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.

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Taco Review: Sea Salt Eatery

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My favorite summer place. Sea Salt Eatery is just a quick 2.5 mile bike ride away and as any patron has noticed, one of the best spots to eat, drink, and relax in Minneapolis. Even at peak times when the line is long and your tummy is grumbling, you can’t be mad about the wait because the food is totally worth it.

This past winter Sea Salt made a much needed remodel. A larger kitchen area to accommodate the crowds and a slightly larger patio area with upgraded seating nestled between the restaurant and the falls. The place looks great! Grab a beer while you stand in line, salivate over other orders that are coming out and change your mind on what you are going to get about 5 times, order, peruse the hot sauce selection (always grab 3 or 4 for your table, gotta have variety!), then sit and relax with another beer with giddy anticipation of your name or number being called out while you hear the rushing of the falls nearby.20150505_153041

This post has been a long time coming because I was trying to try all of the taco offerings before giving my review. Sea Salt offers Fried Fish Tacos, Calamari Tacos, Sauteed Shrimp Tacos, Grilled Mahi Mahi tacos, Bay Scallop Tacos, and Grilled Veggie Tacos. I am going to admit right away that I knew I was never going to get to the Veggie Taco. Sorry for all of you vegetarian readers out there, I am just not going to waste my taste buds on veggies when there are so many good fish options on the menu. And I never got to the Mahi Mahi tacos this year, it was a crazy summer and my afternoons spent relaxing in a hammock listening to the falls took a severe hit.

Let’s review the tacos first shall we?

20150429_195747Fried Fish Taco: These were tacos 122 and 123 this year. Two tacos with a huge hunk of fried haddock on a corn tortilla and a slight drizzling of a thick salsa. I’m amazed at how delightfully flaky the fish is, even after being deep fried. The inside is flaky not soggy and the fried breading has a good crunch without any extra oil. A really well done hunk of joy! A definite 5 out of 5 fish taco! (in all actuality these are a 6 out of 5 because I crave them pretty much all the time)

20150516_142434Shrimp Taco: Tacos number 153 and 154. Sort of a disappointment. With only 3 little shrimps and too much tortilla and cilantro these tacos were incredibly lackluster. In fact, I think it’s the only thing I’ve encountered at Sea Salt that hasn’t been very good. There is just no balance to this taco. Sub out the thick and heavier red house salsa for the corn salsa and a Louisiana style hot sauce and these would be much improved. Also, shrimp is relatively cheap, throw a couple more of those bad boys on the ’tilla and it won’t break the bank. Even some slaw under the shrimp for some more substance would be welcome. A disappointing 2 out of 5. 

Displaying 20150616_150727.jpgFried Calamari Taco: Tacos number 204 and 205 this summer. At the bottom of this post I rate just the calamari. In short, the calamari is the perfect ratio of crisp breading to chewy octopus. It is one of my favorite menu items at Sea Salt, hands down. This taco takes the calamari appetizer and puts it in a taco. The dipping sauce is drizzled on and corn salsa added to round out a couple of hearty tacos. Here is another 5 out of 5 taco for the Sea Salt repertoire! (as with the fish taco, I’d really give it a 6 out of 5 but I have a feeling some readers would get irked about me not following my scaling system).

oFried Bay Scallop Tacos: These tacos came in at number 231 and 232 this summer. A nice trip with my seester and 1 month old niece to Minnehaha Falls is only complete with a late lunch of sea food goodness. I had the scallop tacos and my sister had the always popular fried fish basket. The scallop tacos were decent. Messy to eat and a touch on the soggy side however. Not sure if the sogginess was from poor frying technique or from the salsa soaking through the breading. These had the same toppings as the calamari tacos so I would choose calamari over the scallops any day. But these tacos still earn a delightful 4 out of 5. 

All in all I give Sea Salt Eatery a 5 out of 5 on the taco front. While not all the tacos were perfect, there are enough items on the menu that are perfect to easily make up for a miss here or there. You also cannot go wrong with the atmosphere- outside dining next to a waterfall in the heart of the Twin Cities! How many metropolitan areas can say they have a waterfall within city limits?


Because I frequent here so often, I want to offer a few other reviews

Calamari: (see the fried fish taco photo and there is a photo of the calamari also) This is a go to for me and Chadd. No matter how hungry we are, we have to get a basket. On Cinco de Mayo after I ate TWELVE FREAKING TACOS and he and a friend at a meal also, we still came here for a beverage and got the calamari basket. I still managed to eat a few hunks even though I felt like my stomach was going to explode. THAT’S HOW GOOD THIS DISH IS PEOPLE! A huge plate of the breaded and fried little octopi with a pleasant dipping sauce of what I think it a slightly spicy aioli. Not even the slightest hint of rubbery texture that you often get with bad calamari, these little bite sized treats just have to get demolished before the rest of our order. If I don’t ignore the rest of my meal and eat my share of these curly fish first then I don’t get any. Gotta be quick!

Fried Fish Po Boy: The same famous hunk of fried fish as the basket and tacos, this time featured on a nice french style roll with some corn salsa, lettuce, and mayo. Messy to eat yet very filling and delicious! I bet the catfish option would be fantastic as well!

Crab Stuffed Avocado with Tortilla Chips: This was actually the first item I ever got from Sea Salt. I was halfway through a bike ride and was hungry but didn’t want to be bogged down by fried food or a meal that was too filling. It was the perfect choice. The crab and avocado were savory and well balanced. The tortilla chips were homemade, thick and lightly salted. This would be a great snack if you aren’t too hungry.

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice with Andouille and Ham Shank: It sounds heavy but even on a hot day you should order this. Red beans and rice has quickly become one of my favorite meals and a go to since it is so delicious and easy. This version is ultra savory since it has 2 kinds of meat! This is one of the few menu items Sea Salt has that does not feature seafood so even if you are not a seafood person (and I don’t know how you couldn’t be, especially from this place) have no fear, you can still find a menu item that will be satisfying. Oh, and it’s gluten free for those of you with dietary restrictions.

Taco Review: Maya Cuisine

maya_cuisineAt long last, I have found not only a 5/5 taco, but an entire 5/5 establishment in Minneapolis. Maya Cuisine on Central Avenue in NE Minneapolis came highly recommended by friends and strangers alike. And for good reason! With a solid selection of taco fillings served with the toppings you desire (I’m a minimalist enjoying only onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime but if you prefer cheese, lettuce, or more then you have that option) there is no reason to be disappointed. And the best part, THEY HAVE A SALSA BAR! Picking that perfect combo of salsa flavor and heat to go with your meat (rhyme completely intended) gives me an odd satisfaction.

20150513_125818I went with my 3 favorite meats for this meal: al pastor, barbacoa, and carnitas. While I couldn’t see an al pastor spit turning in the kitchen, I was pretty impressed with the tenderness and flavor of the meat. The barbacoa and carnitas were evenly tender and fit the flavor profiles expected of these meats. There was something in the barbacoa seasonings that was a bit different than most but I couldn’t quite place my tongue on it. Maybe a different type of chile used? I’ll have to try it again.

maya-cuisineAs I mentioned, the salsa bar helps step these already fabulous tacos up an extra notch. There is a perfect salsa to compliment each taco, whether it be their mild but savory tomatillo-avacado salsa, a smoky chipotle salsa, a medium thick red salsa, or a hot (relatively) tomatillo-jalepeno salsa.

And, get this guys, Maya Cuisine offers a Sunday Buffet! With hours from 10 am to 3 pm and an ever changing buffet menu you can’t go wrong!

Everything I experienced about Maya Cuisine is well deserving of a 5/5!

Taco Count: 152

Cinco de Mayo at Las Teresitas and the 12 Taco Challenge

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Hope your Cinco de Mayo was a blur of margaritas and tacos! Mine was more so of the latter, too many in fact. Let me review Las Teresitas first.

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Las Teresitas is just down the road from me and they feature a pretty amazing nacho/salsa bar. Pico de gallo, numerous jalapeno salsas, guaillo salsa, smoky chipotle salsas, pickled onions and habeneros, diced onions and cilantro, and some others that weren’t labeled that I couldn’t quite figure out what they were but delicious none the less. There are definitely a salsa (or 4) that will delight your taste buds.

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I’ve tried all of their tacos except the ground beef and tripe. I don’t do tripe. Unless someone can give me a hands down awesome tripe dish, I won’t bother. It’s one of the few things I will saw “ew” to. Please, suggest somewhere that serves tripe that will prove me wrong.

Only the chorizo and the carne asada are worthy of a full fledged 5/5 rating. The rest were only a 3/5. The chorizo had great flavor and even though it was a bit greasy it still had a good amount of crisp to the meat. The carne asada was also very tender and crisp. Just the way I like it. There just wasn’t anything incredibly special about the other meats to make them stand out. I was actually really disappointed by the cheek and the tongue. I’ve had tongue tacos before and they were gooood. Not here though.

Las Teresitas salsa bar is definitely a 5/5. You just can’t go wrong with the quality of salsas they have and the variety. I wish I always had that many salsas on hand at home. I’ve also eaten their enchiladas verdes. Good from what I remember but cannot give it a rating because a) it’s not a taco and b) it’s been over a year since I’ve eaten them so I need a refresher.

20150505_140040Noshing on some sALsas.

All in all, Las Teresita earns a 4/5. 


Now, let me get to why I maybe had too many tacos on Cinco de Mayo.

I mentioned one evening to the boyfriend that I could probably eat 12 tacos from Las Teresitas as they are little yet delicious. He doubted me. We made a wager: If I eat 12 tacos on a Taco Tuesday he pays the bill. If I fail, the bill is mine.

What better way to finally solve this gastronomic gamble than on Cinco de Mayo. AND IT’S TACO TUESDAY TOO! ONLY $1.25 FOR EACH TACO!!!

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Long story short, don’t doubt me when I say I can eat 12 tacos. CUZ I CRUSHED THEM!!!!

20150505_142637The last taco. That is the face of “impressed with myself” mixed with “not wanting to play anymore”.

But my tummy tum was very uncomfortable the rest of the night. So much so that I went to the Twins game and couldn’t even handle eating a Kamarczuk’s Polish Sausage… even 6 hours later!

Taco count: 146

Taco Review: Betty Danger’s Country Club

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Betty Danger’s Country Club. Not the first place that comes to mind when you think of tacos is it?

Before I even begin on the meal, I need to set the scene:

You drive up to a corner spot with lots of patio space and a friggin Ferris Wheel outside and HOLY CRAP THEY HAVE MINI GOLF TOO! Walk in, and it looks like a country club, good job to the marketing team there. We head straight to the patio (it is 70 out in April in Minneapolis, it would be a shame to not sit in the patio) and on the way walk through the mini golf course and a bar and another dining area. There are so many nooks and crannies in this place. Bar menus are embedded into old dog-eared books, the food menu has lots of kooky names (and a few hidden jokes that I’ll omit lest I give away some of the allure), and the servers are dressed in pink and green country club-esque attire. The way every small detail fits the theme of the establishment makes it no secret that this place is owned by the same proprietors as Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge and Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den.

Along with some decent sounding appetizers and slider sammiches, the menu has a surprising amount of tacos as their country club fare. I would have expected more cucumber quarter cut sandwiches and mint juleps. A “traditional” ground beef taco in a hard shell, fajitas, shredded pork tacos, braised chicken tacos, and shrimp tacos all adorn the menu. I go for the shrimpys. Sitting under the Ferris Wheel (ah hem, excuse me, “vertically rotating patio”) that is now a landmark in NE Minneapolis, the unassuming plate arrives. 20150427_150443

Honestly, not what I expected at first glance. Lots of orange drizzly sauce and some sauteed shrimp on a flour tortilla. I mean, that’s what they advertised the tacos as, I guess I just expected more color, more plate garnishes, anything overly garish really as the rest of the atmosphere of Betty Danger’s is incredibly so. The orange sauce, although thin and messy, has decent heat and flavor, similar to a Frank’s Redhot but with less buffalo influence. The tacos just needed something else to really seal the deal. I also ordered the jalapeno coleslaw as a side and good thing too. Spoon some of that on these tacos and now we’re in business! I’m pretty surprised they don’t serve them this way to begin with. Add some purple cabbage to the slaw and top off the shrimpy tacos with it and that solves the lackluster first impression AND improves flavor.

20150427_150514Because I had to do some leg work on the tacos to make them a little better, and because they are very much over priced ($14 for 3 tacos and $4 for the slaw) I can only feel right in giving these Betty Danger shrimp tacos (otherwise labeled on the menu as “Sloane Kitty Hotchkiss Groton” but who has the time or energy to remember that?) a 3/5.

On a side note, we wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel vertically rotating patio but there are a lot of rules such as having a party of 4, time limits, having to purchase so much food and beverage, having at least one responsible member in the group, blah blah blah. Needless to say, we didn’t go for a ride.

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You could also play mini golf through the dinning room if you please. We did none of these things but did enjoy some wonderful company of friends on a patio on a warm spring day.

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Taco Count: 119

Taco Review: Taqueria La Hacienda

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Lake Street has plenty of taco joints to choose from so where does one even start? You have a couple methods to help you decide:

  1. Let someone else choose for you
  2. Open the phone book (a book listing addresses and phone numbers for businesses or people used in an antiquated pre-internet era) or a map, close your eyes and point at something
  3. Go to Mercado Central and which has multiple little stands to try a plethora of Mexican treats

20150415_133353I went with a mixture of #1 and #3. Mother Gaither suggested Mercado Central for lunch. After walking around a bit seeing what there was to offer, this glorious Al Pastor meat spit made my decision to eat at Taqueria La Hacienda a done deal!

Slow roasted pork in all its glory (despite a potato quality photo)

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I got 2 tacos al pastor and 2 steak. Chadd got 2 al pastor, 1 chorizo, and 1 carnita. Mother Gaither got an al pastor platter. Did I mention the al pastor meat spit looked amazing?!

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Tacos al pastor and steak tacos.

Homer Simpson had it right when he said, “ugghhhaghugh”. Please just click on the link for better effect because I have no idea how to spell out that noise. These al pastor are juicy and tender and crispy and slightly sweet. I may have mentioned before that when meat is done correctly it’s almost like eating candy. You just can’t stop picking up all the little meat droppings and licking your fingers. Absolutely phenomenal! The steak were not as good as the al pastor but that is by no means saying they were bad. In fact, the steak tacos were great! Unfortunately they just got overshadowed by the al pastor greatness. Tender, decent flavor if not a bit on the bland side, something a bit of lime and small drizzle or dip of that red salsa didn’t fix.

Steak tacos: 4/5. Al Pastor: 5/5.

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Tacos al pastor, carnitas taco, chorizo taco.

I took one bite out of Chadd’s carnita taco and it was also pretty amazing. Tender and flavorful, I will get the carnitas again if I make my way back to Mercado Central. All of the tacos were perfect in that they featured a good amount of meat, just a dash of chopped cilantro (too much can ruin a taco for me, I’m looking at you Chadd), and crunchy diced onion. A perfect balance.

Carnitas tacos: 5/5.

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I need to go out to lunch with Mother Gaither more often because she never finishes her meal and I get to eat the rest 🙂

Even after eating my 4 tacos and 2 more tacos off Mother Gaither’s plate, I wanted a tamale.

BUT THERE WERE NO TAMALES TO BE FOUND!! So sad for my belly. I mean, multiple places sold them, but every single stand was out for the day. This leads me to one conclusion: The tamales must be rockin’!! I will be back to Mercado Central for some tamales!

Taqueria La Hacienda overall score: 4.5/5

Tacos consumed: 106

 

 

Taco Review: Los Ocampo

IMG_20150413_201407 It was a whirlwind of activity before leaving for Thailand. I ate tacos but I didn’t write about tacos. I was very preoccupied with quitting my job and wrapping up all the projects I was associated with, moving from my apartment in Austin to Minneapolis, sort of job hunting to line up something upon my arrival back to the states (which proved unfruitful, yay unemployment!), getting the trip of a life time organized, and, of course, Chadd and I decided to take our annual ski trip the weekend before leaving for Thailand. Needless to say I just downright didn’t have time to write this post. However, I’m back, unemployed for the moment, it’s nice out and I’m gonna sit here in this hammock and catch up on my taco blogging!

In between one of the busy weekends back in February, I managed to find time to go eat tacos with my friend Jennina, who was ultra enthusiastic about getting to be a part of my taco adventure. Here she is eating tacos.

jennina with tacos

Can you believe she ate ALL of those? What a pig.

I took Jennina to Los Ocampo, located inside the Midtown Global Market. I got 3 tacos, one from each of their spicy levels: one taco al pastor (pork marinated and roasted on a spit, right), one taco chicharron prensado (smoked pork in red sauce, middle), and one taco tinga de rez (chipotle beef, left). They look appetizing right?

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They were kind of sad. The al pastor was good! Very flavorful and the meat came chopped so they were just a tad crispy. The pork in red sauce however was a sorry flavorless soggy lump of shredded meat and the chipotle beef was very similar in soggy sadness. Also, all of the tacos were only sort of luke warm.

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I give the al pastor 3 out of 5 stars and the others 2 out of 5 stars.

Los Ocampo overall comes in at a disappointing 2.5 out of 5.