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. Continue reading

El Cubano (West St. Paul, MN)

This Saturday was a momentous day for our family. We actually ate a meal at a restaurant. Yes, this week I have for you not another pandemic takeout writeup but an account of a meal eaten in person at a restaurant. We didn’t eat it inside the restaurant, however, but in their excellent outdoor dining area. The restaurant in question is El Cubano in West St. Paul, which serves Cuban and Dominican food. It opened in 2019 after a prior incarnation as, I believe, a food truck. I had not heard of it until it was recommended highly in the comments on my report on Black Market StP by both Kathy Jenkins and Constance Lepro. Looking idly at their website I noticed what looked like a proper outdoor seating area and we decided to give it a go with a couple of friends we’ve eaten takeout meals with on a number of occasions during the pandemic. Herewith my report for the benefit of others who have not yet been. Continue reading

El Triunfo, 2019 (Northfield, MN)

I may not have much of a readership on my blog but I also am under no pressure to chase novelty. I am free to return to restaurants, either to check in to see if they’re still as good as they were or to continue to shine a (small) light on deserving places that don’t get much if any attention from the professionals. The latter description fits El Triunfo, the best restaurant in Northfield, MN very well. I’ve reported on them twice before in the last five years but that’s not to say we’ve only eaten there twice in the last five years. They are our go to for all our “oh shit, we haven’t cooked” dinners or weekend lunches and I often stop in for lunch from campus as well. I am glad to report that they’re still going strong—though their menu has shrunk quite a bit since my first report—and that their food is still very tasty. Continue reading

Popol Vuh (Minneapolis)

Popol Vuh, a high-end Mexican restaurant, opened in trendy Northeast Minneapolis—or Nordeast as the really trendy people refer to it—last autumn and we’ve been planning to eat there ever since. This even though they describe their cuisine in terms I deplore: “elevated Mexican cuisine”. Mexican cuisine does not need to be elevated. We don’t refer to high-end French or Italian or Japanese restaurants as serving “elevated” versions of those cuisines and there is really no need to justify higher prices for a high-end, cheffy iteration of Mexican cuisine by calling it “elevated”. And people who might be iffy about paying the big bucks for any form of Mexican food—alas, I am sure such people exist, and not just in the Twin Cities—are not, I think, very likely to go, “Oh, so it’s elevated Mexican food, that’s entirely different!” In other words, you’re not convincing anyone to come by billing your food as “elevated”, you’re only displaying anxiety about the status of what you do and inadvertently implying that the rest of the cuisine is down there somewhere near a gutter. Continue reading

Homi, Again (St. Paul, MN)

A nice thing about reviewing restaurants on your own blog is that there’s no compulsion to only go to new(er) places—you can go back and revisit places and see if they’ve maintained their standards (and in some cases, to see if they’ve gotten better). I’ve done a fair bit of that this year with returns to Tilia, Hmongtown Marketplace, Bangkok Thai Deli, Szechuan, Tea House, House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, A&L Chinese, On’s Kitchen and Grand Szechuan. Here now is my second report on what is now probably our favourite Mexican restaurant, Homi, on University Avenue in St. Paul. I posted my first write-up just over two years ago. We’ve eaten there a few more times since and this seems like a good time for a re-visit on the blog. This report covers meals eaten over the last year and a half, though the pictures are all from two dinners, one last summer, and one two weekends ago. I am happy to report that Homi is still very good.  Continue reading

La Colonia (Minneapolis)

My previous restaurant review was of Andale, the excellent taqueria in Richfield, in the south metro. With this review I go further north in the metro area, to Northeast Minneapolis (locally known just as Northeast), and further south in Latin America, to La Colonia on Central Avenue. Their specialty is Colombian and Ecuadorian food. I don’t know very much about either cuisine. My only previous encounter with Ecuadorian food was at Chimborazo—further up Central—and I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten at a Colombian restaurant before. As such I am the furthest thing from an expert on this food. I can tell you with certainty, however, that you are likely to leave a big meal at La Colonia wanting to lie down and that it may take you many, many hours to emerge from a meat coma.  Continue reading

Andale Taqueria (Richfield, MN)

I made a pledge a while ago to explore more of the Twin Cities’ Mexican food scene but haven’t really made good on it. This is finally going to be the year I do it. It’s certainly not a risky proposition—as, for example, a pledge to explore more of the local sushi scene would be. Mexican food in Minnesota is actually pretty good. And I am happy to tell you that some of this pretty good Mexican food can be found at Andale Taqueria in Richfield. We stopped in there for lunch on Easter Sunday with friends and liked everything we had—and some things we liked a lot indeed.  Continue reading

El Triunfo, Three Years On (Northfield, MN)

It was almost three years ago that I first wrote up El Triunfo, a small family-run Mexican eatery and market in Northfield, MN. We’ve been eating there at a regular clip since and the time seems right to post a quick update on the blog. It’s not that there have been major changes to the menu. In fact, not only are there are no new things on the menu since I last reviewed them but a few things have dropped off the menu. Tragically, they no longer have goat barbacoa on the weekends (I was told a while ago that not enough people were ordering it) and some of the things on the regular menu have also dropped off. Business on the whole, however, I am happy to say, seems to be going really well. Continue reading

Homi (St. Paul)

Homi: Costillitas de Puerco en Adobo
Homi has been around on University Avenue in St. Paul for seven years now. Friends who work and live in the area had been telling me about it for some time now but somehow we didn’t get around to eating there until earlier this summer. This is largely because we are creatures of habit—when food shopping in St. Paul we’d eat at On’s Kitchen or Bangkok Thai Deli; our Mexican eating would happen on the way to and back food shopping in north Minneapolis—at Los Ocampo or Maya or, for a brief, glorious period, at La Huasteca. After the demise of the original version of La Huasteca, however, we were in need of a place that would fill the soulful hole in our Mexican food world (neither Los Ocampo and Maya quite fit that description). And so we finally ended up at Homi. And while I am not quite ready to say that it has helped me come to terms with the disappearance of Jose Gonzalez’s birria and barbacoa (and much else), I will say that Homi comes pretty close.  Continue reading

Tacos etc. at Los Ocampo (Minneapolis)

Los Ocampo: Tacos
Taqueria Los Ocampo was one of the first places we ate Mexican food at in the Twin Cities, shortly after our arrival in Minnesota in 2007. To be exact, it was the third place. The first was the late, lamented La Sirena Gorda in the Midtown Market (I can still recall the taste memory of their octopus tacos) and the second was the food counter at Bymore Meats, also at the Midtown Market—there I was partial to their goat tacos. The outpost of Los Ocampo in the Midtown Market eventually seduced us as well, but the quality of the toppings was never quite as good as at the other two places. But we spread our custom generously, picking a taco or two from their counter to eat alongside things from the other two places. After the demise of La Sirena Gorda and Bymore Meats we took our appetites across the street to their larger, stand-alone restaurant on the corner of Chicago and Lake and discovered that the quality was much better there. Throw in the fact that they’re open very late into the night on weekends, and in our pre-parent days this branch of Los Ocampo was thus often where we ate after a show or a late movie in the Cities.  Continue reading

La Huasteca (Minneapolis)

La Huasteca: Barbacoa de Chivo
La Huasteca opened sometime in 2014. It first flashed on my radar in the early part of the summer of 2015 as a birria (a lamb stew) and barbacoa de chivo (slow cooked goat) specialist. I put it on my list but then we went off to L.A and I forgot about it. Thanks to reports on Chowhound it came back on my radar and recently I pulled some friends together so we could go out and sample a goodly portion of the menu. And we did. And man, was it good! I’m tempted to say that it’s the best Mexican food I’ve had in Minnesota, but I need to renew my acquaintance with a number of the other local luminaries. For what it’s worth, it blew our recent meals at Maya Cuisine out of the water. Not just because they have things on the menu here far beyond what’s on offer at Maya, but because even the things that are similar are better here, and the preparation on everything was top-notch. If you haven’t been you should go. And you should go this week. Do it.  Continue reading

Maya Cuisine (Minneapolis)

Maya Cuisine: Al Pastor Taco
When I redid my restaurant/meal review listings as separate pages I noted in the “introduction” to the Minnesota page that the Twin Cities and environs have a surprisingly robust Mexican food scene and that I should really review more of it. Accordingly, here is a review of Maya Cuisine in Northeast Minneapolis, in the long “ethnic” corridor of Central Avenue. It opened just over three years ago and has since received quite a bit of acclaim in the mainstream Twin Cities food world. Another way of saying this might be to note that in all our visits (always on weekend mornings) we’ve found the clientele to skew far more non-Mexican/Hispanic than at our usual ports of call for Mexican food. But this is not to say that the food is watered down or Americanized—far from it; but the menu is, nonetheless, not quite as hardcore as some of those other places (more on this below). Continue reading

Chimborazo (Minneapolis)

Well, it’s the middle of the month and there haven’t been any food posts yet. To rectify that here is a brief account of a meal at Chimborazo, a popular Ecuadorean restaurant in North Minneapolis (way up on Central Avenue).

I don’t know anything about Ecuadorean food and I am going to refrain from holding forth like an expert after some desultory googling. I did know going in that Ecuador has an extensive coastline as well inland mountainous areas but I’d never really thought much about what that might mean food-wise. If I had thought about it perhaps I would have guessed that the cuisine has distinct zones with seafood and coconut at one end and a lot of starchy stuff at the other. What I would not have predicted is the use of peanuts (yes, yes, please remind me that peanut is native to South America). In some ways the food we ate felt like it was from somewhere between the Caribbean and South East Asia. If this seems outrageous, please chalk it up to my ignorance and tell me better. Continue reading