Category Archives: Restaurant reviews

We like to try new Mexican restaurants (we consider it research for the one we will open some day), both in Minnesota and Mexico. Of course, everyone has a different palate and it is always interesting to discuss Mexican food between someone raised with a Scandanavian “meat and potatoes” background, and someone from the very heart of small town Mexico.

Cocina de Ana – Mexican Take-n-Bake

You’ve heard of take-n-bake pizza, right? How about take-n-bake Mexican? Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I received a coupon offer in the mail thru work for half off my order (there was recently a Groupon for here also). Even though it is in Plymouth, about 25 miles from my house, the concept seemed so original that I had to try it. Coupon purchased! Now, clearly I am a procrastinator… Not only did the coupon expire today, but you can only place orders until noon for pick up the same day (pick up between 4 – 7 pm). What time did this chica place her order? 11:48 am! Whew!

La Cocina de Ana - Ana's Kitchen - is a unique twist on the pizza-dominated Take-N-Bake scene

La Cocina de Ana (Ana’s Kitchen), which opened in December 2010,  is located in a small strip mall on Hwy 101, just south if Hwy 6 in Plymouth. It is tiny inside, but it doesn’t need to be any bigger. There are a row of refrigerators where the day’s orders are kept, a check out counter, small office area, and a little kitchen with a window so you can see Ana and Luis preparing the food. There are tortilla chips for sale, and bags of Mexican Almond cookies, but otherwise it is strictly pre-ordered food.

Small, simple interior. Door in the back leads to small kitchen with a window, allowing people to see food being prepared.

I wanted to stick as close to $20 as possible, since that is the amount I pre-paid with my coupon. There are a number of soups, appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts available, though not everything is available every day. The food comes packaged in containers with directions on how to reheat or prepare at home, either in the oven or microwave.

Prepackaged and ready to either heat in the microwave or oven.

My husband and I decided on pozole blanco (soup) because it was the only pozole version listed on the website as only chicken (rojo and verde listed pork which Mex doesn’t eat). When I stopped to pick up the food, Ana asked if I knew that was very mild and considered her “kid” dish. When I told her I chose that version because it was the only one listed as chicken, she told me I could request chicken only with the other versions as well (there IS a spot on the online order form where you can put in special requests). She offered to “fix” it for me and magically turned it in to green pozole. It was FABULOUS!

Our white "kid's menu" pozole transformed in to rich, flavorful green in a matter of minutes

The core ingredients of pozole are hominy and chicken (or pork) and the soup was loaded with both. The broth was rich, and full of flavor, just the right amount of lime, finely ground oregano… It was just as good as the version my sister-in-law in Mexico makes for us, which I guess is our definition of “authentic.” The difference in Mexico would be little dishes of chopped onion, oregano, and lime wedges that are set out to “customize

The best tostadas are made by frying fresh corn tortillas - but the store bought crisps are simple and no mess

your soup. When ordering posole, she suggests tostadas. I would definitely agree the soup needs an accompaniment. We had tostadas on hand so we just sprinkled them with cheese, melted it in the oven for about three minutes and spread a little Mexican sour cream (slightly thinner than regular MN version). She has them available in store but it would be cheaper to make your own.

My least favorite of the three dishes - Chiles Anchos

For the main course we tried Chiles Anchos en Salsa Verde and Chilaquiles Verdes. The Chiles Anchos were not my favorite. Anchos are dried poblano peppers (confusing since anchos are red and poblanos are green) so can be spicy or mild. This Minnesotan thought ours were spicy, while my Mexican thought they were mild. I was skeptical about the texture of Anchos since they start out dried, however, stuffed with cheese and drenched in smooth, creamy green salsa (it did not have the tartness of typical tomatillo salsa) they rehydrated perfectly. The skins were too bitter for my liking, but Mex found the dish ok. Not one we would order again.

Green Chilaquiles - my 15-month-old son LOVED these!

As easy as a Papa Murphy's pizza!

Chilaquiles are a Mexican version of a casserole (and, yes, I should say Hot Dish since I’m a Minnesotan, but you can see from the pictures that it really leans towards casserole). These were not exactly what I was expecting, since I’ve only had chilaquiles on their own. Basically fried pieces or tortilla, soaked in some kind of salsa until they get soft again. Sounds simple but they are amazingly good. Ana’s version of chilaquiles layers corn tortillas (not fried), shredded chicken breast, tangy tomatillo salsa and sprinkled creamy white cheese. Put in oven to bake for 25 minutes and it is all melded together and delicious.

Total spent on the three dishes (all small versions) was a little less than $22. Although, the small size is listed as 1-2 on website, ordering three dishes, it could easily feed three people. Add a tossed salad of your own if you want to bulk up the meal. Overall, a great option, flavorful and more economical than eating in a restaurant.

Rating: Repeat Eat  (if only I lived closer!)

http://www.cocinadeana.com
1400 County Rd 101 N (same strip mall as Caribou), Plymouth
763-951-3377
info@cocinadeana.com
 
 
 
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El Guapo’s Taqueria on the Cape

Guapo Shore Shack - not really sure what this VW bus has to do with Mexican food...

After a morning at one of the many over-crowded beaches in Cape Cod, our little boy passed out in his car seat. My husband and I went in search of some fish tacos. I used my Trip Advisor iPhone app, even though it has lead us to two closed restaurants in as many days. Called “El Guapo Taqueria” on Trip Advisor, the logo says “El Guapo’s” while the sign proclaims “Guapo Shore Shack” though it is at least two miles in from any shoreline. There are few seats inside, so be prepared to sit outside and hope for good weather. The menu boasts “Burritos, Burgers, Beer” and I would say they are more heavy on the Burgers than the Burritos.

Simple, crisp, and flavorful... Just the fish taco we were craving!

The fish tacos were simple and delicious. Two corn tortillas stacked up and some fried fish, piled with shredded cabbage, zingy lime cream dressing, chopped tomatoes and onion. The fish – local cod – was perfectly fried in a light, crispy batter which was not too thick or doughy. The plain shredded cabbage was fresh and plain, not tossed in a dressing like at some places.  Since chips and salsa were not free, we decided to “upgrade” to guacamole. Save your money folks! The chips were hard and had a semi-burnt taste like the frying oil needed changing. The guacamole had no spice or liminess, and there was a whole chunk of avocado the size of the seed in our small portion.

If you’re in the area the Fish tacos are worth the stop! Pick some up and take them with to the beach. Near the rail line bike trail as well.

Rating: Average – (great fish tacos but due to the staple of chips and guac being below par we can’t rate it too high)

www.elguapostaqueria.com
 
239 Underpass Road
Brewster MA 02631
508-896-3338

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Rojo Mexican Grill- West End

Ok. I must start by saying, I have been watching way too much day time TV this winter, being holed up in the house with a newborn. The chef from Rojo Mexican Grill has been doing mouth-watering cooking demonstrations on almost every local news show so I have been wanting to go there for months. The location was appealing to me since I have never been to the Shops at the West End in St. Louis Park, so when it was my turn to pick the location for Ladies’ Night Out, I had my mind made up in a flash.

Opened in August 2010, the restaurant is co-owned by Jason Merritt and Michael McDermott whose father founded Chi-Chi’s (which, by the way, is slang for a ladies “twins” – my hubby just about died laughing when he saw his first Chi-Chi’s sign – he thought it was a topless bar).

The cuisine is described as ‘”Traditional dishes… but with bold new flavors or in unique presentations.” The website also uses “traditional but with modern influence” to describe the decor. The restaurant is beautiful with the rich, red booths (Rojo means red), dark wood, stone, and shiny, silver steel blending together to create an inviting place to spend a few hours. There are display stations where you can see guacamole, salsa and tortillas being prepared. Though the concept of this appealed to me when choosing the restaurant, I actually was not a fan. I love tableside guac prep but as we were leaving the salsa table cook had on elbow length gloves and was reaching in to stir a big vat of salsa (which is more like pico de gallo in my opinion). Something about those gloves just threw me back to being on a dairy farm and seeing my dad pull on shoulder high gloves to “reach in” help the cow give birth. No fault of the restaurant, but I couldn’t shake that image and decided the idea of seeing my salsa prepped fresh is much better than the execution.

Our waiter was very friendly and helpful with recommendations for both drinks and food. I ordered the El Guapo which is Hornito tequila shaken with lemon and lime and then mixed with Ginger Ale. Sadly, though I expected the ginger ale to give it a crisp bite, the tequila taste dominated the glass. I often will enjoy a Paloma at home, which is tequila and Squirt or Fresca, with a salted rim. Divine! This makes me think that either the Ginger Ale isn’t a strong enough soda or the bartender was a little heavy on the liquor. At a hefty $7 for a short glass filled with ice, this was a costly disappointment.

Normally, I would gobble up my favorite Mexican street food – Cotija corn – which is on the appetizer menu. However, on an evening out with friends I didn’t want to get my cheeks smeared with cream and cheese which inevitable happens when eating this delectable treat. The tortilla soup ($3.50 for a cup) was served with less flair then expected for a restaurant that touts presentation of dishes, it was served in a simple cup with a sprinkle of crispy tortilla strips on top. Although the flavor was a satisfying blend of tomato and chile, the texture was grainy and unappealing.

For a main course, I ordered fish tacos and traded one of the two for a veggie taco. Served on corn tortillas, similar to a Mexican taco stand, both fillings were unusual. Expecting a more typical light atter on my fish, the sautéed version was refreshing but the cabbage slaw was a little sweet and carraway seeds seemed like a misplaced flavor. The vege taco was a combination of  corn, sweet potato, squash,  and black beans, giving it a very earthy, fall taste. Satisfying but I wanted it to have some kind of sauce to add moisture. Serving refried beans in a dish was a nice way to keep them from invading the space of other food (I despise when my food touches) they were very typical. Sticky rice?  Am I at an Asian restaurant or a Mexican one? It was tasty but, in my opinion, sweet rice will never belong at a Mexican table. The flavor is all wrong, contrary to traditional rice that has a nice tomato flavor which compliments typical dishes. 

Now I’ll say upfront that I’m a sucker for churros. How can a deep-fried doughy pastry covered in cinnamon sugar not tempt the taste buds? I’ll be blunt on this one. Though the presentation was brilliantly perfect for sharing, over a dozen two-inch churros mounded on the plate with chocolate and cream dippers… they were TERRIBLE. Saturated in grease, with almost no cinnamon and sugar, and chocolate sauce so bitter that it couldn’t even be enjoyed on its own. A big heartbreak for me on that one.

Overall, great atmosphere, and a beautiful modern design (although I don’t really see a lot of “Mexican influence”) to the restaurant that makes it a comfortable place to sit and sip, chat and nibble. Food was ok but overall impression of it was more on the disappointed side. And pricey too. The bill for just me was $29. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much at a Mexican restaurant.

Rojo Mexican Grill
1602 West End Boulevard
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Phone: 852-657-5385
westend@rojomexicangrill.com
http://rojomexicangrill.com
 
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 am – 11 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am – 12 am, Sun 11 am – 10 pm
Reservations: Highly recommended, especially on weekends
 
Rating: A+ for atmosphere, average food (with exception of very below average churros)

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Casa Lupita-White Bear Lake

Hard to spot sign. Look on south side of Hwy 96, in strip mall, next to abandoned gas station.

I must attribute the visit to this restaurant purely to Groupon because there is no way I would have noticed it by driving by on the road, despite the location on a busy four lane. The deal was $8 for $16 worth of food at Casa Lupita (though the restaurant website says New Casa Lupita)- White Bear

Small seating area and deli-style service

Lake (not St. Paul, like you’ll find listed some places on the web).  It was very hard for us to find. My

GPS directed us to Hwy 96 east of Cty Rd 61, and I see google maps also has the wrong location in some spots. The restaurant is located on Cty Rd 96 half-way between Hwy 35E and Cty 61 on the south side of the road, in a strip mall corner, next to an out-of-business gas station. Sounds like mouthful of a description but you’ll need the details to find it because there is only a small white sign with thin red letters.

Menu items range from $1.50 for a veggie taco ($0.99 tacos on Tuesday) to $8.79 for a House Specialty Plate  which includes one of three meats, rice, beans and tortillas.The restaurant is set up for deli-style counter service where you can see your meat, salsa, toppings options before you order and then they are assembled and prepared for you. The dining area is very small  (and a little dirty) so I’m guessing the place gets mostly take out business. According to the website, the restaurant, which opened in 2001, serves authentic recipes from the Castellanos family’s hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. I believe that this is the same family who owned the upscale D’Castellanos Mexican Restaurant that was in White Bear Lake and closed in 2007. My husband and I ate there once and he did not like it, while I thought it was good but expensive.

My husband decided on a chicken burrito with black beans, while I had green chicken enchiladas. We also ordered some chips (about $2) to help fill us up (deli-style Mexican restaurants typically do NOT serve complimentary chips and salsa). I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of green salsa (it is by far my favorite type of salsa) and I must admit I found this sauce surprisingly bland. Usually green salsa has a nice tart tang but this was neither sour nor sweet, instead the creamy mildness made me feel like it wasn’t fresh and lost its flavor sitting too long in the steam table. It was not bad, just different from usual green salsa and

Enchilada combination plate, burrito, chips with salsa

maybe more widely appealing to those who don’t like the typical tang of tomatillo sauce. The two enchiladas were served with traditional Mexican tomato rice and I chose black beans instead of refried ones.  The burrito was not an overloaded Chipotle-style (which is great from a calorie standpoint) but my husband thought it lacked in flavor. Possibly it was just his choice of toppings because he said the burrito was very dry.

Overall, not a bad place to stop for a quick bite (if you can find it) when you want Mexican food, especially take-out, but want to stay away from a chain. Serving sizes are filling and prices are reasonable. While, for us, it lacked “wow” flavor and was hard to find, I can’t complain about paying $8 for a meal for two, courtesy of Groupon. However, I don’t think we will stop again.

I definitely give the restaurant kudos for doing the Groupon thing because over 1127 people purchased the Groupon and I’m guessing many of the purchasers (like us) would not normally stop at this somewhat hidden location.

(New) Casa Lupita Mexican Restaurant
1350 Highway 96 E
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Phone: 651-762-2948
Fax: 651-331-2422
Email: NewCasaLupita@q.com
http://www.newcasalupita.com/
 
Hours:  Mon – Sat, 11 am – 8:30 pm
Special deals: $0.99 tacos on Tuesday
No reservations
Take-out available
 
Rating: Worth a stop if in area. Not a repeat eatery.

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Fiesta Mexicana – Red Wing

After a very stressful week at work, my husband and I decided to take a last-minute, pre-baby weekend trip south to Red Wing. At 9 months pregnant, all I wanted to do was turn my phone off, take a leisurely walk by the river then sprawl myself out on the king size bed, my puffy legs on top of a mound of pillows, flipping between the National Geographic Channel and Food Network.

On Saturday, night we decided to go out to Fiesta Americana Mexican Restaurant. Ugh, is all I can say about this place.  While the atmosphere was typical bright colors and murals, what I would call “cheesy” Mexican decor, and the staff was friendly (and Hispanic which we use as a gauge of a restaurants “authenticness”), the food was absolutely horrible. My husband ordered the fish tacos and I ordered a combination platter of green enchilada, tostada, and taco. The tortillas on his tacos literally dripped grease. It was as if someone dipped them in oil to fry them but then changed their mind and filled them with toppings instead.

My combo plate was buried under about 1/2 a head of lettuce and it was hard to tell where one started and the other left off. The tostada was so loaded with meat and toppings that the crispy tortilla base snapped when I tried to pick it up. I guess if there is a positive it would be that you get a LOT of food for your money on the combo plate. Luckily for my husband I couldn’t finish it so he was able to eat something. 

Fiesta Mexicana
2918 North Service Drive
Red Wing MN 55066
651-385-8939\
 
Rating:  Lots of food for cheap price,, BUT not always edible. DON’T get fish tacos. Would NOT go back.

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And down comes the rain

Too bad it wasn´t in Mex’s town since the rain would have been a relief from the intense heat. We are in Zacatecas City and there is a major thunderstorm going on outside. Luckily we´ve gotten to enjoy some of the city already although not the silver mine (which Mex didn´t want to see anyway so he lucked out). At some points in the 18th Century, Zacatecas mined 20% of New Spain’s silver.

Last night we went tried to go to dinner at a place listed in my Lonely Planet guidebook (which I would totally recommend over Fodor´s because I have one of those also and we never, ever use it) but it wasn´t the same place anymore. Our taxi driver had advised us of this place called Dorado de la Villa which is a tiny restaurant where you have to knock on the door to get in. The inside is dimly lit, crowded with tables and an overabundance of decorations on the wall. It had really awesome food. We tried sopes with chicken in red mole and the sauce was fabulous. Neither of us like the chocolatey mole poblano at all so we weren´t expecting to like this but we did. Mex had pozole and I had poblano enchiladas. Both dishes were excellent. We were going to walk around the town but we were so stuffed we went back to the hotel instead since we had been driving all day and were exhausted.

Teleforico

This morning I must say we were very lazy and just dozed on and off until about 9:30ish. Tomorrow we have to get up early to start our 11 hour drive to Chihuahua city and then his interview is so close we won´t really be getting much sleep. It´s like there is a giant clock going ¨tick tock, tick tock¨all around us. Hard to imagine that more than two years of waiting is almost over for us.

Anyway, we did finally get out of the hotel about 11 and went to a cafe by the cathedral for lunch. We couldn´t really go inside the cathedral since there was a service going on but I did peek. It is a beautiful pink cathedral and the inside has enormous pink stone columns. We´re going to try to see more later. After a leisurely lunch we took the cable car to the top of the hill (that’s on “the list”) and enjoyed the view. As we were up there we saw rain clouds start to roll in so we hurried and got in line to go back down. We managed to get into the last car that was going down before the rain, wind, thunder and

roof top view from the teleforico

lightning started. Thank goodness because it´s been over an hour and it´s still raining so I don´t know how those people got down. We were going to try to walk around in the rain and find a cafe but everywhere is closed for the afternoon or for the rain… I don´t know which… so we came back to our hotel to enjoy a nice siesta and some TV in English and watch the lightning.

Zacatecas cathedral

Our hotel has a very nice internet lounge so I was optimistic I could put my pictures online from here but for some reason they have the picasa web album site blocked which stinks. oh well… I did put some of them on a CD so if i find an internet cafe that will let me post them I will… Otherwise you´ll all see them when I get back and have my dumb computer fixed. ugh!

Our free rock-hard chips, pickled veges and salsa

Enchiladas poblanos

NEWLY UPDATED AT 8:30 PM
Once the rain stopped this evening Mex and I hopped back in a taxi to go out to dinner. The place we wanted to go to was closed however, so we went to the same place as last night. We had to huff uphill to get there this time though since we got dropped off at the cathedral to go to the other restaurant. I say huff because at 8200 feet it doesn´t take much for us to huff. It is quite chilly here (although no snow) but we refused to wear jackets and decided to revel in our chance at being chilled since my parents informed me that the temperature in the El Paso area has been in the 90´s.
 A quick sidenote about food… don´t get sucked into ordering chips (totopos) and guacamole as an appetizer here. The chips are NOT the same as the US. They are usually oil soaked, rock hard or even slightly burnt. Sometimes you´ll get them free anyway… more so in the north than in the south in our experience. Also, malteados are NOT malts! They are slightly cool milk (I stress the slightly) with malt powder mixed in. Get corn when you see it (if you like corn that is) on the street and DO get the mayo even though your instincts may say not too (or I prefer crema- which is a thin sour cream- if available). I recommend the not-so-spicy chile or squeeze of lime, however, over the light-your-pants-on-fire chile. 

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La Perla Restaurant – Acapulco

La Perla Restaurant's design mirrors the surrounding steep cliffs

We opted for dinner at La Perla Restaurant which is part of the Mirador Hotel Acapulco. The restaurant is built on a cliff itself and has a pre-set price for a

View of Clavadistas (cliff divers) from La Perla restaurant

three-course meal. It is pricy (around $35) but the cliff and diver views are awesome, there is live mariachi music in between diving shows and the restaurant itself is multi-leveled and all open air so you can enjoy fresh sea breezes. It seemed to be popular with tour groups. The hotel Mirador was a vacation spot for the rich and famous during the 40’s,  50’s and 60’s and there is a wall near the bathrooms of La Perla where celebrities have left their signatures.

We had great seafood dishes for the most part. My coconut shrimp was doughy and a little disappointing as I almost always find coconut shrimp. The cheesecake looked delicious but was lacking a little bit of sweetness. Dinner is served from 7 – 11 pm every day. Divers perform at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 is a Torch-lit Grand Finale.

Mmmm... sitting on the sea eating seafood. Delish!

We were tempted by this lovely looking dessert, though it was distinctly less sweet than it appears.

Celebrity signature wall sporting the names of famous visitors from Acapulco's hey days in the 40's - 70's

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