Antojito Paradise

Antojitos are the street snacks of Mexico City, and the newest Los Ocampo on Lake Street offers an irresistible array

On subsequent visits to Los Ocampo I was riveted by the textural differences: The tlacoyo ($3.50)—in which the masa is combined with whole and mashed pinto beans and cheese, griddle-fried, and topped with radishes, lettuce, and crema—is rustic and rough-hewn, bristling with patches as crisp as potato chips on its lumpy exterior. Meanwhile, the gordita ($4), which quickly became a favorite with me, had almost polenta-like swaths of creaminess. The quesadilla—yes, even the quesadilla is good here—features a masa cake flattened and griddle-fried till the edges puff up like lace.

I know you think "quesadilla" and conjure up the bar-food staple of a grocery-store wheat tortilla sandwiched around some melted cheese, but the ones at Los Ocampo are so different it's like comparing chicken nuggets to a whole roast chicken. Order one here (solo, for $4, or with rice and beans for $8) and one of the many women behind the line molds some fresh masa into a disk, claps it into a press that flattens it into a pancake, griddles it, flips it, folds it around your choice of meat (or mushrooms and cheese if you ask for a vegetarian version), tucks fresh radish slices, lettuce, crema, and queso fresco into it, and presents you with something light, lively, and devourable. I got one once for a toddler with nothing in it but cheese and the thing was so pure, sweet, and yummy it could have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with just about any appetizer in a white-tablecloth restaurant.

Of course, if plain isn't your bag, this Los Ocampo offers several versions of fancy, such as the huarache de costilla ($6.54), a long, flat, masa cake topped with a three- or four-bone section of pork ribs that have been cooked so long they are utterly gelatinous and meltingly tender. "These aren't just tender, they're plastic-fork tender, which means they're soup with bones," quipped my friend.

Muy delicioso: Gorditas (front), tlacoyos (left rear) and huaracazo (right rear)
Jana Freiband
Muy delicioso: Gorditas (front), tlacoyos (left rear) and huaracazo (right rear)

Location Info

Map

Taqueria Los Ocampo

920 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Powderhorn

In addition to the various masa antojitos, Los Ocampo sells a handful of other classics, including two excellent versions of pozole ($7.95)—pork or chicken soup that, here, comes with two tostadas piled high with fresh avocado slices, crema, lettuce, and the works, plus a side of hot chiles, radishes, fresh onions, limes, and spicy red oil so you can flavor the soup to your liking.

"It's Mexican pho," marveled one friend I shared it with, making a particularly Minnesotan connection. Pho or no, this pozole is a great version: meaty, spicy, lemony, lively—in fact, it's so good I've seen tables of six men at Los Ocampo with six orders of pozole in front of them. The kitchen here is well equipped for takeout and is ringed by easy parking. If you live in south Minneapolis, this might be the find that transforms your winter.

For me, though, as great as the pozole is, I'm never going to be able to cross the threshold of Los Ocampo without ordering some antojito or other, and my advice is that if you only learn one new word in 2008, let this be it. I know, I know, you have limited brain space. So do I. But I promise you, even if you have to dump out the name of your kindergarten teacher, try to hold on to the word antojito. It opens up a whole new world of delicious.

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