I swore I’d always remain loyal to Minneapolis. Back when I was a new college grad, I lived in Uptown and rarely crossed the river. Now, I work in Minneapolis and live in St. Paul. I love my Twin Cities. Here are a few places where I recently enjoyed and excellent cocktail (or two) that also serve really good food:
“I want to be a wine baron,” Jake stated as we sat at Buena Vista’s bar illuminated by the glowing picture of Count Agoston Haraszthy.
“Who doesn’t” I replied.
The evening before, our flight landed in San Francisco, thus beginning our road trip weaving east to Tahoe and then up to Portland.
Tacos are love.
At least to me they are. You can keep your Valentine’s candy and roses that will just die anyway, and stuffed bears holding hearts. You can also keep your poetry, unless it’s about tacos, of course. Mexican street-style tacos are like everything nice in food cradled between two soft corn tortillas.
A while ago, Whiskey & Soba mentioned how El Morelia, a Mexican grocery store in nearby Bridgeton roasts al pastor on a spit for Saturday and Sunday taco lunches. I never forgot this.
We can’t stop eating tacos.
The other night Jake and I were watching an episode of the Jim Gaffigan Show. One of the jokes was that while he and his wife were looking for a new home, she fell in love with every one they viewed stating that it was “the one.” I feel this way about good tacos. On our first STL date night, we rejoiced upon finding street tacos and spicy salsa at La Tejana in Bridgeton and on our second, we did the same over tacos at Taqueria El Bronco.
Moving to a smaller city is one thing, and moving to a large city is another. The Twin Cities is larger than St. Louis, but it’s where I grew-up and had always lived within a few hours’ radius. I just kind of understood the food scene and restaurant dynamics because I collected experiences and knowledge in bits and pieces from multitudes of sources for 30 years! We took for granted knowing the places people generally regarded as the best in their category from the tourist traps.
In St. Louis, we are just beginning to figure out where we are at any given time. Therefore, we look to blogs, message boards, and St. Louis residents for advice. One restaurant that frequently appeared in my search for favorite Mexican restaurants is Taqueria El Bronco located on Cherokee Street. There are many Mexican restaurants and bakeries located along this stretch of Cherokee Street and I keep reading about it’s hard to go wrong here.
On Saturday night, we had to drive around a bit before finding a parking spot on a side street (still adjusting to parallel parking and remembering to carry quarters for meters). Once inside we were warmly greeted and quickly seated. We dug into the complimentary chips and salsas. The red was very mild while the green was wonderfully spicy.
We’ve never tasted a green salsa quite like this and we put it on everything. Next time, we’d ask for two dishes of green salsa. My thirst still wasn’t quenched after climbing around The City Museum so I ordered a margarita ($6.25). Jake tried a Michelada ($5.74) which reminded us of a Bloody Mary-flavored beer.
Jake ordered five different tacos while I chose two. They’re smaller and less stuffed than the tacos at La Tejana, but also cost less at about $2 each. Seafood tacos cost a little bit more. Our order arrived surprisingly quickly.
Jake’s favorite taco was filled with finely crumbled chorizo. The meat wasn’t greasy at all and had a flavor we kept wanting more of. Jake said he liked it so much he’d just order chorizo tacos on a future visit.
I ordered one shrimp and one al pastor taco. The shrimp taco tasted light. The shrimp tasted fresh and weren’t strongly seasoned. I especially liked the al pastor meat. It had a wonderful griddle char. Some people hate the sight of fat on meat, but I loved that some of the pork pieces had a thin layer of caramelized fat.
We left El Bronco glowing with green salsa-induced endorphins. The person who managed the griddle Saturday night was totally on point. There’s clearly many good tacos to be had in St. Louis and we’ve hardly scratched the surface. El Bronco’s were as delicious as any we’ve tried from our favorite Twin Cities restaurants like Pineda and Taqueria Los Ocampo.
So, we didn’t actually eat these tacos on a Tuesday, but it is Tuesday and I’m writing about tacos, hence, Taco Tuesday! Have you ever wanted to blog a Meatless Wednesday, Wordless Monday, Thursday Favorites, Throwback Friday and watch the world burn, because I totally haven’t. . . 😉
After fifteen whole days in St. Louis, our belongings are mostly unpacked, but yet to be organized. While our condo isn’t much smaller than our Mason City town home, it contains less storage space. This isn’t entirely bad since it’s forcing me to go through our old moving boxes. I’m unpacking items I haven’t though about for years such as cards and letters from college friends and long-lost shoes. I found all of the pairs of glasses I lost after each move and two, life-sized stuffed dogs.
This weekend was Jake’s pick for date night and he chose taqueria-style tacos; the type made with double corn tortillas, a plethora of flavorful meat choices, and garnished simply with hot salsa, onion, cilantro, and lime wedges. I searched local blogs like Whiskey & Soba and local publications’ lists rounding up the community’s best Mexican restaurants. It’s clear there’s a lot of incredible Mexican food to be found here, but we had to start somewhere and I chose La Tejana. The first line of this St. Louis Magazine article states it’s, “not for folks who want American-style tacos. . . ” which meant it served what we were looking for. The menu also offers tortas, gorditas, sopas, and goat and seafood soup among other items.
With the weather hitting 95-100 ºF, we explored our local mall before driving fifteen minutes to Bridgeton. La Tejana is located in a quiet strip mall between a Mexican grocery store and a small liquor store. We were warmly greeted and served chips and salsa.
I loved the salsa’s flavor. It tasted a little garlicky and perfectly spicy. The complimentary table salsas Mexican restaurants served us in North Dakota and North Iowa tended to run mild and I felt pleasantly taken aback by its kick.
As much as Jake and I enjoyed visiting Las Palmas in Mason City, they did not offer horchata (and Jake misses their giant burrito). I ordered a horchata and received this giant cup which helped make up for lost time.
We stayed true to our date night mission and ordered lots of tacos for dinner. Jake tried a handful of different fillings while I ordered one lengua and two al pastor along with a side of jalapenos. I haven’t encountered al pastor tacos as magical as those we ate in Puebla where pork and pineapple cooked on spits like gyro meat and cooks shaved the meat to order. Still, there are some of the better al pastor tacos I’ve tried in the Midwest.
I liked that the pineapple was cut into small pieces and mixed into the meat so each bite tasted sweet and savory. The lengua was tender like the softest pot roast and slightly fatty (my favorite tongue tacos might be the one I tried from El Taco Loco when I joined part of Heavy Table’s Central Avenue Checklist).
Jake’s favorite taco fillings were the steak and barbacoa de res.
Our server brought over a red and green squirt bottle of hot sauces, explaining the red sauce was hotter. We liked them both. The jalapenos were nicely blistered and seasoned with a sprinkle of salt. I nibbled them between bites of taco.
Overall, La Tejana definitely scratched our itch for street tacos. Our server was very friendly and the prices are affordable. Spicy food endorphins are my favorite endorphins.
One thing I’d like to find is a Mexican restaurant that serves sauces similar to East St. Paul’s Taqueria Los Ocampos. Who serves your favorite St. Louis tacos?
Coming up next: I got splashed by a puffin at the zoo!