and plenty of lime.
Picaditas: Taqueria Hidalgo -- A hard to find, yet tasty snack.
Empanadas: Nacho's Supermercado -- Make a special trip for these...especially the shrimp or chorizo.
In summary, there is no way that this list could ever be as exhaustive as I want it to be. Help make the list even more comprehensive by commenting below or sending me an email. Thanks.
Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at Simple, Good and Tasty. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for him hunkered down in the corner defending his last scoop of beans to the death. And please someone bring him an horchata. Our last Latin Tongue review was: The Ten Most Memorable Latin Eateries in the Twin Cities.