Lago Tacos open for business in Excelsior

Corey Schwandt, right, and Kate McNally try Lagos Tacos Feb. 21 during opening day in Excelsior. (Sun Staff photo by Chris Dillmann)
Corey Schwandt, right, and Kate McNally try Lago Tacos Feb. 21 during opening day in Excelsior. (Sun Staff photos by Chris Dillmann)

Standard Mexican it is not, unique flavors play to the palate

Flavor-lovers rejoice, there’s a new spot in Excelsior that’s sure to please the palate.

The long-anticipated Lago Tacos opened its doors Feb. 21 at 30 Water St. the former salon and Yumi’s Sushi location. Owner Roger Burks, who has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, says this is the first restaurant he started on his own and is excited to bring his culinary passion to Excelsior.

Not to be confused with a “typical Mexican joint,” the style and flavor he says is a unique, up-scale taco joint.

aw28NWlagostacos_3“The concept was tacos, but to me it was more of ‘Tommy Bahamas opens a taco joint,’” Burks said.

Their specialty, doubled-up street tacos, is something you’d find on the streets of Mexico – authentic. Tacos prepared with Mahi Mahi, lobster, walleye and marinated pork are just a couple of the items to grace the menu.

“There they are in your hands, filled with all sorts of goodness and are so good,” Burks said. “I wanted to serve tacos like that in my restaurant, but I also felt there were so many more flavors out there to experiment with.”

Head chef Jaime Sierra dishes out chips and dip Feb. 21 opening day of Lagos Tacos in Excelsior.
Head chef Jaime Sierra dishes out chips and dip Feb. 21 opening day of Lago Tacos in Excelsior.

Tying in the tradition of Minnesota, the walleye tacos are something you surely won’t find in Mexico. Yet, bringing people the tastes they want, Burks says, will be a work in progress, and nothing is set in stone when it comes to delivering people what they want.

“We’ll be evolving from there and playing the market and see what works,” Burks said. “We really want to be flexible with our menu.”

Though, some items you won’t find on the menu and restaurant are fajitas, sombreros or mariachi bands. Yet, what can be found are fresh, crisp and clean flavors.

The 2,200 square-foot building Burks says was utilized to its maximum.

“It’s a pretty small space but we used every inch of the place,” Burks said. “We have a pretty good size menu for what we’re doing.”

Head chef, Jaime Sierra, who’s from Ecuador, brings his style of authentic cooking to Excelsior.

“We worked at my house developing some recipes and some things I’ve done in my past,” Burks said. “But he’s so good with food it was a no-brainer for him.”

Come summer, boat delivery will be available, Burks says. Call in place your order and wait in the comfort of your watercraft.

For costumers Corey Schwandt and Kate McNally of Chaska, it’s what they’ve wanted for some time.

“It’s so good,” Schwandt said.

aw28NWlagostacos_6The two said the atmosphere is awesome, and they are really excited to come back and try the bar.

A large bar with more than 20 different tequilas is also a focus for the restaurant. There are also Large TVs to catch a sports game and specialty drinks that include all fresh-squeezed juices and names to intrigue. What makes a good restaurant is the atmosphere; it has to be welcoming and enjoyable.

Come mid-March, breakfast on the weekends will be served 8-11 a.m., and again, in the traditional sense. Some things to look forward to are lobster and egg tacos and huevos rancheros.

Lagos Tacos is open 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays. The website is still in the works, but more information can be found by calling 952-300-8495 or on Facebook.

A review from a fellow foodie

I was invited to a mock service at Lagos Tacos before it opened and had a chance to taste some of the menu items. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I was excited to put my taste buds to the test for this new restaurant.

Tacos_0272Starting with an appetizer of a steak quesadilla, we were also given a sampling of different sauces, which included a chipotle mayo (my personal favorite) a green chili sauce and a couple different hot sauces, all of which had great flavors. My other personal opinion is they can take the “hot sauce” and add plenty more heat.

Granted we are in Minnesota and heat is rated on a much different scale, for a place like this I think the Scoville (the measurement of heat) can be amplified much higher. Again, that’s someone who enjoys heat to where I could possibly keel over from a heart attack.

Back to the quesadillas though, along with being absolutely filling, the flavors and juices of the steak really stood out in each bite, yet not overwhelming. The outside crispness was delectable. One thing that ruins many quesadillas is being too greasy – not the case here.

One thing I noticed with this dish was that after it was devoured the steak juices pooled on the empty plate. I’ve never seen such a thing after finishing a steak quesadilla, which shows it was quality steak loaded with flavor.

Moving on to the tacos, we were able to choose from two varieties. A tough decision when you have a stacked menu that includes walleye and lobster tacos. But, keeping with what I know best I choose the Al Pastor, with marinated pork and grilled pineapple.

The Al Pastor gave you that punch, not from heat, but flavor from the pork complimented with the grilled pineapple. Combined, they added a clean taste of flavors that accented each other well. Because pineapple is a very sweet fruit, it adds a zing of sweetness to the pork that’s rich in flavor. Add grilled onions and this is a taco not to miss.

The other taco selection was the Mahi Mahi tacos, which contained a cabbage blend with grilled pineapple salsa and a yogurt sauce. For those who know fish tacos well, it’s all about a clean flavor. Obviously, the fish is the most important ingredient, and fresh fish is a necessity.

The cabbage blend provided that necessary crunch. Tasting the fish is a must, but to have the other ingredients complement the fish is where many tacos go wrong. A squirt of lime adds zing.

aw28NWlagostacos_5Though I thoroughly enjoyed them, I think they could use a little more flavor, which was kind of lost in the cabbage blend. However, add your favorite sauce from Lagos Tacos and the flavor level jumps accordingly.

A side of either rice or refried beans accompanied the tacos. Trying both, the rice was tasty. Not much more to say on that. Yet, the beans, oh my, the beans. I can honestly say the best refried beans I’ve ever had. I’d eat them by the gallon if I could, though I might be spending time alone for a while after.

A lot of times they are very dry and don’t have much other flavor than the beans, which can be overpowering. As someone who adores refried beans in general, these had a creaminess that was unrivaled by any other refried beans I’ve eaten. A must I must say!

Moving on to the monster burritos, so large Excelsior might need to discuss the mass and scale of them. We tried the Chicken Tinga, which had spicy, slow-cooked chicken, green sauce, rice, beans, pico de gallo, lettuce and sour cream.

I personally like to leave sour cream out of anything that has flavor because I feel it dumbs down the real flavors. Yet, even with this masking agent, the burrito screamed flavor.

White chocolate banana quesadillas. (Sun Staff photo by Chris Dillmann)
White chocolate banana quesadillas. (Sun Staff photo by Chris Dillmann)

Nearing the point of passing out from a food-induced coma, next came dessert – a white chocolate banana quesadilla drizzled with caramel sauce with a side of cinnamon ice cream. Rich, rich and richer! The flavors melted in your mouth wanted more despite a waistband that reminded you it may be time to stop.

I wish I had had the opportunity to try every single item on the menu, but what I did indulge in was great. This should and will be a staple in Excelsior for a long time to come. Great atmosphere and staff that’s eager to please. If you haven’t already been there, highly recommended.

Send us your feedback on your experience with Lago Tacos to [email protected]

Contact Chris Dillmann at [email protected]