Orale (Minneapolis)

A month and a half ago I took the boys up to Fridley for taekwondo belt testing (yes, I know it’s a bad idea to get them training in how to beat us up). I’d wanted to stop at Tangletown Gardens on the way back to buy some vegetable seedlings for my community garden patch. We ran away screaming when we saw the prices but didn’t go very far. Just around the corner is Orale, a casual Mexican restaurant that was our port of call for a quick lunch before heading home. I’d heard up and down things about its likely quality but based on the options in the neighbourhood it seemed like the best bet for us. Here’s how it went.

We got there right as they opened and got a parking spot easily in the small strip mall in which they’re located. I’m not sure how tight parking might otherwise be in the neighbourhood. The restaurant is quite a bit larger on the inside than might appear to be the case from the outside. The interior is bright with lots of natural light. There are two dining areas and an attractive bar space. You order at the counter. There’s a large menu above the counter and some specials listed on a board. We took a takeout menu back to a table, perused it there and then went back to place our order.

To start we got a bunch of tacos. The older boy got the carnitas and the al pastor; the younger boy got the lengua (tongue) and the carne asada. I got the sisig (pig’s ears and cheeks) and the tripa (tripe). The carne asada was just okay but we liked everything else a lot. The older boy loved the al pastor and I thought both of mine were very good too. Accordingly, we got more tacos. The younger boy asked for one with chorizo and ate it with relish. The older doubled up on the al pastor. I got another pair: one topped with Filipino bbq and one with pork chile verde. Both were rather good, I thought. [A note on the sisig and Filipino bbq options: there appears to be a Filipino family connection and this shows through in a few places on the menu.] I also got a sope with tinga and refried black beans. This was just okay, I thought.

We’d asked for hot salsa with everything but if the one we were given is the hottest they have it’s not very hot. It is, however, tasty. The boys eschewed Jarritos for a new-to-us apple soda drink. They thought it was just okay—perusing the label we discovered it contains less than 1% apple juice. But if the juice was not the real thing the tacos were rather good.

For a look at the restaurant, the menu and what we ate, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and for thoughts on the overall experience.

All of this came to less than $55 with tax and tip, which I would say is pretty good value for what we ate. And at least early on a Saturday the feel in the restaurant was very pleasant: there were a number of people picking up takeout orders and increasing numbers sitting down as we were getting done—and there was a nice energy and bustle. With a lot of Mexican restaurants in the metro to yet explore, I”m not sure how soon we’ll come back here but it’s certainly a good look in the area. And if you have recommendations of other small Mexican restaurants that are worth a look-in, do let me know.

Alright, next week’s Twin Cities restaurant report will be of dinner eaten at Myriel in St. Paul a few weeks ago. Before that I’ll have a quick food report from either Los Angeles or Hawaii.


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