I was supposed to meet a friend for tacos at a gas station on Nicollet. (True story.)
When the man behind the counter at the BP, surrounded by cigarettes and lottery tickets, asked what I was looking for, I said, “Tacos?” as if I hoped he was hiding the tortillas and pico de gallo somewhere in the 10 square feet behind him. He looked wary, as if “tacos” might be code for something he didn’t want associated with his place of business. “No. No tacos. Not ever,” he said.
Turns out, I had the wrong intersection. What I was looking for was two blocks south, inside another gas station, the CK Food & Fuel. Tacos El Primo occupies a corner of the convenience store, with a full kitchen and a handful of tables. While the rest of the place is stocked with the usual candy bars, chips, and soda, in the El Primo corner a massive pot bubbles on the stove, and it smells homey and friendly, like beans and onions.
The retail location has been open for just over a month now, but many customers will surely recognize the two Tacos El Primo trucks often parked along Lake Street.
The menu is long — your choices are tacos, burritos, tortas, and quesadillas, multiplied by a long list of meats — but the tacos are what you’re here for. The tacos are $2 apiece, so you can make up a hearty plate with a variety of meats — chicken (nicely spiced), carnitas (smoky and good), brisket (tender and flavorful), pork rinds (soft and floppy), or chorizo (unpleasantly chewy) — all held together in a double layer of slightly greasy corn tortillas.
Both the quesadillas and the burritos are heavy on the meat, while the tortas are big, loose, sloppy, mayonnaise-soaked deals, barely contained by soft, sweet buns the size of a Little Leaguer’s mitt. These are not the tightly compressed, artfully striated, and complexly delicious tortas of Manny’s Tortas fame.
It’s all fill-you-up comfort food, served with a warm smile and washed down with sugary Jarritos. In a gas station on Nicollet.
Tacos El Primo
4751 Nicollet Ave
HOURS: Mon-Sat 11am-5pm