Taco Tour serves up authentic fare

Minneapolis patrons took off on foot, bike and shuttle to explore the bustling Latino food district of East Lake Street.

A taco de pollo is drizzled with lime outside La Mexicana Supermarcado, one of nine stops on the Taco Tour on Lake Street on Sunday.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

A taco de pollo is drizzled with lime outside La Mexicana Supermarcado, one of nine stops on the Taco Tour on Lake Street on Sunday.

Sophia Vilensky

One street. Two-and-a-half thousand attendees. Too many tacos. As if.

On Sunday, nine local Latino restaurants participated in the third annual Taco Tour on Lake Street; Harriet Brewing hosted an after party for those not completely stuffed after the day’s events.

Originally conceived through a grant from the City of Minneapolis Great Streets neighborhood business program, the event — coordinated by the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) — receives less city funding each year due to its growing popularity and self-sustainability.

Alberto Monseratte is the Co-Founder CEO of NewPublica, a local public relations and strategic communications firm that assists with event promotions. Last year more than 2,500 people attended the tour, a record broken at this year’s event.

“People kept showing up on bikes,” Monseratte said. “We know that tacos are very popular in Minnesota, and we’re hoping to match that interest with the genuine tacos that have been here for a long time.”

Throughout the tour, participants familiarized themselves with the traditional fare. Although employees moved fast, the line for Taco Taxi was consistent. With five options in front of me I asked for a recommendation; in no time at all I was grasping a steaming taco de cabeza. I took a bite, enamored by the spices and flavors. Those around me nodded in approval; they knew the taco’s magic, especially to someone raised on southern Minnesota public-school soft shells.

Restaurants each donate about 300 free tacos to the tour. This year, there were “only” about 3,000 free tacos available. A number of “one free taco” cards are handed out to registered participants; each person gets to try offerings from a few different restaurants.

“People usually leave pretty full,” Monseratte said.

Karl Dischinger, a first-time tour participant, was the quintessential taco devotee.

With one stop left on the tour, Dischinger was “nine or 10” tacos in. (I, for one, only made it to three.) His favorite was the tender tongue taco from La Mexicana Supermercado.

“Usually I just drive down the street, so it’s great to be on ground level. You discover things you’d never see otherwise,” Dischinger said.

At the event’s registration area — the Lake Street K-Mart parking lot — parents pushed strollers, and friends chatted excitedly as they waited for the next shuttle. The Hub  set up shop with free bike check-ups. Tinder matches found each other among the crowd — for foodies, it was a perfect first date.

It wasn’t all tacos, though. Many restaurants provided other tasty treats. At La Mexicana Supermercado, 218 tres leches samples were gobbled up by 1:30 p.m. A little sample of tepache wasn’t enough for many participants at A La Salsa, who decided to order full glasses after downing their free samples.

With potato-filled taquito samples going fast, Oscar Reyes, owner of Las Mojarras Restaurant, decided to whip up some tacos of his own in front of attendees. As third-year participants, his daughters Viviana and Vanessa kept excellent watch over the taquito line they had contributed to; Viviana made the green salsa, and Vanessa made mango.

Taking a much-deserved break, Viviana took a big bite of a taquito.

“Is it good?” someone asked. Her grin was the best — and purest — advertising ploy. The patron smiled back and ordered another.

Soon, the Jarritos Luchador ran into the restaurant for a photo with the family.

“You need to work out,” Reyes said, squeezing one of the Luchador’s arms before getting back to work. Jarritos provided major funding for the event, handing out their beloved sodas for free at every tour stop.

Valentina Hidalgo-Mendoza, an intern at LEDC this summer, said this year’s tour was her first, though she has been to many of the restaurants before.

“What I’m really happy about is that all different kinds of people are here,” Hidalgo-Mendoza said. “Food brings everyone together, and it’s opening doors to this side of Minneapolis.”