Mercado Forces

Taqueria la Hacienda
Mercado Central, 1515 E. Lake St., Mpls.; (612) 728-5424 Hours: Monday-Sunday 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (Sunday till 6:00 p.m.)

Manny's Tortas
Mercado Central (see above); (612) 728-5408
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. daily

Otra Cocina Deli and Catering
Mercado Central (see above); (612) 728-5442
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday till 8:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Reyna de los Jugos
Mercado Central (see above) Hours: Monday, Thursday-Saturday 8:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Tuesday 8:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Wednesday 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Sunday 8:30 a.m.-5:00 pm

I've had it with your loved ones. All week I've been wearing myself to a nubbin, wondering, wondering: What do they want for the holidays? Are they hot for Furbies? Is it all about fruit-shaped chenille rugs? Did they really like that Dean Martin-shaped lampshade I gave them last year--or were they just being polite? All I can say now is, I give up, I don't care, let them eat cake. They're your headache.

But before I go, I'll give you one bit of advice: If you head to the southeast corner of Bloomington Avenue and East Lake Street, you might just accomplish much of your holiday shopping while treating yourself to the best Mexican food in Minneapolis.

Mercado Central is a complex (with off-street parking!) hosting about two dozen merchants who sell everything your loved ones might--for all I care--need. Baskets, blankets, Christmas ornaments, cowboy hats, salsa and merengue recordings, silver and gold jewelry, soapstone jewelry boxes, belt buckles, leather belts and bags, picture frames, candy, hot sauces, candelabra, candles, paper and straw flowers, and lots and lots more.

And when you too give up on your loved ones, salve your wounds, in the best American tradition, with lots and lots of tasty snacks. The very best food is to be had at Taqueria la Hacienda, a place I have such extreme enthusiasm for, I'm nearly hysterical--but I can't tell you about it yet. First I have to send you to Reyna de los Jugos, the juice-and-coffee bar in the northeasternmost spot of the mercado.

Options here include fresh-squeezed orange juice ($2.50), fresh carrot juice ($2.25), milk-based licuados ($2) or water-based aguas ($1.75) made with your choice of fresh mango, papaya, plantain, pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, or strawberry. If you're in a more wintry mood, there's the full gamut of coffees. Once you have acquired your beverage, I'll permit you to wander back to a modest booth situated just a few feet from the mercado's food-court-like eating area, a space furnished with nine tables that seat half a dozen people each at cane-backed chairs.

La Hacienda looks deceptively simple: All you see is a grill and a slowly rotating spit (topped with a pineapple), below which sits a pile of thin, sauced pork chops, sort of like a paper spike with a lot of memos on it. That beautiful spit is the home of al pastor, one of the four meat fillings you can have on your tacos ($1.50).

And what gorgeous little tacos they are. Perfectly seasoned meat is piled high on two cute little coaster-sized tortillas; on top of the meat is a mélange of carefully minced onions and cilantro, united with a squirt of red-chile-flecked salsa. They look like fancy restaurant food, these tacos--the geometric juxtaposition of two round, overlapping tortillas, the small cubes of meat, the even smaller cubes of onion, and the bright green cilantro. I can't think of anything as pretty except for dessert at Aquavit--but that costs four times as much, is customarily meat-free, and doesn't come on a (collectible?) Styrofoam plate.

Aside from the orange, sizzling, savory al pastor, taco options include a very nice chicken version--cut up white meat bright with red chili powder--carne asada (beef), and carnitas (roast pork). If you're there on a weekday, la Hacienda will also make you a burrito ($5.30) that is easily the best this side of Lexington Avenue, crammed with meat, rice, and creamy beans.

Just next door to la Hacienda is Manny's Tortas, a little spot worth noting because it makes these cities' best Cubano sandwich ($5.75)--a Cuban specialty featuring two kinds of pork, cheese, and pickled vegetables--along with an array of excellent tortas. For a torta, the busy counter-people split a six-inch swath of French bread and lay it on the grill. On another grill they lay the filling of your choice, a breaded beef cutlet (milanesa, $5.25), eggs and chorizo ($4.50), or ham ($4.50). When the bread is ready, they coat one side with refried beans, the other with the mashed pulp of half an avocado pitted and pressed on the spot. They add shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced onion, pickled jalapeño slices, cheese, and a very tasty squirt of chipotle mayonnaise--would your loved ones like a torta under their Christmas tree? I don't care. I told you, I wash my hands of them. But I will say that for the vegetarian on your list, Manny's makes an awfully good meatless torta ($4.50) that still tastes remarkably good. Any Tom, Dick, or Manny could hide behind rich, salty meats, but it takes a true torta artist to make one that's both sparse and worthy.

1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...