The Latin Tongue: La Hacienda

Sometimes I like to let the decisions come to me. We still have probably 25-30 Latin restaurants on our list to try. How are we to know what we want or where to go? This time, I let a little luck guide me. I had a few ideas, but as I drove to a meeting in St. Paul I decided that surely I would find something along the way. I decided to enter St. Paul from the crosstown/airport area, which left me driving down 7th street west. Almost immediately, I took in the names in a small strip mall between Davern and St. Paul avenue, and sure enough, the was something called "La Hacienda." 


I drove on to my meeting sure that this was the answer and really hoping that it was not the same folks who own Taqueria La Hacienda in Minneapolis. Of course, Charles was game, so we convened around lunch time and were pleasantly greeted by the owners of this establishment. 


Right away, we knew we were in for an adventure. The menu was global in its scope and owner Juan was proud to point out that his establishment was the only one of its kind...meaning that it is the only Latin eatery in Minnesota that combines Peruvian, Mexican and Salvadorian food (plus they have gyros.) To explain, Juan bought the business 14 years ago, when it was an establishment selling gyros. They were so popular in the neighborhood that he decided to hang on to the old favorites. I suppose that is just good business and as we sat there, multiple folks came in to order gyros (every time pronounced jai-roh.)


We were obviously not there for the gyros or burgers, so we settled in to our old ways. As laid out in our intro article, we would try tamales and tacos and then ask for suggestions. The pupusas were highly recommended and we asked about the Peruvian dishes and ended up ordering Seco de res, literally, beef stew.


As we waited, I received an horchata that was made to order and had plenty of fresh cinnamon on top. We could not help but notice a couple of things. One, the owners of this establishment were extremely kind. Often, we run into folks who are really outgoing, excited and talk endlessly about their establishments. At La Hacienda, they hold themselves with a kind and gentle pride and we felt very welcomed. The other observation was the diversity of their customers. It was all over the board, as were the orders they were placing.


The tacos, tamales, and pupusas came out fairly quickly. We had one chicken and one pork tamal, both obviously handmade and quite original. Right away, I noticed that the masa was full of vegetables, from carrots and peas to green beans. This was unique and the chicken tamal seemed also to be made with salsa verde. It was a mild and tasty tamal and although it did not hold together very well, was still good. The pork tamal had a light adobo sauce and was the meat was really quite tender and tasty. I always think that the pork goes better with the banana leaf flavor and therefore favored the pork tamal.


For tacos, we ordered one with lengua (tongue) and one with pastor (barbecued pork). Both were great, generous with fillings and for the first time ever, topped with tomatoes along with the standard onions and cilantro. The tongue was steamed and as always with beef tongue, one of our favorite meats. The pastor was the more mild and less greasy homemade style with that trademark sourness from the addition of pineapple. It was tender and tasty.


The pupusas (pictured at top) were the treat that we were really anticipating. They are a comfort food for sure and in our over-ambitious ways, we ordered three different options: bean and cheese, loroco and cheese, chicharron and cheese. Notice the word cheese...this is not to be taken lightly. The cheese was stringy, plentiful and delicious. For the most part, you order the pupusas for the fact that any time you have a thick masa corn cake filled with cheese and fried on a grill, it is going to be a pleasure to eat. The other additions were sort of secondary, but interesting. The chicharron (cracklings, pork rinds or pork skin) was fascinating for the fact that they were not crispy like some, but ground and therefore, all mixed in with the cheese. It was quite satisfying, but it was the loroco that really grabbed our attention. This flower bud native to Central America was mild and not unlike asparagus in taste. We loved the subtle flavor that this added and would order it again for sure.


The pupusas were served with a traditional Salvadorian dish called curtido. This is a cabbage slaw that comes in many different forms, often much like a fermented or vinegared kimchee. La Hacienda's take was unique. It tasted like a cabbage slaw that was salted, without the vinegar. It was mild and the dried oregano gave it a nice flavor. I really liked the balance of fibrous cabbage with the greasy, cheesy pupusa.


One note about La Hacienda: make sure to request the salsa verde. It is excellent and went really well with the pupusas (and everything really.)


Seco de resSeco de resFinally, the Seco de Res was set in front of us and we were up for another surprise. The dish was dark brown in color and absolutely loaded with green peas. The pieces of yuca were mostly hiding in the sauce and were obviously steamed or boiled, not fried. The dish was served with beans and white rice. We dug in right away and were completely taken aback with one overwhelming thought: despite all of the exotic things on this menu, this was really just beef stew. Every bite I took, I was wondering what my mom would say. I really don't think it would have been much different from my mom's version if you just replaced the yuca with carrots. In the end, the beef was typical stew meat and a bit uninspiring, but the sauce was comforting and delicious.


We had tons of food, a comfortable setting and another new adventure. What would we go back for? Without a thought, I would say the pupusas. They are just so delicious and are becoming quite the trendy Latin dish. Pair that with the delicious curtido and you have a complete meal. I would also have myself some pork tamales. I am simply a sucker for tamales and all the more so if you wrap them in banana leaves. Since we couldn't eat everything, we had to pass on some of our other favorites, such as the fried delights called empanadas or pastelitos. I couldn't go again without trying these. Finally, we struggled over our Peruvian dish and since we ordered the seco de res, we had to pass on one called Aji de Gallina. This was a chicken dish with egg, olives, parmesan and potato. It was unlike anything that we have seen and really want to exprience it.


Here are the details:

La Hacienda

2467 W 7th st (Sibley plaza)

St. Paul, MN



Hours: 9-9 daily



Tamales $2.5

Tacos $2.5

Burritos, veggie $7. meat $9

Enchiladas $7-9

Pupusas $2.5

Gyros $5-6

Pastelitos and empanadas $4.5

Seco de res $12

Other dishes average from $9-13


Surprise: Definitely the combination of cultures. Also, the 14 years in business was impressive.


Language: Fairly easy to communicate, menu is easy to understand.


Payment: Cash or credit



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: El Loro.