Rusty Taco isn't new to Minnesota (there's one in St. Paul on Lexington Avenue), but Minneapolis is seeing the first of the Dallas-based chain with the recent opening of a brand-new outpost in northeast Minneapolis. The restaurant opened its doors last month in the former home of Look + See Eyewear, next to the old Wilde Roast space on East Hennepin Avenue. Those familiar with the St. Paul location won't find too many differences in the Minneapolis restaurant, with the exception of a full liquor license, which allows them to sell margaritas and specialty tequila in addition to their four tap beers. The Hot Dish stopped by to see the new space and sample some of their wares.
The menu consists of 12 tacos made with variations on five main fillings: beef, pork, chicken, fish, and veggies. The four side options include salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole and queso, all of which come with a little basket of thick, salty chips.
The tacos automatically come wrapped in a single corn tortilla (with the exception of the black bean tacos, which come double-wrapped), making for easy disintegration with some of the heavier fillings. We found the queso to be satisfyingly warm and gooey, with a nice kick from the diced jalapenos that pepper the molten cheesy goodness.
Rusty Taco offers three salsas of varying degrees of spiciness, available on the counter in an array of color-coded squirt bottles. The tap beers currently include Pacifico, Shiner Bock, Lagunitas Pilsner, and Fulton Blonde.
We sampled five of the 12 taco options and found varying degrees of success. When ordering at the counter, we asked the cashier what his favorite taco on the menu is. He told us it was the fried chicken taco, and indeed, that was the best of those we tried. It offered a pleasant mix of textures, and whoever came up with jalapeno ranch deserves a smooch. The Baja shrimp taco didn't hold up as well. Where the fried chicken was crisp, the fried shrimp was limp and spongy. The brisket taco was serviceable, though a bit on the dry side, and the chicken fajita taco left us underwhelmed as well with a bare-bones, uninspired combination of hunks of grilled chicken and pico de gallo. The black bean taco was satisfying, but even the doubled up tortillas couldn't keep it intact. No big deal if you don't mind eating your taco with a fork.
Overall, while there are undoubtedly better options for killer, authentic Mexican food in the area (El Taco Riendo, we're looking at you), it is nice to enjoy a fresh beer with your tacos, and the chips and queso are almost worth a visit in themselves. The tacos are hit-and-miss, but if you take the time to find a few reliable hits on the menu, Rusty Taco would be a worthwhile place to have on your radar for a quick, affordable meal (four tacos and a beer come to about $15).
522 E. Hennepin, Minneapolis
612.315.5372; Rusty Taco's website