BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT - 2003
Tio Pepe's Taco Hole in Chino Latino
2916 Hennepin Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Ever heard of Tio Pepe's taco hole? If you care a whit about real Mexican food, you should make it your business to hear of it. Here's the lowdown: Tio Pepe's is a short section on Chino Latino's menu where some of the best Mexican food in the history of the Twin Cities has been appearing. Look here for such hard-to-make dishes as classic lamb barbacoa (chili-braised lamb marinated for two days in a complex blend of guajillo and chipotle chilies, cider vinegar, avocado and bay leaves, cloves, black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon, then baked for hours in banana leaves--all served with a fresh tomatillo salsa). Or pipian verde, which starts with pumpkin seeds and ends with your own blinking astonishment over the cocktail-fueled mayhem that is Chino. Where did Mexican delights, on a par with things served at Chicago's famed Frontera Grill, where did they come from? Turns out that Chino Latino's longtime chef Todd Bolton recently married a native of Puebla, Mexico, and his bride's family has been putting him through the works by making him prepare dishes like that pipian verde for his whole family--on Christmas Eve no less. These Puebla family recipes have been combined with a Chino kitchen full of native Mexican cooks who are happy to explain how their own mothers and aunts did things, as well as those supplemental Chino luxuries like top-rate ingredients and a state-of-the-art kitchen. All of this has resulted in Mexican dishes that blow every other restaurant in town out of the water. The fact that you can get a top shelf margarita made with fresh juice and one of those perfect Chino ceviches only adds to the luster. Now, if only owner Parasole would spin Tio Pepe's off into a stand-alone place, Tio Pepe could begin to take over the world!