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.
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.
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