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Tacos are having a bit of a moment. Everywhere you turn are taco memes and taco-themed T-shirts. The perfection of tacos is becoming universally recognized. All your essentials wrapped up in a carb in a handheld portion. Tacos are easily customizable, with different meat and veggie fillings, and can be topped with cheese, avocado, cilantro, onions, and sauces.
I’m pretty passionate about tacos (I even named my cat Taco!), so I decided to try almost every street taco in West St. Paul (I never made it to the elusive taco truck in the O’Reilly or Auto Zone parking lots, but some day!). Our proximity to the West Side of St. Paul and its district del Sol makes West St. Paul a natural location for a variety of Mexican restaurants.
1011 S Robert St. / ItsBurgerTime.com
You may not choose Burger Time because they have the best or most authentic tacos in town. However, if your kids want a burger and fries, and you’re short on time, hit up the Burger Time drive through and pick up tacos for yourself. Two tacos come to an order, and you can have them topped with cilantro, onion, and a creamy green sauce; or American style with iceberg lettuce and cheese. Both options come wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. I tried a green chile beef and a chicken taco. The green chile beef had a more unique flavor, but since I ordered the chicken taco with the green sauce, both ended up being satisfying. Plus, there’s something extra decadent about eating tacos with a side of crisp, salty fries.
El Nuevo Morelos Mexican Restaurant
360 Bernard St. W / ElNuevoMorelos.com
Morelos is another place where I might not necessarily go to get tacos, mostly because I’d be tempted by some of their other options like enchiladas, flautas, or alambres. However, their tacos were quite good! The friendly waitress clued me in that on Tuesdays, the tacos are $1 a piece, instead of $7.99 for three tacos and a side of rice and beans. I chose barbacoa, chicken, and pastor, all which came in small, double-wrapped corn tortillas, with cilantro and a side of limes. The pastor was sweet and well-flavored, and the chicken saucy with a good kick. The barbacoa wasn’t quite spicy enough for me, but thankfully there’s a caddy full of different hot sauces on each table, as well as squeeze bottles of red and green salsa.
1434 S Robert St. / RedTacoTruck.com
El Taquito is a small, colorful Robert Street establishment serving up fresh and authentic Mexican food. We came in near closing time, and were offered a free burrito! The tacos were quite simple—double corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and onion. The al pastor was tender, thinly sliced and the perfect balance of smoky and sweet. The chorizo was also packed with flavor. There are many more adventurous authentic filling options at El Taquito, such as beef tongue, cabeza, and tripes. They threw in several takeout containers of a piquant, watery hot sauce packed with peppers. I added it to my tacos, but there was so much I enjoyed it on everything I ate the rest of the week.
Hamburguesas El Gordo
1731 S Robert St. / GordoBurgers.com
While perhaps not the star of their menu (that award would go to the hulking burgers), Hamburguesas offers a variety of delicious tacos not to be overlooked. Choose from clasico, norteno, gringo, or pirata (the main difference being queso fresco vs. oaxaca cheese). I split a basket of five norteno tacos with my husband. Our five tacos (asada, pollo, al pastor, deshebrada, and carnitas) were nestled together and topped with a generous slice of avocado, a sprinkling of queso fresco, and a heap of cilantro and minced onion. On the side were grilled onions and roasted jalapeno peppers. The standout filling was by far the deshebrada. Similar to barbacoa, this marinated beef was dripping in a red sauce flecked with peppers with the perfect amount of heat. The tortillas are house-made, thick, and had a pleasant bite.
1304 S Robert St.
Pineda Tacos has been in the old Embers space on Robert Street since the early 2000s, offering authentic and no-fuss street tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and tortas. Even though Pineda lacks much ambiance, our tacos were fresh and delicious. Corn tortillas are grilled and doubled to hold up to a hearty portion of meat. Standouts were the spicy chipotle chicken with marinated onions, tender roasted pork, and savory Mexican sausage (chorizo). Their menu offers hard shell tacos, corn and flour tortillas, along with 14 filling choices, including chopped steak, spicy pork, green sauce chicken, and al pastor.
1221 S Robert St. / TacoLibreUSA.com
Taco Libre is a lively fast casual restaurant with a varied menu. It was hard not to order the machete (essentially, a giant 18 inch taco), but their tacos are almost as good. Taco Libre offers street tacos or American tacos, with eighteen different filling options. The tortillas here are killer—soft, homemade corn tortillas perfectly grilled. I am partial to the pollo a la Mexicana (shredded chicken with onions and tomatoes) for its simplicity (and side of grilled onions). There are excellent options for vegetarians too—my favorite being the rajas con queso, which tastes like a deconstructed chile relleno wrapped in a taco shell. Not matter what filling you get, the best part is selecting a salsa to compliment your choice. I adore their “green sauce”—a melt-your-face-off, mysterious opaque green sauce possibly made of pureed jalapeno peppers (no ingredients are listed). Their avocado salsa is also an excellent choice.
So which restaurant had the best tacos? Before this taco tour of West St. Paul, I would have said Taco Libre was my favorite. It likely will remain one of my go-tos, but I’m still dreaming of those tacos at Hamburguesas. Honestly, I found something to like at every place I went!
If you’re not in the mood for street tacos, West St. Paul still has you covered with many Taco Tuesday and bar taco options, such as:
- Gallaghers: $2.50 tacos on Tuesdays.
- 5-8 Club: $2 tacos or five for $8. 5 p.m. to close. Dine in only.
- Dunhams: Not just a Taco Tuesday option. Tacos come with deep fried flour tortillas and a paper container of sour cream just like you remember from your school cafeteria.
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