La Tejana Taqueria
Mark my words: the Garcia family and La Tejana Taqueria will be sitting on the Iron Throne of St. Louis Mexican restaurants in the coming years. You may have seen their food truck driving around, but you probably haven't been out to their North Lindbergh restaurant. It's located in an older, nondescript strip mall next door to a small Mexican grocery. The restaurant space is split in half: one half has tables and booths and the other half is a liquor store. Yes, there is a liquor store inside the restaurant. Convenient! We were seated at a booth, along with a handful of families. Our waiter for the evening was Tyler Garcia, the restaurant's young owner. He exudes passion for not just his restaurant's food, but for St. Louis' bustling and evolving food scene. Before we even ordered a drink, we had already discussed the merits of good local BBQ and the sadness one feels when eating mediocre Mexican food--something that is rampant in St. Louis.
We started with margaritas and the complimentary chips while we perused the menu. The chips always come out hot and crispy and that salsa is addictive. If I hadn't been doing this review, I would have poured that salsa all over every dish. Fat-me used to be able to shovel down a whole basket of these bad boys THEN continue eating. I miss those days...
After a few minutes, Tyler came back by and we discussed the game plan for dinner. We decided we'd do four tacos and a large plate to get a good sampling of their different offerings. The first dish up was the Tinga ($8.99), a dish that took my crockpot "Mexican" pulled chicken recipe and gave it a Hulk Hogan leg drop. Their chicken is braised with chipotle and chorizo, creating a smokey, slightly spicy dish that I tore into like an animal. I want this chicken in tacos, burritos and Strange Donuts. It came with rice and beans, both of which were good, but obviously no match for the chicken.
Next up were the tacos. Considering La Tejana is a taqueria and they have a taco truck, you'd expect their tacos to be good. And they are. Tyler recommended the fish, goat, tripe and campechano (steak/chorizo) tacos. Let the fun begin.
First up was the fish taco ($3.49). A relatively large and well seasoned grilled fish fillet rests under lettuce, tomato and a fiery and creamy chipotle sauce. Give me a basket of these on a summer day and I will be a happy, happy man. It made me think of being somewhere tropical, like any good fish taco does. This was a good start to the taco decimation.
Taco number two was the goat ($2.49). The first one we were given (at the top of the 3-taco picture below) was a bit dry, Tyler noticed, before the food even hit the table. Bonus taco! The Tyler-approved goat taco had fork-tender meat topped with a bit of cilantro and onion. The goat's flavor reminded me more of beef than lamb or another gamey meat, which was a pleasant surprise.
The middle taco below was the tripe ($2.49), which comes from a cow's stomach lining. Generally speaking, I am absolutely not a fan of tripe. It normally has the mineraly, organy flavor that something like liver has, plus it looks pretty weird. I was hesitant to order a taco using a meat I know I don't like, but we went ahead and did it anyway. It was an excellent decision. The tripe is boiled and seasoned earlier in the day to help get rid of the its typical flavor and make it more palatable, then cut into little pieces that are fried. What you get is a taco filled with crunchy, seasoned chunks of meat. The tripe flavor is muddled by the long cooking process; if you ate it without knowing what it was first, I imagine you'd be hard-pressed to figure out what animal it came from. It's particularly good with La Tejana's green salsa poured on top. If you feel like being adventurous, you won't regret ordering these.
The campechano ($1.89) is a chopped up mix of steak, chorizo and seasonings. There is no way this taco is ever going to be bad, just like there's no way this taco will ever be good for you. Anytime chorizo is added to a dish, you're going to get that spicy, smokey flavor added to it. The crumbly pork and the chopped beef get all crispy and crunchy on the grill. It was the messiest of the tacos to eat, but it was so damn good.
I recommend going with a group and trying all the different things. The tacos are fairly large. Sharing with another person, you'll each probably get two full bites per taco.
As we were wrapping up the meal, we started talking to Tyler about the difficulties of finding a good mole sauce in St. Louis. I've always been partial to Pueblo Nuevo's sweeter sauce, but he insisted that La Tejana's would best it. We decided to give it a sample then take the rest home for lunch the next day. The Mole Chicken (below) was great, though I think next time I'd prefer the mole sauce over a burrito. The flavor is deep. It's spicy, it's chocolaty, it's toasty. I don't even know what else it is. There are probably some nuts in it too. I really enjoyed it, and the day after the sauce was even more intense.
From what I've found, La Tejana is St. Louis' only truly authentic Mexican restaurant. Once La Tejana opens a location in a more happening area, everyone will know their name. A restaurant in the CWE, Loop, Kirkwood or basically anywhere not Hazelwood will allow more people to come in and sample the goods. For now, it's a hole in the wall waiting for you to visit and help take it to the next level. Don't be lazy--go try it out!
3149 N. Lindbergh Blvd
Bridgeton, MO 63074