With so much buzz about this place in the "big cities" I'm surprised nobody has commented.
My first try and I wasn't blown away. The atmosphere was nice, but there was something about it that lacked refinement. The photos from the locations in other cities look more upscale. Maybe it was the early hour (5:30ish) and that 3/4 of the patrons wearing shorts and various Vikings jerseys, but it didn't have a modern, sleek vibe at all. By comparison, places like Bar La Grassa and Masa...even Cosmos still, feel vibrant. It's like the designers got about 3/4 of the way done and said, "eh...good enough" and headed back to LA or Vegas.
As for the food, the tableside guac was stellar, as advertised. The tomatillo and smoky Oaxacan salsas were a win. My two dining partners thumbs-upped their margaritas.
Everything else was good, but not spectacular. The sauces with the two enchiladas I tried (my order of the lump crab and their chicken) were flavorful but almost identical to the ones served with the chips. The tomatillo salsa/sauce got monotonous. The pork belly and sea scallop tacos (appetizer) were very good but it's two street food-sized tacos. At $13 and with the rest of the menu at upwards of $25-30 per option, you can burn through a lot of money fast there.
Which is maybe the problem -- they do some really nice flavors, sauces, etc. but so do some other places around town (e.g. Brasa, Barrio, Masa and even El Burrito Mercado and Andale) at a fraction of the price.
It wasn't bad by any means and I'll probably be back there, but I'm not in a hurry.
El Burrito Mercado
175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107
1070 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Bar La Grassa
800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401
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