Tacos Al Pastor at El Triunfo in Northfield, MN

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Once upon a time, the gastronomic beauty of immigration was that it left us with an archipelago of lovely little Italian-American or Chinese-American or German-American restaurants scattered all over country — not merely in the big cities, but also in bustling small towns and semi-independent suburbs of major cities. The pattern remains the same, but now it’s Indian or Vietnamese or — perhaps most of all — Mexican and Central American restaurants that represent the lively gustatory vanguard of newer arrivals to America’s shores.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

And so the humble but excellent El Triunfo (The Triumph) in Northfield joins the tradition, serving up simple food made with fresh ingredients at exceedingly low prices. Buzzing through town on the way to a farmstead cheese plant, we had time to try just a couple of dishes at this little grocery store / restaurant combo — a generously portioned and not overly cheesy quesadilla ($7), a savory and lively carne asada taco ($2), and, best of all, a pair of tacos al pastor ($2 each) that rival or even surpass our favorite version of the dish sold on East Lake Street at Taqueria La Hacienda.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Tacos al pastor can be dry, or one-note (from a seasoning perspective), or stingy on the meat — the last sometimes typically being the operative sin at Taqueria La Hacienda. They can also suffer from insufficient or old onions and cilantro. Not so at El Triunfo, where the tortillas bulged with tender, deeply spiced meat that was perfectly cooked, with all the soulful grill char you could ask for. The toppings were fresh and full of flavor, and even the accompanying lime wedges were plump and full of juice, not dessicated as they can sometimes be on East Lake. An accompanying green-tinted sour cream-based sauce sported a hell of a kick — a little was enough to deliver a blast of heat.

For those within striking distance of the Twin Cities’ best taquerias and other Mexican restaurants, a trip to Northfield may seem a little out of the way. But if you happen to be in the neighborhood, you’ll be hard pressed to find a tastier meal — and you’re almost certainly not going to find a better bargain.

El Triunfo
Mexican in Northfield, MN

200 Hwy 3 South
Northfield, MN 55057
507.664.3888
HOURS:
Daily 8:30am-10pm
BAR: No
RESERVATIONS / NEEDED: Yes / No

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of a book about Minnesota sandwiches and the people who eat them, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a daily video blogger for CHOW. His latest book is a guide to the food and restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul called the Food Lovers’ Guide to the Twin Cities. Norton has written about food for Culture: The Word on Cheese, Salon, Gastronomica, Popular Science, Saveur.com, Minnesota Monthly, and City Pages (as a weekly restaurant reviewer).

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4 Comments

  1. It’s a shame they didn’t have tamales when you were passing through. They have, by far, the best tamales I’ve tasted!

  2. Also a shame you didn’t have the chipotle chicken taco. I live in Minneapolis and al pastor is generally my meat of choice at home, but at Triunfo, chipotle chicken rules the day. Holy cow is it good.

  3. This is my favorite restaurant in the whole world. That green sauce…yumyumyum. Every time I’m back home I have to go at least once, preferably two or three times if I’m there more than a week! ;)
    Not only is the food good, the people are really nice too! They always are so happy to see me and ask how I’m doing, wonder where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to…and they always remember to give me extra green sauce!

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  1. [...] of great variety including vegetarian,” writes Northfield resident and PIN source Carl Behr. El Triunfo is a small Mexican market, where you can also order food to take out or eat there. The atmosphere [...]

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