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Take a Spicy Crawl Along St. Paul’s Payne Avenue

Wading through the dense Mexican dish offerings in this fast-changing neighborhood

Tacos at by More Taqueria
Melissa Sheldon/Eater Twin Cities

The growing Payne-Phalen area is an eclectic neighborhood home to a growing population of transplants, families, and hipsters with a quality concentration of Mexican restaurants and shopping along Payne avenue. Inside these storefronts are Oaxaqueño tamales, mountains of french fries and bready sweets.

—By Melissa Sheldon

Bymore Taqueria

870 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130

(651) 774-7109

The definition of humble, this friendly, family-owned taquería has something for all experience levels. Get the lengua (beef tongue) taco; it’s soft, buttery, and spiced to perfection. The spicy chorizo and crispy carnitas are standouts, with meat so delectable you almost don’t want to cover it with additions from the savory salsa and veggie bar. Bymore is a hidden haven for Mexican comfort food, and it alone is worth the trip to Payne street.

Oaxaqueño tamale
Melissa Sheldon/Eater Twin Cities

Tamali

990 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130

(612) 221-8521

Tamalli shares a food court with several others in Plaza del Sol on Payne, serving up traditional tamales, newfangled Mexican burgers and hotdogs, and drinks. Sample the sophisticated Oaxaqueño Tamal, chicken tamale with spicy mole sauce wrapped in a plantain leaf. The Mexican Hamburger features a mix of beef, peppers, and jalapeno aioli. Or ruin yourself for all other sandwiches with a Pambazo, a tastier torta sandwich with bread cooked in guajillo sauce.

These things are just kind of crazy
Fruti Landia/Facebook

FRUTI LANDIA

990 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130

(763) 528-3216

Another stall nestled in the food court of Plaza del Sol, Fruti Landia does time-intensive fruit bouquets, ice cream, and fruit drinks with zippy mixes of savory, sweet, sour, and spicy. If the menu is daunting, go by pictures online. Try the Piña Loca (pineapple) or Sandía Loca (watermelon), a monster fruit sculpture of whatever seasonal fruit is available topped with chili powder and pickled fruit sauce. A quicker order is the Mangonada, a chunky smoothie made with tangy chamoy sauce, mangos, lime juice, and chili powder decorated with a tamarind straw.

Spicy burgers, buffet and a mountain of fries
JJ’s Steak/Facebook

JJ’s Steak & Mexican Grill

990 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130

(651) 368-7021

The largest part of the food court in Plaza del Sol, JJ’s knows their beef. The steaks and fajitas are favorites, but try the indulgent California Fries, an impressive mountain of fries topped with steak, black beans, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and crema - it’s like nachos, only better. Something you don’t see every day is a Mexican buffet, and Sundays from 11 AM to 4 PM JJ’s buffet lets you sample a little of a lot, including an amazing beef barbecue, chipotle chicken, pozole, flan, and more.

Grab some tongs and don’t look back
Melissa Sheldon/Eater Twin Cities

San Miguel Pastelerilla

886 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130

(651) 774-3110

This bakery in humble digs has every type of Mexican baked good you can think of. Walk in, ask for a tray and some tongs, and marvel at the tall racks of breaded goodness. Not everything is labeled or obvious, so be sure to ask questions. Try the cream cheese croissants, strawberry churros, or “concha” sweet bread, all for an astoundingly affordable price.

Messy can be a good thing
Melissa Sheldon/Eater Twin Cities

MANGOS MEXICAN RESTAURANT

927 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130

(651) 776-6300

Mangos is the entry point to Plaza Latina shops, and sports a colorful and eclectic vibe with breakfast and dinner entrees. Specializing in “messy but good” small plates, Mangos gives has plenty of options in a sunny plant-filled space. Go slightly off the beaten path with the cecina meat option (salted, seared, thin-cut beef) or the born-to-brunch chilaquiles.

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