First Looks

Sonora Grill

Taco Spread at Sonora Grill
Photo by Caitlin Abrams

April may not cooperate as far as vernal inspiration goes, and even if you did get a tan in Mexico last month, it’s likely faded by now. Consider, then, the sweet escape that is Sonora Grill in Longfellow. The Mexican taco counter from Midtown Global Market has grown into a full-service restaurant on East Lake Street with an expanded menu and full bar.

In a rehabbed fast-food building, the new Sonora is airy and bright with lively action coming from the kitchen in the center of the room. The menu is similar to the market shop, continuing with caramelos (tacos) and bocaditos (small sandwiches), but this place ups the game with some bigger, more satisfying plates. The grilled whole chicken cut into chunks and served with ranchero beans is almost Caribbean citrusy and bright, a plate of simply charred shishito peppers comes with a dusky, creamy huitlacoche sauce, and saucy ribs bring that tropical level of heat that burns on the back without losing any sweet tanginess.

The drinks are fresh and biting with hand-pressed juices and house infusions, just like any forward-thinking bar in town, but they’re also laid-back and that perfect combination of smart and sexy that you dream about meeting on a beach vacation. The margarita has a fruity basil kick, and the sunset-colored Hermosillo looks like it would be all sickly sweetness and yet it’s just hinting with a hibiscus flavor that rightly complements the cinnamon and nuttiness of the mescal infusion.

All of this is way more affordable than SAD therapy or another plane ticket south, which is why the place has been jammed since day one. 3300 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-722-2500,