One of the side benefits of writing about food is that people send you tips. Via Twitter, email, Facebook, and even Instagram, they trickle in and catch your eye. And while there’s always the occasional shill or unaccountably enthusiastic diner, most tips are right on. And they’re spotlights on corners of the food world that are easy to miss when you’re chasing the story-of-the-moment.
One such tip from a reader’s email, is the Tavial Grill in St. Paul. Open since 2014, Tavial looks like just another independent, family-owned Mexican restaurant — which is to say, one of the most reliably enjoyable types of restaurants in the region.
Tavial trades in pure comfort. Our Asada Burrito ($8) was like a hug in a tortilla: the rice and beans and steak in equal proportions, with a net of melted cheese to bring it together, and house salsas to wake the dish up and make it sing. Without the salsas, it would be a pleasant snooze of a dish, but with them it’s a compelling meal unto itself.
Similarly enjoyable was the steak Alambre ($11), a plate overloaded with green peppers, onions, steak, bacon, and cheese — a complete package of bright, smoky, salty, earthy, and meaty flavors made to be spooned into tortillas.
We also gave the Pork Tamale ($3.50) a shot, and we dug it. The salt level is on point, and while the heat seems mild at first, it builds and sneaks up on you in a pleasant way. Chase it with a sip of horchata ($3), which is clean, balanced, and sweet (but not sickeningly so, as is sometimes the case).
There’s no pretense at Tavial. The humble, “must’ve-been-a-Hardee’s” decor and seating is as casual as it comes, and there’s counter (or drive-up-window) service only. But that suits the food, which is mellow, kind, and approachable, perfect for the neighborhood and worth a stop if you’re driving by on West 7th.
Casual Mexican in West Seventh, St. Paul
1199 7th St W
St. Paul, MN 55102
OWNERS: Victor and Tanis Alquicira
Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No (ask about lard; see reader comment)
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$12
NOISE LEVEL: Quiet
PARKING: Small lot, street parking