The Latin Tongue: El Taquito

It was bound to happen. Restaurants come and go, especially those that start on a shoestring budget. Going into this adventure to uncover the hidden Latin gems in the Twin Cities, we knew that we would have some strikeouts, run down some dead ends and find ourselves looking for that which could not be found. This past week, we had wanted to check out a place we had heard some good things about. The Border Cafe in West St. Paul was to be our destination...or so we thought. Upon arriving at the address on South Robert street, something was a bit off. First of all, The place was called Three Amigos. Secondly, it was closed and obviously undergoing a bit of a change. We have vowed to go back and will give you more details when we do.


The End.


Ok, we don't give up that easily. In the search for the spot, we had driven by another Latin eatery south on Robert street called El Taquito. It was small, unassuming, had a little red food truck outside and we knew absolutely nothing about what was inside. Perfect.


Besides the cute red truck, the place also stands out for the fact that they have a drive thru. Really, no kidding. Another week, another first for us. Nice. We probably should have dined in our car to get the real experience, but we worried about the ensuing photos and, well, we had no where to go, usually spend a good hour eating and our budget really doesn't take into account gas money. Really though, I simply don't like cars that much.


El Taquito is an "order at the counter then seat yourself" type of establishment. Their menu board is easy to follow, but full of interesting options and it never fails that we take forever to decide, while some patient worker taps their pencil and rolls their eyes at us. The real problem for us is that we simply love food and El Taquito was offering it in the form of guisado plates. 


Guisado (literally stew) plates are basically combo platters with meat, beans, rice and tortillas. Often the meats are in the form of rich stews, but can also be quite simple. My favorite part about them is the fact that it allows the establishment to showcase their skill with meat as well as their unique recipes. No two takes on a dish are the same.

 You can read more about these in our review of La Mixteca.

El Taquito has their roots in Mexico City as is evidenced by the place names given to the guisado plates, such as Xochimilco, a river in the southern part of Mexico City. We ordered the above mentioned Xochimilco plate and the Zocalo which was highly recommended by the gentleman working the counter.


As per our agreement laid out in our intro article, we were going to order tacos and tamales. We were encouraged by staff to try the Lengua (tongue) and although they had fish tacos, we were a little more tempted by the Desebrada, shredded beef cooked with jalapenos, potatoes and tomatoes.


When we looked for tamales, we were interested in the fact that they sell them individually for $1.50, but more intrigued by the fact that they also sell them by the dozen, for just $15. This had us imagining a bucket of tamales, a bucket of beers, a fishing pole or just a trip to the park. What a great idea. However, we were working and so we just ordered two tamales, one roja and one verde, both pork.


We sat down and were pleased to find a nice sized bottle of homemade salsa on the table. When you consume salsa like we do, this is a good thing. The food came quick and was hot and inviting. I started with the Xochimilco plate (pictured left), which consisted of machacha and eggs, with a side of rice, beans, lettuce, onions and cilantro. Machacha is new to us and traditionally is made from dried beef that is then rehydrated and pounded until tender. Now, it is not uncommon for Machacha dishes to be made from beef cooked very well in its own juices until it is nice and tender. The way that it was served to us, with scrambled eggs, is very common in parts of Mexico. I loved the combination of well cooked and seasoned meat with eggs and found it best with lots of cilantro, onions and cilantro. Of course, the tortillas were nice as well, but another first: these were our first yellow corn tortillas at an establishment, which surprised us when we realized it. They were a bit greasy, which was great when hot, but not as appealing when they cooled off. Overall, this meal was a great, satisfying lunch, but would be an even better late morning meal with coffee.


The other guisado plate (the Zocalo, pictured at top) with carnitas was simple and delicious. All carnitas are not equal as many of you know. Some are like a shredded pork, some dry, some in a stew-like sauce. Some are melt in your mouth, others a bit to the tooth. The carnitas at El Taquito is described on the menu as "fried pork." It comes out cubed and plentiful with a bit of char to it. When you pop some in your mouth, it has that wonderful balance of a slight crispy edge and the melt in your mouth fattiness of a good bit of pork. I loved it and could imagine having it anyway possible, from a simple taco or guisado plate to a stacked burrito.


As for the tacos, again, they were served in the warmed-on-the-grill yellow corn tortillas and were stacked full of meat. The desebrada was a bit of a mess since it is more of a stew, but I really enjoyed the dish. The flavors were just great and it was a nice contrast to the often simple, "just meat" take of tacos. My advice if you order this meat in a taco: eat it fast. Otherwise, try this in the form of a guisado plate. It would probably be best this way.


The tongue was also outstanding, fatty and tender, it was the melt-in-your-mouth type of tongue. I can see why it was recommended. It was just right and I would order it in a taco as it is really rich and for me, the taco was plenty.


Ahh, the tamales. It seems that we saved the best for last. There was just something about these tamales that made it clear why they sell them by the dozen. So many tamales seem kind of thrown together and fall apart when you try to eat them. Some are crumbly, some mushy. These were well crafted, simple, but perfect tamales in my opinion. They stayed together, the masa was perfect and there wasn't too much meat filling, which always makes eating a tamal more difficult. 


The "red" tamal was very cakey and sweet, with a bit of clove and spice. It was rich and really satisfying. The "green" on the other hand was a bit more savory, almost like savory dumplings with some presence of herbs like sage and oregano. These tamales definitely make it to the top of our lists and alone are a good idea to swing by El Taquito if you are over in West Saint Paul. After all, they have a drive thru. A dozen tamales, drive thru style...yes please.


Overall, we can highly recommend the guisado plates, especially the desebrada and machacha. The carnitas was excellent and obviously, the tamales were outstanding. The next time I go, I have it on my list to try the fish tacos, the Chorizo and eggs and if I make it on the weekend, the barbacoa de borrego (bbq lamb). 


Here are the details:

El Taquito

1434 South Robert st.

West Saint Paul




Sun-Thurs 11-11

Fri-Sat 11-3 am



Tamal $1.5 each/$15 per dozen

Tacos $2

Enchiladas $7.5

Guisado plates $7.5-$9 

Sincronizadas $3

Burritos $6.5

Tostadas $3

Tortas $7.5

Menudo/pozole $3.5-$7


Surprise: Drive-thru, little red food truck, tamales


Payment: cash or credit


Language: fine, both menu and service was great



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.