On a recent visit to Minneapolis, I was up for some Mexican food one evening. Being out on the South side of town, I decided to try one of my all-time favorite Mexican restaurants, Tejas. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be shut down! I'm not having too much luck with restaurants this summer! Turns out Tejas shut down at the end of 2009 when the owner's lease ran out and the landlord was going to be jacking up the rent significantly.
I ended up going somewhere else that evening, but the next night I still had a hankering for Mexican food. I was going to head over Pepitos, a pretty good Mexican restaurant that I've visited a couple of times in the past. I was heading up Nicollet Ave. heading toward Pepitos when a large sign in a small strip mall on the Northwest side of the corner of W 66th and Nicollet caught my eye - El Tejaban (see map). It looked interesting enough that it made me turn around and go back to check it out.
El Tejaban (which roughly translates into "Mexican Hut" in English) has been in business since 2008 when the current owners bought the long time Morelos restaurant at the same location in what is officially Richfield. El Tejaban's signature items on their menu are made in authentic Mexican molcajete's - authentic serving bowls that date back to the Aztecs and are used primarily to grind spices, to make salsa or guacamole in, or as a bowl to served fresh made Mexican dishes.
The interior of El Tejaban is similar to a lot of Mexican restaurants, but was full of authentic Mexican artwork and a handful of antiques. It was well lit, but was shy on customers the night I was in. I was able to get a booth in the main dining area right away. The bar area in the back has a large neon sign above it that signifies it as a "Tequila Bar". I was given a menu and began to look through it.
In addition to mocajete's, El Tejaban has the usual Mexican fare with a nice authentic touch to the food. They feature a number of specials for both drink and food through the week. That night I was lucky - it was two for one margaritas that evening.
The one thing that I also noticed about El Tejaban's very extensive menu of authentic Mexican food was that they didn't offer many combination dishes. I wanted to try a couple three things on the menu, but they were generally full dinners. Their "ala carte" selections weren't overly extensive, but I knew I'd be able to find something.
A young man brought out a basket of chips and two different types of salsa. There was a regular tomato-based salsa, but the other one was rather intriguing. It was sort of an orange color and had some spices that I really couldn't put my finger on as to what they were. But I have to say it was very good - a very pleasurable taste sensation that I don't think I'd ever had before. The orange salsa was so good I was afraid I'd fill up on that and some chips before my main entree showed up.
A good sign about El Tejaban was that I appeared to be the only Anglo in the place. A family in the booth next to me was speaking in Spanish and I heard the waiter greet some new customers in Spanish, as well. I've learned long ago that if there are more Hispanic's in a Mexican restaurant, it must be very authentic.
I finally did find something on the menu that appealed to me - well, actually, a lot of stuff appealed to me, but I was looking for a sampler of things to try. I did find a combination on the menu of a beef chile relleno, a beef enchilada with a green chile sauce and a beef taco. For good measure, I ended up getting a pork taco ala carte.
One of the good things about the 2 for 1 margaritas at El Tejaban, the waiter brought them out one at a time. The first one was pretty damn good - it had been a long day. It went down rather quickly and he brought the second one out. By the time I had that one down, my food came out. I signed up for another 2 for 1 special on the margaritas.
The first thing that caught my eye were the large portions El Tejaban offers. The chile relleno was very big and was drizzled with a chipotle cheese topping. The enchilada had an abundance of a homemade green chile sauce and was topped with a small red onion ring. And both the beef and pork tacos were over flowing with meat, cheese, chopped lettuce and chopped tomatoes. The presentation looked scrumptious. I tried a little bit of both the orange and the regular tomato salsa on the tacos. I would love to get the recipe for that orange colored salsa at El Tejaban.
There was no way that I was going to be able to finish the whole meal, but I made a significant dent into the portions. The chile relleno was a pleasant surprise in that it was stuffed with beef and cheese - most Mexican restaurants I've encountered just do a cheese-stuffed chile relleno. I really liked the beef and cheese chile relleno at El Tejaban - it reminded me of the old Raul's restaurant in Des Moines. Raul's had the absolute best chile rellenos stuffed with beef and cheese, dipped in an egg batter and deep-fried to a golden brown. The chile rellenos at El Tejaban were very similar.
The pork was a little overcooked on the pork taco, but both the beef enchilada and the beef taco were very good. I especially liked the green chile sauce - very flavorful and I laid waste to the chile relleno and the enchilada, eating about half each of the tacos. Between the food, the chips and now up to my fourth margarita at El Tejaban, I was stuffed!
Overall, I was thoroughly happy with my food and my experience at El Tejaban. I was pleasantly surprised to find the place and I was happy that I took a chance on a place that I had no idea what I was getting into. It just looked inviting to me as I drove by. The service was good, the food was very authentic and very good, and I certainly dug the 2 for 1 margaritas. El Tejaban goes on the list for good Minneapolis Mexican restaurants.
Update - Sept. 2015 - El Tejaban moved across the street in 2014 from their original location. It's now on the east side of Nicollet just north of 66th Street. (see map) The same sign that was on the other building adorns the front of their new location and the dining area is open, festive and well-lit. The food is still as good as it ever was.