I have begun to expand my taco eating into St. Paul! I recently went to Taqueria Los Paisanos on E 7th Street with some friends. A small corner spot with what appears to be a brand new lighted sign but also a pretty weathered front awning, Los Paisanos showed promise in my theory that the more run down a joint looks, the better the tacos.
Not being extremely hungry, I only ordered 3 tacos (it should be noted that if you are going to go out to dinner later, you probably shouldn’t have a huge plate of super nachos for late lunch). My tacos consisted of carne asada, al pastor, and lengua. The steak and pork were both solid tacos indeed and good examples of how these meats should taste. The lengua was not the best I’ve ever had but a really decent attempt. Just a bit too chewy for my taste and the cubes of meat were larger than I would prefer for a meat with that texture. If you are a texture sensitive person then you probably would not be pleased with these tongue tacos. But with plenty of other meats on the menu, don’t let that deter you from coming here. They also give you a squeeze bottle of chile verde sauce and a bottle of red sauce to bring to the table. The chile verde sauce was pretty amazing and the red sauce had an awesome spicy kick that was surprising to all of us. Much spicier than a lot of house salsas out there. I should have “accidentally” put those salsa bottles in my purse when I left.
Atron-5000, who you will remember from this post, got a carne asada torta. A torta is a Mexican sandwich. I have been wanting to try a torta for a while now but some of the places I have visited look like they are serving the sammich on a bland hamburger bun, which does not look like appetizing. Atron-5000 was a brave soul to try one here and he was not disappointed! It was a huge sandwich with lots of tender sliced steak, a flaky and fresh bun, lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomato. I must go back here to get one. After some fairly run-of-the-mill tacos, I was pretty jealous of his sammich.
My friends Michaelann and Joey came with also and they got quite the feast of loaded nachos, tacos, a burrito, and enchiladas. As their eyes were bigger than their stomachs, they ended up bringing the burrito home for later but cleared their plates otherwise. I had a few chomps of the nachos and I was not overly impressed. The ground beef was over seasoned and super salty. The nacho cheese was basic canned liquid cheese like you would get at a sporting event. Not really my cup-o-tea but then again, I don’t usually go to a taqueria for nachos so this poor nacho performance was not a deciding factor in a taco review for me.
Taco Count: 241-243
Taco Rating: 3.5 out of 5. Los Paisanos may have been deserving of a full 4 considering the reviews that A-tron gave about the torta but since I did not eat it, I cannot judge. Next time!
My mom had been bugging me for MONTHS to take her to a good taco place as part of Tacopalooza2015. I looked at my list of places to go and consulted with Yelp and Google+ to try to impress mi madre. Pineda Tacos received a 4/5 on Yelp and a 4.6/5 on Google+. Tacopalooza2015 gave Pineda a 1/5. There is only one excuse for the disappointment we encountered at Pineda, we must have gone to the wrong location. I thought the reviews were specifically for the location we went to but I could be wrong. We went to the Pineda on East Lake Street in Minneapolis but there are also locations in West St. Paul and Plymouth. I seriously do not understand how it got such glowing reviews from these other sites. I thought the tacos were disgusting. And my mother was not impressed either.
You would think that upon walking into this large restaurant with Mexican soap operas blaring on the TV and a dude completely decked out in a cowboy hat and boots sipping on a Coke from a glass bottle would be a sure sign of a top-notch place. You’d be wrong.
Their menu was poorly displayed and options very limited. They have subway style ordering where you can customize your meal with the toppings you desire: lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, cheese, etc. But I like to keep my tacos simple so went with a bit of onion and cilantro on top of two chorizo tacos and a bit of cheese on the refried beans. My mom did the same but with the al pastor tacos per my recommendation. We agreed to swap a taco each so we could try each other’s meal.
While the execution of the chorizo tacos was terrible I sort of like the idea of it. These chorizo tacos differed from others I’ve had in that Pineda added hunks of onion, tomato, and peppers to the chorizo meat but the meat itself was sooooo soggy and greasy. I felt like I was eating sausage baby food.
The al pastor my mom had was absolutely disgusting. I took one bite and just couldn’t do anymore. It looked dry to begin with so I added more salsa verde than I normally do but I still felt like I was chewing on day old pork and couldn’t taste any marinade or seasoning. Al pastor should be a gorgeous deep red color but this was a sad tan. I think they really just used unseasoned pork.
I owe my poor mama another outing as she was pestering me for months to take her out to a good taco place after an afternoon of biking. Well, I struck out. You can’t win them all but I never would have guessed that this meal would have been as bad as it was. Also note that the cheese on the beans above has not melted into the beans. That’s because the beans were stone cold.
She looks happy and excited here but this was before we knew what sort of sadness we were biting into.
Maybe a different Pineda location is better. Maybe everyone else that rated it doesn’t know any better. Maybe I got there on an off day (I highly doubt it). I will try to visit the West St. Paul location and re-rate Pineda but I can tell you right now to stay away from the one on East Lake and Hiawatha!
Taco Rating: 1 out of 5
Taco Count: 219 (plus one bite)
In an effort to share my taco eating endeavors with more friends and to make a push to get back on track with my taco count, I met up with LaurenTaco at her favorite Twin Cities taco spot, Pancho Villa.
Sitting at a small outdoor table along Nicolette with a Mariachi Band strumming some tunes inside, we chit-chatted over chips and salsa for quite a while. I ordered the campechanos meal which consists of 3 tacos with a chorizo, pastor, and nopales mixture topped with diced onions and cilantro. I was under the impression that this would be 3 separate tacos (1 chorizo, 1 pastor, 1 nopales) so when the server came out to inform me about 5 minutes after taking my order that the kitchen was out of nopales, I figured I would just get a lengua taco instead. This was followed by a stare-down that lasted a beat longer than socially comfortable as we both tried to figure out what the other was getting at. After a couple of re-explanations by both parties, and some exhausted hamsters running on the little wheels that work our brains, I finally figured out that this was supposed to be a meat mixture, not individual meats. So I settled with the chorizo and pastor without the nopales. I was pretty disappointed as my last encounter with nopales had been delightful!
I only wish this is what the al pastor meat spit looked like! Thank you image search.
No nopales but this is some of the glory I could have consumed.
I once again proved why I will never become a professional blogger as I didn’t take pictures of this meal or the venue or anything even remarkable about the evening. I blame it on the fact that my phone was almost dead and it was dark out.
There was no house salsa given with the meal which was sort of disappointing as I always want a little kick with my snacks and have found that home made salsas tend to be the most unique. There was Cholula on the table however which is always mighty fine. When I found out the meats were mixed on the taco I was a little afraid that the two flavors would get muddled or that the typically strong sausage flavor of the chorizo might over power the al pastor. This was absolutely not the case. The two meats complimented each other quite well and I scarfed those tacos down in no time. The al pastor was flavorful, tender, and fresh. The only fault I can find is perhaps it was missing the fruity flavor of the pineapple that typically comes with al pastor. The chorizo was savory, not overly greasy, and had a good fine crumble. While the taco was very rich, I can imagine that the nopales would have brightened this taco up a bit. The beans and rice that came as a side were pretty forgettable. But because the tacos were good I can forgive them for this.
I grant Pancho Villa a solid 4 out of 5. A nice, slightly Americanized, Mexican spot with good menu variety, a full bar, and good food!
Taco count: 210-213
Unlike me and my terrible blogging habits, Lake Street has yet to disappoint in the taco department. Another strong showing, this time from one of my leading favorites neighbor, Taco Taxi.
Taco Taxi is a visually unimpressive hole in the wall: a dated weathered sign with chipping paint, a dingy interior, a single old tube television blaring some Mexican soap opera, and uninviting seating. However, Taco Taxi has a strong choice of tacos on the menu in addition to some burritos and enchiladas.
I ordered my usual selection, 2 al pastor, 1 carne asada, and 1 carnitas. Simple, traditional, and delicious. All came on 2 steamed corn tortillas with diced onion and cilantro, a couple slices of radishes and lime for a garnish, and a few squeeze bottles on the table with a house made tomatillo salsa. Super solid tacos all around. The meats tasted exactly how you’d expect these traditional fares to taste with the exception perhaps of some dryness on the carnitas part. Nothing a bit of that delightful salsa wouldn’t fix! Taco Taxi earns a strong 4/5 and comes highly recommended if you are driving down Lake Street looking for a quick bite.
I was accompanied on this taco trip by Zac fromWCCO. He was nice enough to take some time out of his day to enjoy tacos with me and to interview me about my blog. Here’s a link to the article! I know this was released a while back but my insanely crazy summer just did not provide me enough time to sit down to write this review (or any other reviews in the past 3 months, I’m terrible at this blogging business). Either way, check it out!
And because I’ve been so terrible at my duties, have a silly taco cartoon!
Taco count: 130-134