Friday, July 3, 2009

A La Salsa

Midtown Global Market
Chicago & Lake Street

price: $9-13

Midtown Global Market is dead on a holiday weekend. I am sitting here admiring the wall of tequila before me. This is the first time I have blogged (and photographed) from my phone. I am a glass of La Capilla tequila on the rocks (now on sale at Chicago Lake Liquor for $9.99 a bottle) and it is a smooth 100% agave.

There is definite airport vibe here - which I don't mind.

We ware greeted by a smile and a bowl of chips. The service is great so far. I am almost beginning to forget the last experience.

I order the Plato De Carnitas and my friend orders the Tamale Platter. Both entrees are out immediately. We dig in. The pork is tender and is served with pickled peppers and carrots. Fortunately for me, I ordered a side of sauce.

The sauce is creamy and almost resembles Thai peanut sauce. I pour it over the pork. This stuff is addictive. My friend puts it on his tamales. It is tasty on everything!

Our server comes to clear our plates and looks down at my empty bowl of sauce. Her eyes get big and says, "You ate all of that!". For a minute, I wonder if this sauce is crack. No, she is just surprised that a gringo finished it. "What is this", I ask. "It is the Diablo Sauce", she replies. I find out that the creamy texture is roasted garlic. My mind begins to think of ways to recreate this at home.

overall rating: 4
chips & salsa: 1
sauce: 5

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Las Mojarras

1501 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55407

price: $9-$35 for food and $16 for Hornitos (!?)
specialty: overcooked seafood?

Cinco de Mayo is my husband's birthday and so what better way to celebrate than to visit our next Lake Street stop (the former Me Gusta) - Las Mojarras - right? I read Jeremy Iggers' article on TC Daily Planet and thought - "Yes, this is the perfect choice and it even has a full bar.
My husband will love this!" --WRONG! The experience we had was absolutely horrible from beginning to end.

I just want to start by saying that I am a very patient person and generally give people the benefit of the doubt. I also don't give bad rev
iews unless absolutely necessary.

There were eight of us at a large table in the front of the dining room. The place was empty. I guess gringos are the only ones to go out on "Drinko de Mayo". Remnants of Me Gusta are still apparent. We commented on how the ambiance feels like you are outside on a patio - but you are inside - strange.

As one of the only tables in the place, you would think that
the service would have been better. Our server took our drink orders. My husband and his friend ordered a double Hornitos on the rocks. The server brought my husband a low-ball filled with water and Hornitos. Communication seemed impossible. Each of us tried to explain the drink that he wanted to order. Next, she brought out a shot glass filled with Hornitos. He decided to give up and drank it anyways.

I ordered the Ceviche Tostada
. Others ordered various styles of enchiladas and seafood. Communication continued to be very difficult. One of my friends spoke Spanish. Still - the server struggled to understand Spanish and hand signals. This was my tenth stop on Lake Street and the first time that I encountered a complete communication barrier. It was as if she wasn't making an attempt at all.

Our food came to the table. A few of the orders were wrong - no surprise. The shrimp on my tostada was chewy. The tostada was
small for $9. A few of us ordered more drinks and water. The beverages never came. After I ate my meal in about four bites, I tasted my friend's enchilada. It was flavorless. The tomato-based sauce tasted like my grandma's stewed tomatoes (ick!).

We continued to eat, with out our beverages. One of us flagged down another server. Our server began bringing out one order at a time. Frustration was building in each one of us.

The bill came. The total was almost $400! We were charged $16 each for every Hornitos drink that my husband and his friend ordered (6 total). We complained to the bartender, but soon realized it was a lost cause. Then, things got even stranger... Our server stood over us until each one of us filled out our credit card slips. One of us said, "You can come back you know." It was extremely uncomfortable and neither one of us have ever experienced anything quite like it.

As we left the restaurant, we each agreed that that we would never step foot in the place again. The food was bad and the service - inexcusable.

Sorry to say, but it didn't end there. A few days passed and I noticed that my checking account balance was low. The idiot server had charged us twice! There was one charge for $75 (the cost of the bill) and then one for $135 (a completely random amount).

I called the manager and had him reverse the charge. It was hard to believe that this bad experience could get even worse!

food: 0
service: 0
ambiance: 3

Friday, April 10, 2009


1511 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 722-3293

specialty: tacos
price: cheap!

You may have noticed Taco Taxi before as it is the BRIGHT yellow building next to the Mercado on Bloomington. I know I have noticed it many times and the classic VW taxi parked out front. Every time I pass Taco Taxi I instinctively want to jump out of the car - I don't know why.

The time had come to try the Taxi, and I was more than ready. It is not a Friday night type of place, but that didn't stop us. We were the only customers
except for one man who looked like Quentin Tarantino and sounded like Crispin Glover and was wearing jogging shorts and tennis shoes. There were five staff behind the counter all watching Mexican soaps.

What struck me immediately, was the ambiance - and this is the strongest poin
t for Taco Taxi in my mind. The bright yellow paint and checkers is festive and there are amazing murals that I will not describe - to leave as a surprise for you (lets just say there are taxis involved).

We ordered quickly because we were starving and I regret this because later I noticed many more items on the menu later (ceviche tostada - for one). Two tacos carnitas and pollo sopes were ordered. If it wasn't cheap enough already, there was a two-for-one sope deal that we hit up as well. All together, our bill came to nine dollars for two people with Jarritos. Ridiculously cheap. Unheard of for a Friday night.

Our food came out fast and we sat at an open table by the window. As we were taking our seats, one of the workers drove away in the VW taxi to make a deliver
y. A phone number and catering information is printed on the taxi. Delivery seems to be the main focus for Taco Taxi.

As we sat alone in the empty dining room, I began sampling the tacos and sopes before me. I was pleased to see that the ingredients were fresh and the lettuce was green (as opposed to white iceberg). Lots of cilantro and radishes garnished the plate. For fast food tacos - it did the trick. The carnitas was slightly dry, but overall the taste was fresh and light with strong undertones of cilantro and onio
n. I enjoyed taking a bite of radish with each bite of taco. This was the first time I tried this combination and it was addictive. I know that radishes are usually served with pasole, but I can now see pairing them with other dishes. The experience got me thinking about the history of radishes in Mexican culture and the potential that they have in Mexican cooking.

Did you know that there is a Radish Night Festival in Oaxaca,
Mexico on December 23? These radish sculptures are super neat It makes me long for culture like this. Why not make my own radish sculptures on December 23 this year?

Next up, Las Mojarras...

ambiance: 4.5
the fact that they use a classic taxi for delivery: 5
overall food rating: 3

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mercado Central I

Mercado Central
1515 E. Lake Street
12 food vendors

We started our evening across the street from Mercado Central, at Guayaquil, which we thought was a Mexican restaurant, but ended up serving primarily Ecuadorian fare. This was hard to decipher at first, until we had a seat and ordered a round of beers and glanced at the menu. Ecuadorian menu items including Seco de Chivo, an Ecuadorian goat stew and Churrasco, a fried steak served with fried yucca and avocado dominated. Off to the side, there was a small Mexican section and since we decided to stay on track, we ordered 3 Arepas as an appetizer.

Arepas were the perfect option at this point. We didn't have to commit to an entire meal and it was the perfect way to start off a night of sampling. Golden cheese bread cakes surrounded a creamy avocado and chicken filling. Every bite was savored!

The Mercado Central is an intimidating foodventure because of the amount of food vendors in one location. There are 12 bakeries and food booths with a central eating area. A note to those late eaters: closing time is 8:00 M-Sat. on the dot, not before or after.

I have died and gone to heaven, where they only serve Oaxaqueno tamales. Banana leaves keep the spicy pork and corn meal dough moist and tender. Every bite is magical! Do I have to try a different kind? There are so many options Puerco, Pollo, Mole and four vegetarian styles. How can I steer myself away?

So, I did this time and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I opted for the Puerco (pork) tamale and it did not live up to the Oaxaqueno. I blame the corn husk, as it is not as protective as the banana leaf. It does not have the moisture lock to keep the flavor fresh and the corn meal moist. The flavor was good, similar to the Oaxaqueno. Red chili is the main flavoring for both of these tamales.

Oaxaqueno tamale: 5
overall rating: 4.5

By the time we reached the dining section of the Mercado Central, it was nearly closing time. All of the vendors were packing up at about 7:45 PM. We quickly scanned the row of food vendors to find an open booth. A woman at Cocina El Mexicano waved us over and we quickly and randomly ordered the chicken flautas.
The menu the Cocina offers a standard list of items and there didn't appear to be a specialty.

I was impressed by the perfection of the flautas. Each one was perfectly rolled and fried. The balance of the crunchy tortillas and the creamy queso fresco was addictive. My only complaint is that they may have gone a little overboard with the cheese. Either way, I would return for another sampling of these golden goodies.

flauta rating: 4

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Panaderia San Miguel

1534 E Lake St
specialty: cream filled horn!
price:$1-2 per item

After a large meal, it is always advised to keep eating rich creamy foods to offset any fried or greasy items in your belly. This is why my compadres and I opted for Panaderia San Miguel, across the street from La Que Buena. Leaving the restaurant, after multiple Micheladas, we began our march -one of us right into a pole!

As we entered the bakery, the sweet smell of lard and sugar filled our nostrils. The large lit-up cases were intimidating, with their rows and rows of beautiful pastries. That is usually the case with Mexican bakeries, everything looks so appealing. It is like a gingerbread house, very appealing to the eye, but not so much to the stomach, as the items are often left out for multiple days....

There is a lot of craftsmanship that goes into Mexican pastries with their intricate patterns and colorful sugar coated shapes. Often, I find that most of them taste the same. It is the combination of fat and sugar that I taste.

San Miguel had a few pastries I have not seen before. These pastries were of the cream variety. Most notably, the cream-filled horn covered in powdered sugar. If you have not tried this before, I recommend that you do.

cream factor: 4
overall rating: 3

La Que Buena

1611 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55407
specialty: Michelad
price: $8-20

MICHELAD! Is the secret word of the day. When anyone hears that word -scream real loud! The best Michelad I have tasted so far is found at La Que Buena. It is the magical combination of beer and peppery hot tomato juice. It is enough to sweep anyone out of those winter blues! I visited La Que Buena twice. Once with a small group and once with a birthday party. Both times there was Michelad and tequila were involved.

La Que Buena is situated right next to La Poblania, which you think would be bad for business, but that didn't seem to be the case either times I visited. Entering the restaurant, one might wonder if it is closing soon because of the half-lit room. There is a definite difference in lighting from the front of the room to the back -where the locals drink their Michelad.

The first time I was there we were seated under a mounted elk with Mexican memorabilia hanging from the antler. A young woman greeted us with chips, that were double fried and dripping with grease. We dove right in. Greasy goodness is what was discovered.

Mariscos (seafood) takes up the largest portion of the La Que Buena menu. Langostinos Gigantes or Cola de Langosta were a few of the choices on the menu featuring a rather busty young woman holding a Mexican platter -ogled by my husband. I opted for the Camerones Rancahros which were shrimp in a spicy rancharos sauce.

The shrimp was very good but nothing really notable. I could achieve the same results adding my favorite chili powder to a marinara sauce and pouring it over shrimp. It left me wanting beans, which I didn't have on my plate. My side dish: rice with vegetables. I ordered a side of beans, which pushed my bill over $13 for one plate of food (not including the two Michelads and shot of tequila). The price was a bit steep for what I have experienced on Lake Street so far.

The second time I visited I had chicken mole. The mole sauce was really tasty -as is the enchilada sauce that is served with the chili rellenos and enchiladas eaten by my friends. They actually grind their own chilies (according to a chef that we met off duty drinking Michelads). I was impressed overall by their sauces at La Que Buena, but I was not impressed by the quality of the chicken in my mole. It tasted like it had been frozen and thawed and frozen and thawed.

chips and salsa: 3.4
beverage selection/quality: 5
overall rating: 3

Friday, November 2, 2007

La Poblanita on Dia De Los Muertos

1617-1623 E. Lake St
MInneapolis, MN 55407
specialty: anything made with corn
price: $3-10

It was on Dia De Los Muertos that we ventured into La Poblanita for the first time. It was a Thursday and the crowd was thin, only a few locals were seated in the large two room dining space. Immediately we noticed a large screen -projector television in one of the dining spaces playing Mexican videos. The sound from the TV was rather loud considering there were only a few people in the space.

We sat down in the room without the TV projector and ordered three Dos Eqius. La Poblanita specializes in anything handmade with corn so I thought obviously, I would order a combination with whatever could be made by hand: tortillas, taco shells, tlacoyos,huaraches, sopes, gortidas, and chalupas. My platter was composed of tlacoyoa huaraches, sope, a taco and beans and rice. A true feast!

The ingredients were fresh and the homemade quality of the corn delicacies were evident. This was the first time I had ever tried a sope and I was sold. The texture was just right, similar to a tortilla but thicker and chewy. The toppings: beans, lettuce, cheese avocado and green chili salsa complimented the rich corn taste.

Before I skip ahead to the actual meal (OK, I did) something should be said about the chips and
salsa because they were notable. For one, the chips were amazing, again, handmade corn delicacies and the salsa was interesting -like nothing I had tired before. What made it interesting is the creaminess of both the red and green salsas. The green was most certainly whipped with avocados and the red with some sort of creamy goodness -e.g. cheese or heavy cream. Both were defiantly spicy, which I appreciate. There was no "dumbing down" for those Minnesota whiteys who don't like anything "too spicy don't cha know" and prefer Pepitos to anything on Lake Street because it is "soooo good."

La Poblanitas is the real deal as far as I can tell. They use quality ingredients and good cooks who know what they are doing. I did visit it a second time and all I have to say for that is -consistency. Please also note that there is a meat market and mercado attached to it. Buena Fiesta!

chips and salsa: 5
quality of ingredients: 5
overall rating: 4.5