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.
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.
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.
Mexican in Northfield, MN
200 Hwy 3 South
Northfield, MN 55057
RESERVATIONS / NEEDED: Yes / No