By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — He fell in love with roadside food in Mexico as a truck driver there. Now, Adrian Ramirez has brought that food to the Twin Cities suburbs — and his family business keeps growing.

One of his dishes is so popular at his small group of suburban restaurants, Ramirez actually trademarked the name. The 18-inch behemoth of a taco is called “The Machete.”

“That’s our No. 1 seller,” said Ramirez, owner of a group of suburban counter-service Mexican street food restaurants, Taco Libre.

One-and-a-half feet of homemade corn masa tortilla, stuffed with Oaxacan cheese, and two different meat toppings.

“Do people like it because it’s big or because it’s good?” asked WCCO’s Jason DeRusha.

“I think both. Both. It’s big so people can share it, and it’s a great flavor,” Ramirez said.

The Machete is just one of the authentic Mexican street foods Ramirez brought to Taco Libre.

“I’m from Mexico City, I used to be a truck driver,” Ramirez said.

He came here 19 years ago, worked in restaurants, and opened his first Taco Libre in 2015 in south suburban West St. Paul.

“It was a conversation from day one. What are we gonna put on the menu? I knew we had to be 100 percent authentic. If you don’t bring the real stuff, people would say, this is not an authentic taqueria,” he said.

Taco Libre has a huge selection of what they call “street meats & veggies” – including things like cabeza (beef cheek), lengua (tongue), pastor (pork marinated for 24 hours and roasted on a spit). There are vegetarian options like huitlacoche (Mexican truffle), pumpkin flower, and pablano peppers.

All with the goal of making a perfect, authentic taco.

“To me, it’s the right ingredients and the right salsa,” he said.

Taco Libre has a salsa bar, where guests can apply whatever heat they desire.

After three years in business, Taco Libre now has three locations: the original, Oakdale, and Edina. In December or early January, another Taco Libre will open in downtown St. Paul.

“It’s been really exciting, we definitely didn’t expect it grow this fast,” said Adrian’s daughter, Luna Ramirez. It is a family business: Adrian’s wife, son, cousin and Luna all work here.

“In every town we open, people will catch glimpses of me and my brothers working, and they really like that,” she said.

The family didn’t want Taco Libre to look like a typical Mexican restaurant, so no sombreros or maracas here. Instead, the libre lucha is celebrated – the Mexican wrestler.

Modern design, modern flavors, with an authentic taste. The goal is to keep growing Taco Libre — bringing Ramirez and his family’s food beyond the Twin Cities and Minnesota.

“It is a dream come true, but it comes with hard work, that’s what we’re doing here,” Ramirez said.

Taco Libre Locations:
1221 S. Robert, West St. Paul
8364 3rd Street N, Oakdale
5125 Edina Industrial Blvd, Edina

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