Cocina Latina in South Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you’re in the mood for honest, unpretentious food with Ecuadorian and Colombian roots, you could certainly do worse than Cocina Latina. This relatively new arrival (which replaces the defunct Tacos Blass at 38th Street and Nicollet Ave.) offers a menu that runs from the exceedingly familiar (steaks and fajitas) to the slightly more exotic, including goat stew, tripe, and some regional beverages that may be unknown to many visitors.

Moreover: Never before has this reviewer had the pleasure of watching so many Handycam-shot Ecuadorian music videos featuring body-painted dancing hoochie mamas and/or oddly serious documentary footage of what appears to be actual military training exercises. The overall effect was transportive, if a bit distracting. Eat some plantain and rice? Or watch a monkey licking a woman dressed like a flame demon from Hell’s sixth circle? These are the kind of choices that are good to have.

A Parrillada Latina (four kinds of meat and two kinds of plantains, for good measure, $13) was a veritable steamroller of protein, offering tender, appropriately charred grilled beef, pork, sausage, pork cracklings, plus fried green and sweet plantains. This was not a flashy dish — the preparation was competent and understated, the portion size appropriately macho.

We ordered chicken fajitas ($10) — beloved by gringos for decades — to see what the far, far south of the border incarnation would look like. It turns out to be considerably lighter than the guac / sour cream / refried beans sizzling heart attack that we’ve come to know and love. The Cocina Latina version is surprisingly light on its feet, offering sides of lettuce, rice and diced tomatoes, tender chicken and small steamed tortillas.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A Mojarra a la Diabla (spicy fried tilapia, $13) had a tender texture and agreeably spicy exterior in terms of both heat and spice balance but a distinctly fishy flavor that was a bit of a downer.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Appetizers and desserts varied from a simple but nicely spicy Colombian sausage with arepa ($5) to a guava paste and cheese dessert ($4) that was long on waxiness but short on flavor. A morocho caliente (hot spice corn milk) made for a pleasantly novel non-alcoholic nightcap, evocative of horchata but a bit creamier and milder.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you’re striking out for south-of-the-border adventures, La Vina in South Minneapolis and Chimborazo in Northeast both yield better bang for the buck, but there’s no denying the comfort factor inherent in Cocina Latina’s straightforward menu and laid-back ambiance.

BEST BET: Grilled beef, in all its glory. There are many options on the menu, and most come with sides (rice, plantains, other kinds of meat.)

Cocina Latina
South American food in South Minneapolis

3764 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55409
Sun-Thu: 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm
BAR: Beer and Wine

Facebook Comments


James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

Visit Website


  1. HazelStone 01/06/2010 Reply

    “Never before has this reviewer had the pleasure of watching so many Handycam-shot Ecuadorian music videos featuring body-painted dancing hoochie mamas”

    “Or watch a monkey licking a woman dressed like a flame demon from Hell’s sixth circle? These are the kind of choices that are good to have.”

    Unless you are a woman who has this crazy idea she’s a real person and not a sex object. Geez, folks. This made it past the editors? Racism AND sexism, together at last. Stick to the food, folks.

  2. Maybe that’s an inticement, maybe that’s a warning. Either way, now you know what to expect beyond just the food. And dining out is always about more than just the food.

  3. kassie 01/06/2010 Reply

    I’ve eaten here and really enjoyed it. It is a nice addition to the neighborhood. They have Peruvian staples on their menu also.

  4. Chill out Francis…errr I mean Hazelstone. I think your digging a little bit too much to claim that the authors statements were sexist/racist. It’s too bad about the Mojarra’s fishiness. It is a great dish but it seems like alot of the Mexican restaurants in town aren’t concerned with using fresh tilapia.

  5. I wish we could come up with an alternative to the always-farmed cheap tilapia. I never like the taste even when it’s ‘fresh’. I guess all we have to do is clean up the oceans……halibut or mahi mahi or salmon have a lot more personality.

    And maybe I’m more tolerant of sexism but it seemed to me that the writer of this piece was trying to humorously warn us about the multi-media going on, trying to let us know he was kind of shocked by it. But obviously he was not super annoyed by it.

    I’ve thought about checking this place out since I live near there but after looking at their menu and reading this mediocre review I’m going to pass.

  6. James, have you been to La Hacienda in Sibley Plaza (West 7th) in St. Paul? They also serve Ecuadorian/Salvadorian/Peruvian food. I’m interested to know how it compares, especially since it’s much closer to us east-siders than the restaurants you mentioned.

  7. Author

    SD, I haven’t been, but Lori Writer talks about it in the context of a story about pupusas:

Trackbacks for this post

  1. […] heads out to Chimborazo and Cocina Latina (our own takes are here and here respectively), a pretty ambitious exploration of winter beers (tip: serve Schell’s Snowstorm […]

  2. […] 8 at Firelake (menu as PDF), a new chef at Kings, a writeup of the relatively new Cocina Latina (ours is here), DIY fish fry, and a mixed write-up for Il Gatto by Teddy. Also: The editor apologizes for the […]

  3. […] quickly becoming a go-to spot for Twin Cities foodies. Along with Five Watt, there’s Blackbird, Cocina Latina, and Kyatchi (a sustainable sushi restaurant coming soon). A few blocks to the West, you’ll find […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *