Acclaimed tacos within 10 miles of Bethel University, ranked.
By Emma Harville
1) El Taco Loco
4220 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights (7.5 miles)
Price per taco: $1.89
Let’s start off by saying I’m the horrible breed of what you would call a picky eater. So, I’m kind of hard to please. But this taco, half Mexican sausage, half steak and delicately dipped in the mild green sauce was flat-out amazing.
Presentation was simple. Kind of just what you would expect. The tacos were served in one of those plastic baskets, so I might have added a point if they were a little more sophisticated. But then again, you’re usually not going to a hole-in-the-wall taco place with the expectation of fine dining.
The only bummer was that this place, compared to the others, lacked a sense of character. There wasn’t a whole lot going on inside besides the Mexican flag. Being at a strip mall, the location wasn’t the best either, plus parking was a little tricky.
El Taco Loco means “the crazy taco,” and this, my friends, was a crazy taco.
2) El Taco Riendo
2412 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis (6.9 miles)
Price per taco: $2.45
I got a steak taco and pork taco. The pork taco was not my favorite, but let me tell you—the steak taco was the only one I actually finished during these taco escapades. The tortilla was slightly crisped and the onions and cilantro were fresh. The lime juice pulled it all together. If I wasn’t so sick of tacos, I would eat it right now.
Nothing special. Definitely kind of thrown into a paper basket. But still very appetizing.
I liked the vibrancy, but the restaurant was almost too big. I have a hard time believing it’s ever full. But it’s nice that there’s always somewhere to sit.
I think I might have been the only customer who didn’t order in Spanish, so that’s promising in itself.
3) La Cocina de Cuco
2301 37th Pl. NE, Columbia Heights (5.1 miles)
Price per taco: $2.95
Our server told us to get the pork and steak tacos. I liked the steak tacos better than the pork, but I would definitely eat both of them again. The mild sauce was great. But the salsa for the chips was pure liquid, and I prefer my salsa a bit chunkier.
The horseradish added some nice magenta vibrancy to the plate even though I didn’t eat it. Simple yet effective presentation.
So the outside was a little sketchy, and the typography on the sign wasn’t super enticing, but hey, looks aren’t everything. Once we walked in, we were greeted with the familiar bright orange walls of the other two spots as well as the cutest mini sombreros and Día de los Muertos decorations.
We dined under a giant portrait of Frida Kahlo and an array of random fruit paintings. Quite honestly the dining experience of my dreams.
4) La Tapatia
1237 Larpenteur Ave W, Roseville (5.8 miles)
Price per taco: $4
I ordered the sweet pork tacos with pineapple and carmelized onions, as well as the classic steak taco. The tacos came with a boatload of cilantro that had me picking my teeth for 20 minutes straight, but I didn’t mind because the sweet pork taco was actually pretty great.
The presentation was probably one of the best, although my taco was almost hidden by an avalanche of cilantro.
The atmosphere was cool and all, but it was so small. We sat at one of three high-top tables that were smooshed together, and as people continued to run in and out, we realized that this is probably more of a grab-it-and-go kind of place.
Overall experience: 2.8
If taco places were family members, La Tapatia would be the cooler older sister who wears eyeliner and listens to Paramore.
5) Nico’s Taco Bar on Como
2260 Como Ave, St Paul (8.1 miles)
Price per taco: $3 to $4
The bartender said the carnitas and barbacoa tacos are Nico’s staples. I wasn’t completely sold. I thought the meat was a little too sweet, but that’s just me.
We ordered takeout, and the two tacos came in a cardboard box. One of them was completely squashed by a container of salsa.
The restaurant was spacious, clean and dimly lit for a cozy feel. It definitely had a more modern twist—no orange walls here. I appreciated that there was music playing and I loved the Frida Kahlo mural.
This has potential to be a great first date option. And you can impress that special someone by ordering the cow tongue taco.
6) Brother’s Taqueria
2398 County Rd E, New Brighton (3.9 miles)
Price per taco: $2.15
I got the carnitas, as per the server’s recommendation. They were okay, and I respect them for their effort. What really got me was the extra hot sauce—I chugged water all the way to the next stop. The server was gracious enough to give me a warning, so I blame myself.
Simple, which I can appreciate. No bells or whistles, but I wasn’t expecting them.
You know how department stores sneakily start playing Mariah Carey Christmas songs the day after Halloween? Well, apparently that isn’t enough for Brother’s Taqueria in New Brighton—the place is currently decked out like Santa’s workshop. Red and green tinsel hang from the ceiling and Santa suits cover the chairs. Sombreros and snowmen adorn the bright orange walls. What is it with the orange walls?
Was it cheesy? 100 percent. But it was also merry and bright, fitting for the most wonderful time of the year.