Pepitos in Minneapolis is one of the finest and best known Mexican Restaurants in the Twin Cities. The original Pepitos on Chicago Ave. in southern Minneapolis (see map) has been around since 1971 serving up some of the best Tex-Mex food in the Midwest.
Pepitos was started by Joe Minjares and his wife, Sue. When Joe got out of the army at the age of 25, he had a wife, four kids and little money, but he wanted to own a restaurant. Joe got some financial help from his father and he bought The Colonial Inn, a long-time bar and pizza place that had been in existence since the 1930's.
Beer, burgers and pizza were still on the menu a year later when they decided to begin to sell tacos using an old family recipe passed along by Joe's mother, Lupe. The tacos were an immediate hit and more Mexican food found its way onto the menu. By 1975, Joe had changed the name of The Colonial to Pepito's - Joe's nickname. Pepitos quickly became the place to have Mexican food in Minneapolis.
I first ate at Pepitos in 1987 when a colleague I was working with at the time took my then-boss and me out to dinner. The food was very good. It was completely authentic Mexican fare.
When I first started to travel back to the Twin Cities for my present job, one of the first places I sought out was Pepitos. The place had been renovated and added on to since I'd been there years prior, and it had more of a Mexican restaurant feel to the place.
In the Twin Cities recently, I decided to head to Pepitos for dinner. Pepitos is in a small neighborhood business district and most parking in the area is street parking only. Pepitos has valet parking if you don't want to walk a block or two after parking your car.
I got into the place around 8:30 and the hostess sat me at a table next to the big fireplace that had survived all the remodeling and renovation over the years. On the mantle were Mexican religious artifacts and small family pictures. It was like I was eating in Joe and Sue's living room.
I was given a basket of chips along with a bowl of spicy salsa. It was smoky in it's flavor and had a nice little kick to the taste. The chips were large and didn't last long in the basket. I also ordered up a margarita while I decided what to order.
The menu (click on menu on the Pepitos home page) is vast and varied. As I said, it is authentic Mexican with many dishes made with spicy pork, shredded beef or chicken, and mole sauces. The tacos that Joe's mom first served up over 30 years ago are still on the menu - either soft-shelled or deep fried with your choice of meat filling.
I'm such a sucker for deep fried tacos I had to get one. I also ordered a chimichanga stuffed with spicy pork, black beans and rice. I knew it would be a lot of food, but I was ready for it.
The margarita was OK, nothing special. Not good enough to get another one, so I ordered up a Dos Equis XX Amber on tap. The waitress asked me if I wanted a big one and I said, "Yeah, sure. What the heck?"
She brought me out this massive beer glass filled with 24 ounces of beer. I knew with the spicy pork, I'd be taking large gulps of beer to cleanse the hot spices from my tongue.
About 10 minutes after I ordered my food, out came my spicy pork chimichanga and the deep fried beef taco. I had to try the taco first. While I didn't think it was quite as good as some deep fried tacos I've had in the past, it was still good.
The chimichanga, however, was outstanding. It was huge and stuffed full of the spicy pork, rice and black beans. The spicy pork did have a kick to it and my large beer was definitely helping to keep my mouth cool.
I couldn't finish the meal and the waitress asked me if I wanted a to-go box. No way - this was a chimichanga that definitely wouldn't be as good if it was heated up again.
There are two other locations for Pepitos in the Twin Cities, one on Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis (see map), and one out in southwest suburban Eden Prairie (see map). But both are much smaller and are called "Pepitos Deli". I'm guessing a lot of the same menu items from the original location are available in the smaller restaurants.
The bill with tip came to about $32 bucks. Service was great, food was excellent, margaritas were OK, but not outstanding. Pepitos is definitely on my places of "must eat at" when I go to the Twin Cities.