Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

It's taco time
It's taco time

Here in Minnesota, we're much closer to the land of elk burgers and Molson beer than the land of tamales and Tecate. We're never going to have the abundance of killer taquerias that pepper Los Angeles or Dallas. Nevertheless, we do have a handful that come close to conjuring a balmy Mexican breeze even on the darkest, coldest Minnesotan night. Here are our top 10 picks.

See also: Top 10 Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities Top 10 margaritas in the Twin Cities Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

10. Taqueria Los Paisanos

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

A burst of color marks Taqueria Los Paisano's place on a hilly street in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood of East St. Paul. Its small parking lot is host to all manner of creative parking jobs by those looking for a quick taco fix. The space is clean, bright, and festive, with friendly counter service that's more menu-based than the typical point-at-the-meat-that-looks-yummiest method of taco construction found at many taquerias. The pollo (chicken) taco is juicy and vibrant, the al pastor and carnitas (pork) are solid and robust, and the beef head and tongue give adventurous carnivores something to sink their teeth into. The rice and beans are straightforward, and the horchata is icy cold. Each table has its own mini fixings station, with a couple kinds of salsa in squirt bottles and spice shakers to allow heat lovers to adjust the kick to their liking. (825 Seventh St. E., St. Paul; 651.778.8062)

9. Andale Taqueria & Mercado

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

This Richfield restaurant and market has attracted glowing reviews from diners and critics alike since it opened its doors on Nicollet Avenue in the summer of 2012. The tacos, like the rest of the menu, are traditionally prepared with authentic ingredients and techniques. From marinated pork to slow-cooked roast beef to house-made chorizo, they do all the standards quite well, but they don't stop there. Lengua (beef tongue), cabeza (beef head), buche (pork stomach), and tripa (beef tripe) tacos are also available, all for less than $2 a pop. I don't think we're at Taco Bell anymore, Toto. The space (a former Embers), looks like it could just as easily double as a church of Scientology, with its extreme angles and glass front wall. Parking is plentiful, and the attached market has everything you need to open your own taqueria at home. (7700 Nicollet Ave. S., Richfield; 612.259.8868)

8. Masa

What if your corner taqueria had not just flavor but high style? What if each plate were composed to look as if it were the many-colored, multi-textured creation of an upscale chef? What if the tomatillo salsa, a Mexican standard for generations, mijo, were a little sweeter and a little more vividly green? What if the tacos came arrayed on a white rectangle of china and were served up in a techno palace of glass and tile? Accompanied by a thoughtful wine list, a long list of top-shelf margaritas and sangrias, and exotic fruit juices? If your corner taqueria were as stylish as all that you'd have Masa--where homey cooking and familiar flavors are gussied up with elegance, forward-looking design, and margaritas fit for a weekend on the yacht off the Acapulco coast. The downtown location makes it a perfect destination for everything from after-work happy hours to pre-show dinner dates. (1070 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.338.6272)

7. Pineda Tacos

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

There's an old adage about taquerias: The worse the joint looks, the better the food must be. None of the four Twin Cities Pineda Tacos locations offers a white-tablecloth experience, but they do provide the best excuse for a food coma this side of the McDonald's-owned Chipotle behemoth. The tortillas are soft and chewy and are wrapped around a hearty mound of your choice of wonderful: chicken tinga, all smoky, complicated, and full of the dusk of spice; chicken or pork in salsa verde, green and tart; beef all kinds of ways, including well married with onions or soaked in a smoky blend of deep chile splendor; rich roast pork carnitas; double-fried pork skin of chicharron, and much, much more. One Spanish dictionary translates the word pineda into English as "a kind of linen garter." Rest assured you'll bust yours after a Pineda platter of tacos. (1304 Robert St. S., West St Paul; 651.455.6833. 2150 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.729.5320. 311 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.825.7466. 60 Nathan Ln. N., Plymouth; 763.545.1977)

6. Sonora Grill

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

The Midtown Global Market is home to several Mexican restaurants, but Sonora Grill distinguishes itself by adding influences from Spain and South America and submitting traditional dishes to a gourmet chef's makeover. Around these parts, expressing a preference for Mexican food topped with sour cream or cheddar inspires mocking--there goes another Midwesterner bastardizing authentic cuisine. But in Sonora, Mexico, such pairings are common enough that there's a term, caramelos, for a taco served with melted cheese. The tacos may be ordered with pork, chicken, and beef, as well as tempura shrimp, mild and meaty slow-cooked tongue, and crispy, breaded eggplant. The heaviness of the taco fillings is tempered by their delicate toppings, including salsa, cilantro, and cabbage. Sonora's aioli is made every morning and blended with various chiles and herbs. The cilantro aioli is an ultra-creamy mayonnaise with a raw garlic bite and a fresh grassiness that adds an extra layer of richness and flavor to the tacos. (920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.871.1900)

  5. Taqueria La Hacienda

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

Lebanese immigrants settled in Mexico back in the mists of time, and as cultures fused, a new sort of gyros cone was born, this one made with pork and chilies and topped with a roasting pineapple, which bastes the turning meat as it spins. Taqueria La Hacienda opened a beguilingly scented cone of said al pastor in the Mercado Central in 1999, and it has been capturing Best Tacos in the Twin Cities awards ever since. A leader among East Lake Street taquerias, the larger Hacienda Plaza is a high-ceilinged, light-filled, tangerine-tinted treasure by I-35, and suburbanites have their own location south of the metro in Burnsville. Order the famous al pastor any which way and you'll be bowled over by the sweet, rich, spicy magnificence of super-concentrated pork goodness. La Hacienda is not only one of the best Mexican joints in town, it's also one of the best things to happen to the after-bar experience since the invention of the remote control. (334 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.822.2715. 1515 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.728.5424. 2000 Williams Drive, Burnsville; 952.808.6895)

4. Taqueria Los Ocampo

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

Think of a tortilla as a hand, and all the meat and onion and cilantro and salsa held inside it as a bouquet of protein, flavor, and spice. See, eating tacos is sort of like getting flowers, and it's spring every day at Los Ocampo. Don't worry, you can work your way up to tongue and tripe. For perfection, there's no need to even venture beyond the basics. The asada, ordered "Mexican-style," comes with a tight little pile of grilled steak, diced onion, and a bunch of bright-green cilantro resting cutely atop two soft, warm corn tortillas, flanked by lime wedges and a little spray of thinly sliced radishes. Don't forget the salsa. Tacos come with a bright, acidic, red chile salsa and a deceptively hot green tomatillo salsa that looks as unthreatening as a Shamrock Shake, but watch out! Arrange them with some onions and, look, it's a Mexican flag! (417 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.823.5398. 895 Arcade St., St. Paul; 651.774.7623. 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.825.4978. 1751 Suburban Ave., St. Paul; 651.256.2932)

3. Las Teresitas

There's nothing fancy about Las Teresitas, a cheap dive neighbored by a laundromat and gas station in south Minneapolis. 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), and we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the restaurant's famous salsa bar -- the best appetizer option in town. (5748 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.727.1783)

2. Maya Cuisine

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

Maya Cuisine has been open for less than six months, and already we feel confident placing them among the top five taquerias in town. The qualifications are many: the clean, bright, cozy, and welcoming space, the unbelievably friendly service, the ever-shifting array of taco filling choices, each more delicious than the last, and finally, but most importantly, the homemade corn tortillas--a rare treat indeed in the Twin Cities. All it takes is one look at the plump, randomly browned, pillowy discs to know that these aren't your average supermarket tortillas. And yes, they taste even better than they look. The chicken tinga tacos are vivacious and zingy, with real kick, and the various pork options couldn't be more succulent, tender, juicy, and satisfying. The salsa bar is fully stocked with a wide variety of toppings, including jalapenos, poblanos, salsas of varying heat, rich and creamy chipotle sauce, cilantro, onions, and lime wedges. (1840 Central Ave, Minneapolis; 612.789.0775)

1. El Taco Riendo

Top 10 taquerias in the Twin Cities

When Twin Citians need their taco fix, they tend to think of Lake Street. But you'll actually find the Cities' best tacos in that other bastion of ethnic eating, Central Avenue in Northeast. El Taco Riendo (The Laughing Taco) has been around for only a couple of years, but the unassuming little storefront has one of the largest selections of taco fillings anywhere. 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. At just $2.15 each, this taco may not leave you laughing, but it will definitely make you smile. (2416 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.781.3000)

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Use Current Location

Related Locations

El Taco Riendo

2416 Central Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418


Las Teresitas Mexican Restaurant

5748 34th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417


Taqueria Los Ocampo

417 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408


Taqueria Los Ocampo

895 Arcade St.
St. Paul, MN 55106


Taqueria Los Ocampo

920 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407


Taqueria La Hacienda

2000 Williams Drive
Burnsville, MN 55337


Taqueria La Hacienda Taco

1515 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407


Taqueria La Hacienda

334 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407


Sonora Grill

920 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407


Pineda Tacos

1304 Robert St. S.
West St. Paul, MN 55118


Pineda Tacos

311 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408



1070 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403


Andale Taqueria y Mercado

7700 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55423


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