The restaurant scene here reflects a myriad of cultural influences, but none more so than the vibrant flavors of Mexico. While Minnesota still might be known around the country as a state lacking in spice, the depth and layers of flavor found at these Mexican restaurants will have you dreaming of tamales and tortas in your sleep. There’s no bland chicken noodle soup found at these local hot spots.
Taqueria Los Ocampo
809 E. Lake St.
Balancing authentic Mexican flavors with the delicate Minnesotan palate, Los Ocampo is the kind of place you could bring both your spice-loving friends from down south and your black pepper-shunning grandparents from the north. At the end of the day, though, it’s awesome Mexican cuisine. All three of the metro locations are welcoming, casual and comfortable places to get a fantastic bite to eat. The alambre, a large dish mixing beef and ham, cheese, bell peppers, cheese, salsa and avocado on flour tortillas, is done especially well.
El Taco Riendo
2412 Central Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55418
There is no shortage of authentic, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants to be found in Minneapolis, but if you have to choose one, this is it. The flavors burst forth with brightness and spice that is perfect both on a hot summer day outside, or when you need something warm on a cold winter day. The tacos are delicious and the real reason to come, as the name implies (“The Laughing Taco”), but try the tamales or the sopes as well for a truly outstanding meal.
La Loma Tamales
920 Lake St E., Suite 160
Minneapolis, MN 55407
A local chain that knows the importance of a quick meal, these delectable tamales can be found in the skyways of both downtowns, as well as their original location on Minneapolis’ Lake Street. The hand-ground cornmeal is never dry, and is savory delicious no matter which kind you choose (although the Oaxaqueno, chicken in spicy red sauce, is a must for first-timers). Grab and go for a quick lunch, or sit down, relax and truly savor the warm flavors wrapped tight in corn husks and banana leaves.
Related: Best Tacos In The Twin Cities
El Burrito Mercado
175 Cesar Chavez St. Suite 2
St Paul, MN 55107
Both locations of this Twin Cities mainstay are worth visiting, but head to St. Paul’s District del Sol for the ultimate experience. Stepping in here is like stepping away from St. Paul and right into Mexico City. Grab food quick and go from the deli. Or make your way through the cafeteria-style line for great tacos, tortas or a quick bowl of menudo, or sit down in el Café for dinner and maybe a tall glass of Pacifico, or one of the best margaritas in town.
864 University Ave. W.
St Paul, MN 55104
Tucked away in an area of St. Paul dominated mostly by Southeast Asian cuisine, Homi’s nondescript exterior belies the culinary magic that happens inside. The menu is made up of family recipes, so you’ll find all the classics, like chilaquiles, tinga de pollo, tacos and enchiladas in both red and green sauce that are to-die-for made with the type of TLC that you’ll only find when the recipes were perfected for years in home kitchens.
Related: Best Margaritas In Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.