High-profile Mexican spots are cropping up all over town. What to expect when you get there, what to get, and who to bring.
Full Service at Maya
Constantly at the top of our lists for best Mexican, best tacos, best burritos, and basically anything you can cull from the Mexican cooking repertoire is Central Avenue’s Maya.
This fast-casual counter-service spot with made-to-order everything and Minneapolis’ most stocked condiment bar has been wowing taco fiends for awhile. But a delicious secret is that they’ve added a full-service restaurant and bar in the back of their fast-casual operation. There you'll find great deals on Mexican beers and margaritas, plus a full menu of bar snacks and entree-style preparations that aren't available in the more casual space. Check out diabla shrimp, choriqueso (chorizo drenched in cheese and served with tortillas or chips), or sopa de mariscos.
How to use it: Go to Maya’s dining room and bar for a casual, but not overly casual taste of how they do things in Mexico. Expect traditional dishes served at fair prices and killer deals on beers and cocktails.
Who to bring: The whole family, including the kids
1840 Central Ave., Minneapolis
Tyge Nelson and Steven Hesse are two of my favorite chefs. Nelson most recently took Chino Latino from “meh” to “hey now!” and Hesse was the opening chef of Uptown's Libertine, which for a time was a whole new way to look at a steakhouse, not expensive and buttoned up but affordable and loose and modern.
The two have tons of culinary pedigree beyond them, so it was really exciting when they decided to open a Mexican restaurant in the old Glockenspiel space on West Seventh Street. Exciting, because they'll bring their reverence for Mexican cooking to a cool historic space that was a crime to leave empty. Exciting, because West Seventh is one of the most quietly hip neighborhoods in the Twin Cities right now. And exciting, because these two are whipping up things like pork chops glazed with pasilla chile and avocado papaya salsa.
How to use it: The full bar makes this the place you want to go for a bunch of tequila treated in interesting ways. Start with a habanero cilantro margarita along with chips and all of the salsas. There are six, in standard permutations and less standard ones too, like the deeply bewitching arbol cashew. Bring your mom and dad, because it’s the type of place everyone gets to be happy: tacos and margs for you, a ball tip steak with chimichurri for dad, the weekly fish special for ma.
Who to bring: Your parents or other adult family members
605 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
The underrated Mexican bistro Tinto Cocina + Cantina is moving to the edge of Edina, getting a more intimate space, adding better wine, and getting a new name.
Owner Rebecca Illingworth Penichot, who also owned the late Bin Wine Bar in Lowertown, is looking forward to bringing together her two loves: Mexican cooking and wine.
She recently got married to French chef Thierry Penichot, and he’ll bring some of his own influence into the mix too. No specific word on menu items yet, except that they will continue to serve their freshly made in-house tortillas, some of their best-selling items from the original Tinto, and Penichot’s French-influenced Caribbean fare.
Stay tuned for more.
How to use it: Go for the intimate space with a little Euro-Mexican mashup and decent wine.
Who to bring: Your bae
4953 Penn Ave. S.
Popol Vuh and Central
Lyn 65 is known for its freewheeling mashup of pizza, fried chicken, and killer burgers. It’s a strip mall wonder with a mission to continue giving people what they want. And what do they want? Mexican.
So the team behind Lyn 65 is opening Popol Vuh and Central, two restaurants in one. Popol Vuh will be a forward-thinking, small, finer-dining destination headed up by chef Jose Alarcon, a Morelos, Mexico native. The kitchen will be his playhouse, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do with it.
Central will be a more open, bustling, possibly cafeteria-style taqueria and bar with tons of affordable and approachable tacos and margaritas by the pitcher.
Watch for both of these northeast Minneapolis places this fall.
How to use it: Go to Popol for what is likely to be our edgiest Mexican restaurant yet, and use Central to unwind over a margarita afterward, eyeing the soccer game, while reminiscing about all you ate and learned.
Who to bring: Your foodie friends and your crew
Opens Fall 2017
Get ready for seafood-focused Mexican at this opens-any-day Mexican spot by the people who brought you Sushi Fix. Expect lots of raw fish preparations like aguachiles and ceviche; house-ground corn for house-made tortillas, and a weekly mole special.
The bar will be a central focus too, with the best in imported tequila and mezcal. The space is bright, tropical, casual, and family-friendly. This is supposed to be a place where you bomb in after work and get the seafood-satisfaction you need after a long day.
How to use it: Go for a serious coastal treatment of Mexican cooking, plus chef/owner Billy Tserenbat’s laser-like focus on interesting and high-end spirits treated with irreverence. This place is gonna be loads of fun. From their website: “Remember in '70s Baja was so cool that, you can surf and enjoy laid back life style. Yes that's the theme we are shooting for.”
Who to bring: Your co-workers and drinking mates
Opens any day.
830 Lake Street East, Wayzata