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Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities
City Pages photos
American love Mexican food, and that affair has only deepened as more and more authentic restaurants opened to showcase the real flavors of our southern neighbor. The Twin Cities are no different, especially as the food often comes at a price that fits our frugal nature. Of course, not all restaurants are created equal, but here is a list of some of the best Mexican and Mexican-influenced spots in the area.

See also: Top 10 margaritas in the Twin Cities Top 10 craft cocktail bars in the Twin Cities Top 10 sandwiches in the Twin Cities

10. El Burrito Mercado

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

A consistent winner of Best Of awards over the last decade -- including a best Mexican restaurant nod -- El Burrito Mecado earns its accolades with tasty, authentic dishes, both at its original St. Paul location and a satellite at the Midtown Global Market. There's nothing like being able to pick up some sweet Mexican breads, to-go tamales, stalks of sugar cane about as tall as you are, or a piñata or two on your way out the door after dinner. First order of business is the eats, though. Burrito Mercado has a sprawling menu of items in its cafeteria-style "Café Express" --i ncluding a section for masa-only entrées -- that translates into a 100 percent likelihood of a sprawling meal. After you grab your massive breakfast burrito, heaving torta, or rich blanket of carnitas, don't forget to belly up to the salsa bar, and definitely don't forget to weigh your plate down even more with the house Mexican-style escabeche--a pickled assortment of cauliflower, carrot, onion, and jalapeño. Then grab a chair in any one of the ringside seats. One of the best parts of eating at Burrito Mercado is just sitting back, being in the bustle. (175 Cesar Chavez St., St. . Paul; 651.227.2192)

9. La Chaya Bistro

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

La Chaya has the dual influence of a Mexican chef who spent several years in the Mediterranean, and it provides its unique menu is a distinctly relaxed atmosphere for watching the world go by in south Minneapolis. Chef and owner Juan Juarez Garcia has spent more than two decades in the trade but brings a lifetime of passion for cooking and food, especially that of his native Mexico. The unique twist comes from his time in Italy, bringing a distinct mix to the dishes. That means you might find halibut with pumpkin seed sauce and poblano peppers alongside house-made cannelloni. Or for lunch there is a carne asada sandwich served on freshly made focaccia. Pizzas are part of the menu Tuesdays, while Wednesdays brings a Mexican-inspired menu. (4537 Nicollet Ave. S. Minneapolis; 612.827.2254)

8. Boca Chica

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities
Mark Kartarik

The Cities' longest-lived Mexican restaurant is also one of its most beloved, not so much because the standard American-Mexican menu is that radically different from others in town -- though the spicy guisado chipotle, a pork stew with nopalitos (sliced cactus), is a treat -- but because the all-around level of atmosphere, service, and food is so high. The family-owned West Side institution, just across the river from downtown St. Paul, exudes an immediate warmth and familiarity. The menu is extensive and covers all the classics, from flautas and enchiladas to chile rellenos and carne asada. Boca Chica even has a Mexican buffet during the work week and a Sunday brunch that can cure any Saturday night indulgence. Speaking of which, this place pours a stellar margarita. The classic La Senora may be the best in town. (11 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul; 651.222.8499)

7. Barrio Tequila Bar

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

You may be thinking drinks with a visit to Barrio Tequila -- there are more than 100 varieties of the titular liquor, so drink up! -- but it's the food that has made the restaurant (and food trucks) such a popular attraction. In the four years since it opened, this restaurant has become a favorite of lovers of not just Mexican dishes but good food in general. The menu features refined versions of street foods from Mexico and Central and South America: Tecate-battered fried mahi-mahi tacos, red chile enchilada with fried egg and chorizo, and barbecued pork sopes. It also serves some fancier fare, dishes like tequila-cured salmon, ahi tuna with quinoa, and diver scallop ceviche. Just make sure to save room for the churros. (925 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.333.9953. 235 E. Sixth St., St. Paul; 651.222.3250. Cocina del Barrio, 5036 France Ave. S., Minneapolis; 952.920.1860)

6. La Loma Tamales

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

The specialty of the house is right there in the name for these eateries and caterers. The best tamales in Minneapolis are right here too. Weekdays, try chicken-green-chile tamale, a tube of lush, quivering corn meal batter with a heart of brisk tomatillos and stringent chiles. Or a red pork tamale, the corn meal turned a voluptuous maroon with smoky, potent chipotles, the filling as hot and dusky as a sun seen setting through a dust storm. Weekends, go for the lush and overabundant plantain-leaf tamales, which are so stuffed with meats and cheeses they're like a dinnertime piñata. At only a few pesos per treat, La Loma manages to hit all three of the magical triumvirate: Not just fast, cheap, and good, but fast, cheap and all-out fantastic. (Various locations; 612.728.5430)

 

5. Masa

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

D'Amico's Mexican restaurant Masa was born of a desire to craft an eatery that features both top-quality food and an elegant environment. Not only does it provide that, but at prices that won't break the bank. Masa is really just an everyday Mexican restaurant, albeit one in a nicely polished room with some splashy cocktails. At lunch you can get $2 tacos that look just like the little round ones they serve in the most authentic mercados, except here they come on white china and the al pastor one contains chunks of fresh-grilled pineapple. At dinner, expect to find basic Mexican food done with fresh, premium ingredients: The sea bass ceviche is so bright and crisp it tastes moments old; the huaraches are exactly what they should be--cornmeal comforts offset with a bit of spice. The cocktails are the most surprising part of Masa; their delicious margaritas contain various top-shelf silver tequilas. Some contain a liqueur made with honey from the xtabentun flower, which, again, sounds so exotic it should be unaffordable. Have another beside hot churros with chocolate dipping sauce. (1070 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.338.6272)

4. Salsa a la Salsa

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

The family-owned Salsa a la Salsa is known for its fresh ingredients (the orange jicama salad is a simple and refreshing way to start your meal) and its creativity. It's a place where traditional dishes sit side-by-side with unique creations. Consider the fish tacos: In a nod to its Minnesota clientele, the restaurant serves native walleye topped with heaps of guacamole and pico de gallo. Then again, if you want to dine on burritos and enchiladas, you can, and you will also be assured that they will be prepared with just as much care and with the same attention to fresh ingredients as the specialty dishes. Saving room for dessert is essential, though, and you'll understand why when you read three words on the menu: fried chocolate truffles. Those chocolatey sweet treats rest on two fried cinnamon-and-sugar coated tortillas, and the whole shebang benefits from a scoop of vanilla. For liquid refreshment -- or courage -- there are tequilas galore for lovers of margaritas, while the Mexican Coca-Cola brings an authentic sugar rush. (1420 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis; 612.813.1970. A La Salsa, Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.872.4140)

3. El Taco Riendo

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

El Taco Riendo ("The Laughing Taco") doesn't offer white tablecloths, but the unassuming Northeast spot has some of the best Mexican food in the Twin Cities. The tacos are justly heralded.  You can choose from a dozen types of meats--from popular carne asada, pastor, and carnitas to more exotic tongue and tripe--and top it with an array of salsas, guacamole, onion, and cilantro. But the star of the taco show is the tinga del pollo--succulent shredded chicken saturated in a smoky chipotle sauce with tomato and onions. The savory tinga carries a genuine spicy kick that adds a whole other layer of complexity to the dish. Mind you, the menu doesn't stop with tacos. The burritos are massive -- stuffed to the point that the cooks behind the counter need to exert a bit of extra pressure to contain them in their foil wrapper -- and packed with a spectacle of flavors. And if you can't make up your mind, there are plenty of combo plates available ready to provide a spectrum of flavors. (2416 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.781.3000)

2. Taqueria Los Ocampo

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

The winner of City Pages' 2012 Best Mexican restaurant proudly proclaims itself as the area's "most authentic," and who are we to argue? Across the board, the restaurant offers delightful and flavorful dishes. Everyone always talks about the tacos at Los Ocampo, which are indisputably outstanding, but the burritos -- thickly layered with your choice of over a dozen fillings, including tongue, pumpkin flower, and a super spicy Mexican-style chicken -- are heavy-hitting and shouldn't be overlooked. Heck, everything on the menu is worth trying, and you can at just two bucks for a taco garnished with thinly sliced raw radishes, three for a tostada with avocado, and five dollars for a scrumptious gordita or sope made with one of Los Ocampo's softly fried masa cakes. Want to get the fresh-from-the-State-Fair feeling without the threat of sunburn or the hassle of parking? The elote is corn on the cob -- you guessed it -- on a stick and covered with queso fresco and chili powder. (920 E. Lake St. Minneapolis; 612.825.4978. And various locations)

1. Las Teresitas

Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities

There's nothing fancy about Las Teresitas, a cheap dive neighbored by a laundromat and gas station in south Minneapolis. It offers fresh ingredients and scratch cooking at practically Taco Bell prices. The restaurant's most distinguishing feature is the salsa bar in the center of the dining room. It's full of immaculately cut garnishes, including radishes and cucumbers, lime wedges, and house-pickled cauliflower, peppers, onions, and carrots. There are nine salsas, in various hues and heat levels, to show the sauce's wide array of flavor possibilities. The restaurant offers a range of delights (the enchiladas are amazing), but nothing beats chorizo, onion, and cilantro tucked into a four-inch tortilla. Chorizo, Mexican sausage, is modestly spicy and somewhat oily, but it's authentic Mexican fare that's hard to find done right in the Twin Cities. Lucky for Minnesotans, the owners of Las Teresitas have a long history of pleasing local diners, having once run Taco Moreles. Teresitas offers more conventional beef and chicken tacos to go along with exotic fare like chorizo and cabeza (head).(5748 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.727.1791)

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Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Las Teresitas Mexican Restaurant

5748 34th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417

612-727-1791

www.lasteresita.com

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Taqueria Los Ocampo

920 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

612-825-4978

www.losocampo.com

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El Taco Riendo

2416 Central Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

612-781-3000

www.eltaco-riendo.com

miles
Salsa A La Salsa Mexican Grill

1420 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

612-813-1970

www.salsaalasalsa.com

miles
Masa

1070 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403

612-338-6272

www.masa-restaurant.com

miles
La Loma Tamales

920 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

612-870-3645

www.lalomatamales.com

miles
Barrio Tequila Bar & Cafe

925 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402

612-333-9953

www.barriotequila.com

miles
Boca Chica Restaurante

11 Cesar Chavez St.
St. Paul, MN 55107

651-222-8499

www.bocachicarestaurant.com

miles
La Chaya Bistro - Closed

4537 Nicollet Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55419

612-827-2254

www.lachaya.com

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El Burrito Mercado

175 Cesar Chavez St.
St. Paul, MN 55107

651-227-2192

www.elburritomercado.com


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