Pineda Tacos on East Lake St.

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

At 6:30 on a Saturday evening, Pineda Tacos is empty, but for the to-go customers trickling in, a few at a time. The long bar running the length of the place is wide open, its mirror reflecting only the friendly faces of the two servers behind the counter. In the back room, the TV is exploding Kung Fu dubbed in Spanish and the air is redolent with disinfectant, clean and tidy yet slightly off-putting.

Never mind all that: Pineda may be a little on the ambiance-free side, but it serves up a mighty taco.

Pineda’s signage is spare, so be sure to ask for the printed menu. On a recent visit we were struck by the Cuban torta, which features ham, cheese, wieners, breaded steak … and chorizo.  Don’t let the gonzo sandwiches, burritos, or meat plates turn your head, at least not until you’ve tried a taco:  corn tortillas, doubled up and warmed on a hot grill, then filled with a ladle of meat and a sprinkling of queso, cilantro, your choice of fresh salad veggies and salsa (the verde will make your nose run, but the milder red salsa has a full, smoky flavor that’s a little more interesting). A simple side of nachos is nice, too. It comes with refried beans, your choice of meat and veggies, cheese, and avocado mashed with lime. A word to the wise: ask for the queso fresco, unless you happen to love the processed yellow stuff.

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

Best Bet: The carnitas taco — a sublime combination of tender braised pork, chiles, and cumin, and the tin-y accent of cilantro — is the star of the menu. The chicken in chipotle sauce was so delightfully piquant it gave me the hiccups, and was gone before I could take it to go.

Pineda Tacos
311 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408
HOURS: Daily 9:30am-11pm
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Not really (a bean burrito is available)/No
ENTREE RANGE: $6.50 breakfast, $2.09 (for a single taco) – $9.60 lunch and dinner

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

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About the Author

Susan Pagani

Susan Pagani is a Minneapolis-based editor and writer. Her work has previously appeared in newspapers and magazines in Minneapolis, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Berkeley. She has also contributed essays to Minnesota Lunch and The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food.

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  1. I really miss the old Pineda Tacos down by Hiawatha, the new one just isn’t as nice. But man, do I love the tacos.

  2. Any place that serves tacos on a paper plate must be legit.

  3. I’ve stopped at the Pineda Tacos on Robert St in West St Paul many times after a night of drinking. Much better than Taco Bell or White Castle.

    The Hiawatha location was a good one. I could hop on LRT in Bloomington, ride it to Lake, have lunch, ride LRT back. No car, no hassle.

  4. Scott, the Hiawatha location is still there, just in a different building. Lost a lot of charm though.

  5. @Moe, Okay, good to know. I drove past the area awhile ago and did not see it where I remembered it so I assumed it was gone.

  6. kassie 04/22/2009 Reply

    My favorite filling at Pineda is the chicken with green sauce with potatoes. Very tasty.

    And never, never get the large burrito unless you are feeding your full family those suckers are huge, they use multiple tortillas to hold it together. Go with the normal size burrito.

  7. TeeBee 04/30/2009 Reply

    I relocated here from San Diego and this place is the closest thing I have found to the real burrito. My buds here like Chipotle which is a joke. Pineda does it right.

  8. I get this at the Hiawatha location –
    The Manager’s Special: A veggie burrito, medium soda, chips & salsa.
    Under $4.
    You can’t find that nowhere else, but maybe home if you budget right. & even then it’s difficult to do.

    Cheap, good, authentic food & the center of Southside.
    Let’s go.

  9. The best burrito’s ever! get the big burrito, it’s two Chipotle sized burrito’s made together! but actually really good meats and extras!

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