As its name suggests, Capital View Café & Catering showcases a magnificent view of the Minnesota State Capitol building, but it's really the Mexican and American cuisine that keeps regulars coming back. The Ramirez and Lucken family brought the restaurant to life in 1993, after a family friend had tipped them off about a small café full of untapped potential that was in need of new owners. The family relied on many years of experience in the restaurant business to open a friendly neighborhood diner specializing in housemade breakfasts and lunches and generous portions. Capital View Café's breakfast menu includes both American and Mexican mainstays, and the lunch menu ranges from salads, soups, and sandwiches to authentic Mexican lunches. Their Mexican lunch roster catalogs burritos, fajitas, and the chipotle red pork dish, served in a zesty chipotle sauce alongside a stack of warm tortillas, a tastier stack of hot disks than frisbees toasting over a camp fire.
Not long after El Nuevo Rodeo Restaurant opened in 2003, its made-from-scratch Mexican dishes and vibrant late-night atmosphere began to make the lively eatery a hotspot with locals. The restaurant rapidly began expanding its authentic Mexican menu with regional culinary offerings such as pineapple-chipotle margaritas and guacamole appetizers handmade at your table in a lava-rock molcajete. Using handmade tortillas, tamales, and sauces, chefs whip up seasonal specials designed to complement selections from the curated wine and tequila menus.
Helmed by married couple Tomas and Maria Silva, the vibrantly embellished restaurant (formerly an 800-square-foot storefront) offers an energetic dinner menu dominated by straight-outta-Tenochtitlan tamales, tacos, nachos, and gorditas. An order of stone-ground corn chips and salsa ($2.50) kicks off Cinco de Mayo's 24-hour fiesta with a little edible confetti. You can also indulge your inner wizard with an order of queso fundido molcajete ($7.69), a bubbling stone cauldron filled with asadero cheese to drizzle atop your tacos (add chunks of chorizo, chipotle, habanero, or ham to the mix for $0.35 each). And if the burrito original (filled with your guisado choice or carne asada, beans, rice, lettuce, and cheese, $7.50) isn't big enough, the burro gigante ($13.99)—a two-foot behemoth stuffed with beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, two meat choices, and (it's rumored) a burro—will give you the mind-bending thrill of eating something larger than your own head. Vegetarians can abide by their uneasy peace treaty with chickens by dining on roasted chile poblanos stuffed with cilantro rice and white cheese ($8.79) or vegetable fajitas ($9.25) filled with cactus, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini. By this point, your piñata might be dangerously close to popping, in which case a spoonful of flan ($3.99) or refreshing gelatina ($2.99) make for safe dessert options. But if you don't want to disappoint the blindfolded birthday boys gathering around your bulging stomach with bats, go with the heavenly tres leches cake ($4.25).
Beneath the little brown awning scrawled with bright yellow letters, signs plaster the front windows of La Cabana, declaring in bold white and green the availability of tortas, cervesas, and various daily specials. Behind this wall of glass and menu, the staff and family who keep La Cabana running sear pork, beef, and seafood atop their grill, filling tortillas and pastries with the saucy flavors. They keep Mexican beers on hand, in addition to the standard margaritas, to wash down helpings of carne asada or fresh ceviche. Often fueled by a few libations, guests can belt out their favorite tunes during Saturday and Sunday karaoke.
El Taquito Taco Shop has a full menu of Mexican and Tex-Mex favorites, but the house specialty is tacos. To create the Mexican staple, chefs fill soft-shell corn or flour tortillas with shredded beef, fried pork, or spicy chorizo and then sprinkle each with chopped cilantro and raw onions. The taqueria’s tacos are a favorite among diners and even earned a shout-out in Gnaw Blog, a food blog that reviews small, non-chain restaurants in the Twin Cities. On Friday and Saturday nights, El Taquito stays open until 3 a.m. to satisfy late-night cravings and partygoers itching for a food fight.
The familial cooking tradition is strong at Taqueria Los Paisanos, where owner Alinda Suarez uses recipes she learned from her mother and grandmother to create a menu of Mexican favorites. Although the eatery serves staples, such as tortas, quesadillas, and tamales, its specialty is the taco, and diners can dig into al pastor and carnitas varieties. For liquid nourishment, the taqueria serves horchata and jamaica made from scratch, bottled beers, and Jarritos?Mexican soda infused with fruit flavors, such as mandarin, lime, and snozzberry.