Where to get great tacos and margaritas on Cinco de Mayo — or anytime


Where to get great tacos and margaritas on Cinco de Mayo — or anytime, Happy Cinco de Mayo! But remember, you can use this list anytime.

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For me, the answer to 'What do you want to eat?' is quite often tacos.

So it really doesn't have to be Cinco de Mayo for me to celebrate delicious meats wrapped in tortillas and topped with fresh and spicy accoutrements.

I have lots of favorite taco places, but my go-to spots are ones that serve a great margarita, another one of my great loves.

My margarita needs are specific: They can be flavored, but they can't be too sweet. They must have real, fresh-squeezed juice, good tequila and be served on the rocks.

Here are the five spots that satisfy both of my most urgent Mexican needs on the regular.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! But remember, you can use this list anytime.

PAJARITO

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Shrimp tacos and the house habanero and cilantro margarita at Pajarito, April 2019. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The tacos: There are lots of options here, and they're all good. Honestly. They make their own tortillas, which are fresh and tender every time. My go-tos are the barbacoa and the fresh, perfectly cooked shrimp.

The margarita: The drinks at Pajarito are some of my favorites in the Twin Cities (it helps that I love tequila and mezcal), and their house habanero cilantro margarita is no exception. It's spicy, but not too spicy, sweet, but not too sweet, and still has plenty of bold tequila flavor. Best of all, it's on tap, so there's no waiting.

Pajarito: 605 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-340-9545; pajaritostp.com

NICO'S TACOS

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Tacos and a Nico's Pepino margarita from Nico's Tacos on Como, photographed in February 2019. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The tacos: We haven't had a ton of time to explore the menu at St. Paul's newest taco spot, but on a first visit, we were impressed by the juicy barbacoa and the rich and slightly spicy mushroom. The atmosphere here is great, too. The gorgeous former Muffuletta space was given a much-needed makeover.

The margarita: There's a big menu of margs here, but my favorite of the bunch was the refreshing Nico's Pepino, which incorporates muddled cucumbers and just enough agave nectar to take the edge off the tequila. And, pro tip: If you go on Monday, all margaritas are half price.

Nico's Tacos on Como: 2260 Como Ave., St. Paul; 651-450-8848; nicostacobar.com

TACO LIBRE

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Tacos and a margarita at Taco Libre’s new downtown St. Paul location, April 2019. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The tacos: I would often scratch my taco itch here, but there were sadly no margaritas to be had. Until this month, when this counter-service restaurant opened its fourth location in the former American Burger Bar space in downtown St. Paul. Now, I can get the spicy tinga de res (beef) and pollo verde (chicken) tacos I love so much with a side of self-serve margarita from the restaurant's snazzy new self-serve beverage wall.

The margarita: Taco Libre's version is a little sweet for my taste, but still had plenty of fresh lime flavor, and we really loved the novelty of pouring our own. They even have lime juice and spicy salt for you to embellish your own glass.

Taco Libre: 354 Wabasha St., St. Paul; tacolibreusa.com

LA COSTA

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Tacos Nortenos and a margarita at La Costa in St. Paul, April 2019. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The tacos: Though I'm usually a fan of straight-up street tacos, here I love the tacos Nortenos, which feature the addition of avocado slices and queso fresco. The flavor-packed chicken tinga and barbacoa are my go-to choices, but you can't really go wrong.

The margarita: For $10, you get a giant, basic but tasty margarita, made simply with good tequila, fresh lime juice and orange liqueur. During their kickin' happy hour, they're just $4.

La Costa: 194 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul; 651-330-8743; lacostamn.com

BARRIO

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The grilled red Chile vegetable taco and flagship The Trinity margarita at Barrio in St. Paul, April 2019. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The tacos: Barrio has one of my favorite vegetarian tacos: A double corn tortilla loaded with grilled zucchini, squash, onion, black beans, romaine, queso fresco, pumpkin seeds and a killer red chile-tomatillo salsa. There are multiple great seafood taco options, too, and carnivores will love the steak and poblano version.

The margarita: It's hard to pick a favorite here, as there are several righteous options, but I think I can narrow it down to two. The restaurant's flagship, made simply with Cabrito blanco tequila, Cointreau and lime juice, is a perfectly balanced margarita. But the Diamante Pepino ups the ante, using Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila for added complexity and muddled cucumber and jalapenos for fun-but-not-overpowering flavor.

Barrio: 235 E. Sixth St., St. Paul, 651-222-3250, or 925 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-333-9953; barriotequila.com

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