Taco Review: La Huasteca

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With its obnoxious flashing neon lights, La Huasteca is a small family run taqueria off South Nicollet across from the infamous Quang’s and behind Shuang Hur Asian market. I’ve been to both Quang’s and Shuang Hur more times than I can count but overlooked this remarkable taco spot until some amazing Tacopalooza2015 followers and Redditors recommended it to me. After doing this blog thing for a year now, I had still not heard of this place but after it was recommended 3 times in 1 week as one of the best authentic places in Minneapolis, I knew I could not hesitate in tasting it for myself.

Best decision ever.

Not only is La Huasteca incredibly authentic but they have goat and lamb options which I have yet to see offered anywhere else. I got one each of goat, lamb, and chorizo tacos with a pork tamale on the side. The pork tamale did not look incredibly appetizing but it was served in the banana leaf in which is was steamed so that is a positive sign. My first cut into the tamale did not seem hopeful as it was all masa but I was pleasantly surprised once I got to the pork. The pork was insanely tender and juicy and once you eat it with the masa you realize that its thickness compliments the meat of the tamale wonderfully. I personally could have used a bit more chile rojo sauce on/in mine but the tamale was still one of the best I’ve had. I wonder if I can buy a catering sheet of them?

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The chorizo was pretty average: not overly greasy but a tad on the salty side. The goat and lamb tacos were definitely the stars of my meal. Moist, chunked goat meat in a (I’m guessing) mojales sauce was served on a taco. The meat plus sauce combo was a gorgeous deep red color and actually sort of sweet. Sweet and savory is how I’d describe it. And mouth-watering. My favorite though of the meal had to be the lamb taco. Moist, tender, shredded lamb graced the corn tortilla with a spicy orange sauce and traditional cilantro and onion garnishes. I don’t really know what was in the orange sauce on the lamb but I know my tongue liked it. Spicy and light, a perfect compliment to the delicate gamey flavor of the lamb.

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From left to right: chorizo, goat, lamb (I botched the photo by not arranging the tacos better, sometimes I just get too excited and want to eat rather than take photos.)

 

Taco Rating: 5 out of 5! I’m for sure going back to try the stews they make… and for tacos again… and probably a tamale… don’t judge me. I have to eat all this for science.

Taco Review: Pineda Tacos

 

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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.

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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.

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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)

Taco Review: Pancho Villa

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.

Chorizo goodness

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

Taco Review: Tavial Grill

Long story short, go to Tavial Grill for tamales instead of tacos.

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I had 1 carne asada taco which was the definition of “blah” and 1 chorizo taco which was very dry. I’ve mentioned before how I like crispness to my taco meats but these both were on the overcooked side- too much crisp is definitely not a good thing. There was little flavor to the meat and even their house salsa couldn’t cover up the taste. I give both of these tacos a 2 out of 5. They did have pretty tasty beans though.

The tamale was the saving grace of the meal for me. It was well packed with a good masa exterior. While it may have been just a little on the light side in terms of meat, it had great flavor. I still argue that Los Loma has the best tamales but these are also worth a try if you are in the neighborhood of West 7th street and Tuscarora in St. Paul.

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I give the tacos at Tavial Grill a 2 out of 5.  The tamale was solid, otherwise for tacos, you’d be better off going down the road to taco bell.

Taco count: 198-199