Each month, in our restaurant rumble conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers review two restaurants and pick a winner.
Jason: If I had to pick the most disappointing strip of restaurants in the Twin Cities, it’d be those at St. Anthony Main.
Joy: Too bad, because it’s also the Cities’ most scenic place to dine. Along the shaded confines of its cobblestone road, there are spectacular views of the river and downtown Minneapolis. Patio season isn’t complete without at least one happy hour or dinner there.
Jason: That’s why I was excited to hear that a former event center has been turned into Jefe: Urban Hacienda, by Jeff Arundel, owner of the nearby Aster Café. And I was curious to see if he could make it then jefe—or boss—of the block.
Joy: You are so boss, Jason. Tacos are having a moment with so many chefs turning their attention to the humble street food. Here, tortillas are made from scratch and the toppings are given the attention of four-star cuisine. Unfortunately, the tortillas were a bit tough and under-seasoned.
PHOTOs BY TJ TURNER
Jason: We really enjoyed the fried oysters taco, sprinkled with bits of pork belly and a kohlrabi slaw. And the shrimp with pineapple, avocado, and jalapeño hit all the right sweet, spicy, briny notes.
Joy: The braised oxtail inside the quesadilla was delicious, but I didn’t expect—or like—the soft goat cheese and floppy corn tortilla. I missed the usual crispy-fried exterior and gooey interior. Also, the carnitas were bland and tough as the tortillas, in dire need of some salt and salsa.
Jason: The Tijuana pork was supposed to be braised with coffee and tequila, but we could barely taste either flavor. Dullsville. But the Juicy Lucia, stuffed with chorizo and poached egg, was a pleasant surprise. So much flavor!
Joy: I didn’t understand the cauliflower dish. The pineapple and spices were supposed to suggest a vegetarian al pastor, but it looked like baby squid, and the taste and texture were just weird: gloopy and cloying, with a little bit of heat.
Jason: I liked the texture, but I couldn’t decide if the dish was cool because it tasted like al pastor, or gross because it tasted like al pastor.
Joy: We did enjoy the drinks. The margarita was refreshing and the mescal flight was interesting—an excuse to indulge in multiple shots while retaining an adulty veneer. Plan on a sober driver, though.
Jason: Smart move. We walked it off, heading across the Stone Arch Bridge to enjoy the Minneapolis skyline, happy to have a reason besides the view to head to St. Anthony Main.
Jefe: Urban Hacienda Quick Tips
Parking: Huge surface lot and ramp up the hill on Second Street
Hours: Dinner only, 4 p.m. to close
Eye Candy: The metal sculpture and striking deck entry were created by local artist Paul Tierney
September’s restaurant rumble pitted Pimento Jamaican Kitchen‘s impressive global fare against Jefe: Urban Hacienda’s authentic Mexican offerings. Find out which restaurant Jason and Joy chose as the winner in the September issue of MnMo.
219 Main St. SE, Mpls., 612-255-2000, jefeminneapolis.com