Fans of Mexican food and cocktails should be thrilled to welcome Pajarito to the ever-flourishing Twin Cities scene.
The St. Paul eatery, owned by veteran chefs Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse, debuted in the former Glockenspiel location nearly two weeks ago, offering up modern interpretations on popular Mexican classics while shaking up libations that will rival the market’s cocktail bars.
The menu, showing restraint, sticks to salsas – which pack un-Minnesotan-like heat to pair with thick and crunchy tortilla chips that are house-made daily – tacos, small plates, four dishes from the grill and a healthy handful of sides. The tacos, which are priced at $8 for two, range from the very recognizable (al pastor, carnitas, barbacoa) to more unique versions – such as the huitlacoche (a fungus that attacks corn) taco, and the smelt taco with cilantro, Brussels sprouts and lime aioli.
(Photo: Housemade chips with the avocado serrano, chipotle and habanero salsas.)
(Photo: Al pastor taco.)
On the small plate side, Nelson and Hesse are cooking up short ribs – one bartender, on a Monday night, was boasting that they could hardly keep the meat on the bone long enough to serve it – a tostada adorned with crudo-style trout, bitter greens, tart pickled onions and roe, chilaquiles smothered with braised beef and a fried egg and more. On the grill, chicken, beef, pork chop and fish dishes are ramped up with housemade sauces. Sides include wood-roasted onions and jalapenos, jazzed up mushrooms and rajas - a traditional dish of poblano peppers and cream. Everything on the menu, save for the grilled beef and pork chop dishes which go for $22 and $21, respectively, is priced at $16 or less, with small plates hovering around $11.
(Photo: Trout tostada.)
But at the new West Seventh neighborhood (605 7th St. W.) haunt, just as much attention appears to have been paid to the light-hearted cocktail menu, which presents concoctions with names like "You Boys Ever Been to Oaxaca" and "A Mexican Monk Walks into a Bar," and offers up cheeky commentary on each. Here, you’ll find an abundance of Tattersal Distilling spirits, Bittercube bitters and plenty of rum, mezcal and tequila. And if all you want is a margarita, that’s fine, too – but the one on the list is arriving infused with cilantro and habanero peppers.
(Photo: "A Mexican Monk Walks into a Bar," complete with a hibiscus ice cube.)
It’s easy to see how lines could grow long – as they were beginning to on one Monday evening – for the narrow space adorned by chandeliers hanging in bird cages, exposed brick, a copper ceiling and a massive mural of a skeleton in a fancy sombrero. There is also a modest-sized bar (boasting a pair of TVs) for diners who are lucky enough to slip past the crowds.