When temperatures drop below zero, most Minnesotans prefer a hearty bowl of chili, a classic wild rice soup, or the cheesy potatoes of a plentiful hotdish. Not this Arizona-raised Minnesotan.
I want colorful flavors, aromatic spices, a dish that wakes up the senses — and I want tequila. When my face hurts from the bitter cold, I need real Mexican food. El Burrito Mercado is about as authentic as it gets.
Immigrating from Mexico, Tomas and Maria Silva opened up El Burrito Mercado in 1979 in a small 800 sq. ft space and started selling Mexican groceries and tortillas. In 1995, the Silva’s remodeled the historic Henly’s Furniture Building. The 13,000 sq. ft. space allowed them to expand and add a cafeteria-style restaurant, deli, bakery, and butcher shop. The full-service restaurant and cantina were added in 2012.
After Tomas and Maria retired in 2015, they passed down El Burrito Mercado to their daughters Milissa, Suzanne, and their granddaughter Analita.
The Silva’s changed the Mexican grocery landscape in the Twin Cities. They were the first to introduce Goya products to Minnesota. The first to offer a hot-cold Mexican deli (over a dozen homemade salsas!? sold!). They have hand-selected artisan crafts and décor from Mexico, and their aisles are lined with spices and peppers you cannot find anywhere else in Minnesota.
If you need a quick visual detox during our gray winter days, follow their Instagram page for some colorful Latin flair.
On to El Burrito Mercado Restaurant y Cantina
But first, a little margarita rant.
I love a well-crafted margarita, but truth be told, I rarely order one these days. Most Midwest made margaritas are garbage. Their thick, yellowy liquid is packed so full of sugar I am shocked the stem of the glass hasn’t been amputated due to diabetes. The tequila is usually cheap and heavily masked under a lemon-lime sugar concoction. The typical result is a sad margarita that leaves you with a dangerous hangover for days.
But when in Rome. So, I ordered a house margarita at El Burrito Mercado with my fingers crossed.
If I didn’t live 25 minutes away, I would be at that bar drinking their house margaritas every damn day.
If you haven’t had a proper margarita, stop what you are doing right now and go to El Burrito Mercado. It’s tart, with a hint of sweetness, and you can taste the smooth tequila just enough for it to whisper, “alright, amiga, let’s have some fun.” My mouth is watering just from writing about it.
Their homemade tortilla chips come with two salsas, green and red, a tad spicy, but not overpowering. Their burritos are packed full of shrimp, steak carnitas, chicken, or pork pastor (I highly recommend ordering with red or green sauce on top). They are well-known for their homemade tamales, have a different enchilada every day of the week, and make their own mole with 32 various spices and ingredients. This is the real deal.
Stop in any day from 3-6 pm for their fantastic happy hour specials, including $5 margaritas and $2 tacos. Or make a reservation for a Friday night and enjoy their lively Fiesta Friday con Mariachi Estrella, starting back up on February 12th.
For this Arizona raised girl, there aren’t enough places like El Burrito Mercado in Minnesota.
It’s funny that growing up, my family would gravitate to Scandinavian cuisines; it felt like it brought us closer to our home state of Minnesota. Now that I am living in Minnesota, I find myself searching for places like El Burrito Mercado because it reminds me of my life in Arizona – the smells, tastes, and colors all carry me back. That is what a genuine food experience should do – bring you back to the places where you lived, traveled, explored, laughed, and ate. It should bring you back home.