St. Louis is becoming more and more a diverse collection of ethnic neighborhoods. If you go down to Soulard and Carondelet you’ll find a definite French accent. South Grand is shared by Vietnamese, Serbian and Russian immigrants. There is the Italian neighborhood known as the Hill. A little further west and you’ll see a lot of taverns and restaurants wearing shamrocks. Head down to Dutchtown for the annual Strassenfest. Cherokee street starts at Gravois, then goes down past Jefferson all the way to the near fringes of downtown. On Cherokee you’ll find a large Hispanic population, an antique row, and some of the best Mexican food to be found anywhere in the city. Below are a couple of the best, as well as some other spots around the city where you can get that south of the border feel:
Taqueria Azteca 2632 Cherokee (314) 664-9551 It doesn’t get any realer than this little authentic Mexican restaurant. Bring your Spanish dictionary as some of the waiters don’t speak English. With any luck though, you might find an interpreter. Most of the immigrant customers are pretty friendly. The dÃ?Â©cor of this place is sort of Tijuana yard sale. Pictures of the Madonna and large crucifixes adorn the walls. You might even spot a picture of the Virgin by the way the crackers line up in your soup if you are not careful. With items on the menu like beef tongue and Gorditas filled with Poblano chilies, salsa verde, beans and potatoes and packed with Chorizo sausage you’ll want to lick some salt and bite into a lime wedge or two before you’re finished. Arrive early and try the Mexican breakfast: most of the above with some eggs thrown in for good measure.
Taqueria El Bronco 2812 Cherokee (314) 762-0691 A couple more blocks up the street and you’ll arrive at the best taco shack in the city. Check out the Tacos Al Pastor: soft corn tortillas with onion, cilantro, a wedge of lime, and marinated pork. If you are really feeling adventurous, stop in on a Saturday or Sunday when the owner whips up a batch of “head tacos.” That’s right, tacos made with the meat from a steamed cow’s head.
Nachomama’s 9643 Manchester (314) 961-9110 This former Dairy Queen is really a fast food restaurant disguised as a Tex-Mex cantina. Despite the drive-thru and a lot of teenage help, Nachomama’s makes almost all of the food from scratch. Fresh homemade flour tortillas and salsa compliment wood smoked meats. I believe that Nachomama’s has the very best Enchiladas I have ever tasted. Green tortillas wrapped around spicy roasted chicken and topped with a homemade Ranchero sauce and sour cream. Yum! While you’re waiting in line, you can grab a cold Mexican beer or soda from the big tin washtub and pop off the top with the bottle opener attached to the corrugated metal bar.
Pueblo Solis 5127 Hampton (314) 351-9000 This somewhat cramped, dimly lit restaurant has some of the best Mexican food north of the border, certainly in St. Louis. Try the roasted chicken with achiote, or the potato quesadillos. The menudo (a spicy tripe soup) is excellent. They also have a great selection of fish, which is unusual for a Mexican restaurant. I have never heard a negative comment about the food at this restaurant, but I have heard a lot of complaints about the extremely slow service. One patron complained that the total wait time for all the courses was nearly three hours! The place was pretty busy when we ate there and we had to wait about 45 minutes, not to bad, all things considered.