Cinco de Mayo: Top 5 Mexican restaurants (plus bonus pick)
If you can't make La Fiesta mas Caliente de Minnesota--Minnesota's spiciest celebration--this weekend in West St. Paul's District del Sol (Friday 4-9 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., includes a parade, low-rider car show, music, dancing, and more) you can celebrate Cinco de Mayo Fiesta with a Mexican meal. Here are a few of our favorites:
5. El Burrito Mercado The Silva family's restaurant-market El Burrito Mercado is the cultural anchor of St. Paul's District del Sol. El Burrito celebrates the Silva's 30th year in business with a 2010 win for Best Mexican Restaurant, due to the sprawling offerings of its cafeteria--everything from breakfast burritos and tortas to tamales and escabeche. As a bonus, you can swing through the market to bring home a case of Mexican coke, a few bakery items, and some Dia de los Muertos decor.
4. Los Ocampo It's all about the Best Tacos at Los Ocampo, though we're also big fans of the burritos and, well, the food in general. But let's just focus on the tacos for now: $2 gets you access to, like, a dozen meat fillings, from carne asada and al pastor to tongue and tripe! Ordered "Mexican style," they'll arrive on tortillas with the full treatment: diced onion, fresh cilantro, sliced radishes, and lime wedges.
3. Pineda Tacos So even though it has Tacos in the name, we're actually more into the Chipotle-shaming burritos at Pineda. First, their sheer size: The things are practically as big as your head. Second, the fillings scooped up from the assembly line: beans, braised meats, rice, cheese, and veggies. The ambiance at Pineda is pretty much zero, but that just means you're getting a lot of bang for very little buck. And we still miss the stand-alone salsa bar from when the shop was in the old Pizza Hut.
2. Salsa a la Salsa Moving up a notch in the ambiance category brings us to the Eat Street fave, Salsa a la Salsa. Another past Best Mexican Restaurant winner, Salsa a la Salsa has a vibrant, colorful dining room, a liquor license, and more elaborate entrees, such as camarones a la diabla (devilishly spicy shrimp) and mixiotes de pollo (chicken and cactus cooked in a banana leaf pouch).
1. Masa Masa is the local Mexican restaurant that takes all the things we love about Mexican restaurants and presents them in a more sleek, contemporary package. You'll pay a little more for the pleasure of dining in the gallery-like room, which offers plenty of Nicollet Mall people-watching, but Masa does a nice job with its top-shelf margaritas, pozole verde, taco platters, and more upscale dishes like sea bass marinated in adobo pastor and tequila. These are among the many reasons it's also earned a Best Mexican Restaurant award.
0. Barrio Then along comes Barrio, which takes all the things we like about mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants and D'Amico-backed Mexican restaurants, and then adds a nightlife element. Whoever thought we'd see a Mexican restaurant with a chandelier hanging next to a 100-plus-bottle tequila library that also hosts one of downtown's hottest late-night bar scenes? Barrio also has a past award for the best Mexican food in the Twin Cities, with plates as humble as red chile enchilada with fried egg and chorizo or as gourmet as citrus-dressed diver scallop ceviche. We also love Barrio's sidewalk seating--and, of course, the churros.
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