Photos by Caitlin Abrams
Andale’s fish tacos
Andale’s fish tacos
Think tacos are simple? Not so fast. With hidden layers of complexity in slowly roasted and braised meats, hints of spice, and tricks from generations-old family recipes, the freshness of a cilantro topping and the cut of a secret sauce can make or break these easy little eats. That’s what keeps them solidly in the foodist’s heart.
Andale Taqueria (Richfield)
- Vibe: Taqueria attached to a mercado with some of the most authentic tacos around.
- Get: Beef head and tongue tacos have alt-meat street cred, but tinga and fried tilapia are great too. Everything’s topped with fresh cilantro, onions, and lime. ($1.99-$2.49 each) andaletaqueriaymercado.com
Sonora Grill (Longfellow & Midtown)
- Vibe: Midtown Global Market is a quick-serve counter; the resto in Longfellow is full service with killer mezcal margs and a beefier menu.
- Get: Caramelos are tacos in Sonoran, the beef skirt steak is a beautiful bite with fresh cheese and red pepper salsa, and the shrimp tempura pairs with a great cilantro aioli. ($3.50-$5 each) sonoragrillmpls.com
Taco Cat (Midtown)
- Vibe: Bike delivery tacos, all year round, like a boss.
- Get: If you’re outside of their delivery zone, find a park bench and order The Outlaw with slow-roasted pork and kimchi, or The Ruckus with grilled steak and a slick mint chimichurri. ($9.99 for three, delivery included) tacocatmn.com
Maya Cuisine (Northeast)
- Vibe: Nordeast’s current taco/Mexican food obsession, especially for brunch. Recently remodeled with more space and more service.
- Get: Papas con chorizo puts deeply flavored sausage with potatoes, and the pollo enchipotlado fires up chicken with smoky chipotle peppers. The house-made tortillas are both humble and perfect. Each are $2, but the combo price of $8.25 includes a side and trip to the salsa bar. mayacuisineusa.com
El Taco Riendo (Northeast)
- Vibe: With a bright new paint job and expanded seating, you have more room for burritos and tortas the size of your child. And mix-and-match tacos for days.
- Get: Choose any meats you want and dress them how you like. The chicken in salsa verde is perky and bright, the chicken tinga in dusky adobo tomato sauce is seductive and rich, almost wealthy in flavor. ($2.35-$2.50) eltacoriendo.com
Los Ocampo (Mpls. & St. Paul)
- Vibe: A longtime favorite. Hit up the full-service restaurant in St. Paul or one of the quick-service taquerias, which are open until 4 am on weekends.
- Get: They’ll give you more than “Minnesota spice” levels on the $2 tacos. The spicy ground beef picadillo is right on. Add some hongos (mushrooms, onions, and jalapeños) to any taco for a full zap. losocampo.com
Taqueria La Hacienda (Mpls. & Burnsville)
- Vibe: All three of its restaurants were built on tacos. And now there’s a truck.
- Get: The Al Pastor is king, the slowly simmered pork is perked by bits of pineapple, and it all comes together in a magical way with fresh cilantro and salsa. Tacos are $1.90 each but a platter of 25 includes five kinds of meat and four orders of grilled onions for $54.99. taqueriaslahacienda.com
Taqueria Los Paisanos (East St. Paul)
- Vibe: Unassuming on the outside and so very friendly and chill on the inside, this place doesn’t have all the cult-status shine as some others, but the tacos are solid and delicious. Plus, it’s open late on weekends and has online ordering for your post-bar needs.
- Get: Pretty much everything is going to satisfy your taco hunger, the carne asada and carnitas are full flavored and fresh. ($1.89 each or $5.99 for two with rice and beans). lospaisanostaqueria.com
Vellee Deli (Downtown Mpls.)
- Vibe: Skyway tacos, via food truck roots. The long lines of office workers should tell you something about these mixed-MexAsian menu items.
- Get: Straight-up, beer-battered fish tacos bring you to the beach, but the more complex B.P.T. (barbecue pork taco) layers grilled pork with a slick aioli, tart Ky slaw, and house pickles for a new standard. ($6.95) velleedeli.com
World Street Kitchen (Lyn-Lake)
- Vibe: Inside WSK is a disco mash-up of international street foods that all play out with high-quality ingredients and a cheeky wink.
- Get: The charred squash taco with shiitake mushrooms and pumpkin seed salsa blows your mind, and the lamb belly tacos come at you with jalapeño pickles, basil, and secret sauce. ($7-$8) eatwsk.com
Pineda Tacos (Mpls., St. Paul & Plymouth)
- Vibe: Hole-in-the-wall Mexican at its best. Whether you’re in the cities or Plymouth, you can’t deny the authentic flavors, the amazing spread of menu items, and the beautifully braised meats. No frills needed.
- Get: Wonderfully chewy tortillas hold generous portions of meat and fresh toppings. You can’t go wrong with chicken tinga or beef barbacoa, but try the snappy double-fried chicharrone at which it excels. ($1.99 each)