Mañana (St. Paul, MN)

As I’ve noted before, the Twin Cities metro has a much larger Hispanic population—and by extension, a much larger Hispanic food scene—than a lot of people outside Minnesota realize—and, for that matter, probably a much larger population than a lot of people inside Minnesota realize. Certainly, the Twin Cities food media only fitfully remembers that there are Mexican restaurants outside the few relatively recent high-end places that are part of the pr-driven ecosystem. And if the established Mexican places outside that ecosystem don’t get very much attention non-Mexican Hispanic places seem to get even less attention. Well, to be honest, I’ve not done such a great job myself either of seeking out and covering these places over the years (though to also be fair to myself I’m a one-man operation here). But I hope to be doing more of that in the next year or two, especially in the major Hispanic neighbourhoods of St. Paul. This week’s review comes from one of those neighbourhood, on 7th St., and from what is probably the standard bearer of Salvadoran food in the Twin Cities; Mañana. We ate a very good lunch indeed there this Sunday.

Mañana is located on 7th St. right across from the Mexican consulate and their menu includes both Salvadoran and Mexican classics. We were there. however, mostly for the Salvadoran dishes and that is mostly what we ordered. But first a bit about the restaurant for those who haven’t been there. While it’s been around for about 15 years at this point for most of that time they were at a smaller location just a little further up the road. The current location is much larger and comprises both an attractive interior—with one small seating area near the entry and one larger dining room—and an attractive patio. Of course, since we’re Minnesota that patio is on a rapidly shrinking clock but that is where the eight of us sat on this slightly chilly Sunday morning.

What did we eat? We were six adults and two children and we ordered quite expansively. We started with smaller dishes: an order each of fried plantains with refried beans and sour cream and fried plantains with condensed milk; an order of the pasteles de carne—crunchy and delicious deep-fried dumplings; and a bunch of pupusas, the Salvadoran classic. We got pupusas stuffed with rebueltas (pork, beans and cheese), chicharron, jalapeño and cheese, and zucchini and cheese. Served with curtido (a spiced cabbage slaw) the pupusas were all great. One person added a taco with al pastor and pronounced it very good as well.

Larger dishes included the following: carne guisada/beef stew; a couple of orders of pollo guisada, the chicken version; costilla de puerco/stewed pork ribs; churasco: a platter featuring grilled flank steak, chorizo and shrimp; pollo encebollado/grilled chicken breast with onions; and a guarache with chicken. Most of the larger dishes came with rice, refried beans and salad and also thick Salvadoran-style tortillas that were just excellent. And speaking of unheralded things that were excellent, those refried beans are the best I’ve had in a while. I’d come back just to eat those beans with those tortillas!

They have a bar and serve beer and cocktails but on this occasion we restricted ourselves to water and a couple of jarritos for the boys.

For a look at the restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.

The restaurant was relatively empty when we got there at noon but got busier and busier by the minute. At first we were the only ones on the patio but by the time we left it was almost full as well. Service remained attentive and unharried throughout.

Price? With tax and tip we paid just about $144 or $18/head. Extremely good value for the quantity and quality of food. Something tells me we’ll back again within the year. If you haven’t been yet, or haven’t been in a while, I recommend you get there sooner. And, oh yes, if you have recommendations for other Hispanic restaurants in St. Paul—ideally with outdoor seating—I am all ears.

Alright, the next restaurant review will be from Madison. That’ll be this weekend. Next week’s report from Minnesota might feature Japanese food—we’ll see how the weekend plans shape up.



One thought on “Mañana (St. Paul, MN)

  1. Love Salvadoran places! We are lucky to have Rinconcito Latino in Fridley within a few miles of us; we go often for take-out (don’t recommend eating in there, unlike your place, which looked very inviting. (Also funny,. .we went to this place a couple times 14 years ago when they were in the old location). Nice you can get a cold beer, hard to find at a lot of similar spots (my pet peeve).

    So, you must go back there, and try the Salvadoran tamales. They are awesome. Laden with more lard than a Mexican tamale, they are delicious. The fried version, tamal de elote, is also very tasty, dipped in Salvadoran crema. Also, be sure to try the yucca con frita — so good!!

    We’ve tried to make Salvadoran style refried beans at home. We’ve come close. It’s tricky and recipes are hard to come by. You need to have a Salvadoran grandma around I think. So if any of your readers have a good recipe I’d love to have it. I believe they sauté mounds of onions in lard until just before burnt, then pulverize them, and add them to liquified cooked red beans. The flavor is unique to any other refried bean, as you’ve found.

    Glad you could check this place out and review it.


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