Poblano's Mexican Restaurant (Lino Lakes, MN)
There are many reasons why the influx of Hispanic immigrants is good for this country, but our favorite is the restaurants they open. We still have our share of Tex-Mex American restaurants, and fake Mexican dishes at corporate chain restaurants, but now it seems that every community has an authentic family-run Mexican restaurant.
Lino Lakes got its version last December, when Poblano's opened up in a small strip mall. Run by the husband and wife team of Mateo and Janine Salas, they cook their own versions of standard Mexican favorites. The results are mixed.
Let's start with the good.
The steak fajitas are tasty. The meat is marinated in the store kitchen, and sauteed with onions and peppers. You get three large tortillas, and lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream.
The enchiladas, filled tortillas topped with salsa and baked, were delicious, and one of our guests said they were as good as her Southern California abuelas made back in the early 1960s. High praise.
The rest of the menu consists of the basics you'd expect at a Mexican restaurant: burritos, chimichangas, tostadas, quesadillas and tacos. We generally found them uninspiring. Not actively bad, but nothing to recommend them, either.
Their hard-shelled taco is not made from corn but is a larger wheat tortilla that has been fried into the expected folded shape. These are crispy and good enough, but we missed the sturdiness and flavor of a corn tortilla.
Almost everything is available with seasoned ground beef, seasoned shredded beef, spicy chicken, marinated chicken, marinated steak, spicy steak, or beans and cheese. We liked the steak and spicy chicken best and didn't care at all for the ground beef.
The chile rellenos -- poblano peppers filled with mozzarella, breaded, and then fried -- were OK. We wished the batter were less eggy.
Portions are impressively large. The burritos are huge, and filled with meat, beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. The tacos are also large. And the fiesta platter consists of so much food that it comes on two plates.
Most platters are served with beans and rice. The rice is fine, although nothing special, but the beans were a bland, watery side dish. We wanted lard and salt to punch up the flavor.
Probably the best thing about Poblano's is that it's cheap. Most entrees are $6.50 to $8. Even the fiesta platter is only $7.75.
Poblano's just got its liquor license and serves beer and wine. Try one of the several Mexican beers if you want alcohol. Otherwise, order a Jarritos. These Mexican sodas come in a variety of flavors. Our favorite is tamarind, although we also like pineapple.
Poblano's isn't much to look at, and there's much better Mexican food if you're willing to make the 25-mile drive into Minneapolis. But the portions are huge, there's something for every taste, and the price is right. As is the location, if you live out that way. And if you order carefully, you'll have a nice meal.
Poblano's Mexican Restaurant
Location: 730 Apollo Drive, Lino Lakes
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.
Atmosphere: Slightly dressed-up fast food.
Sound level: Not too loud
Recommended dishes: Steak fajitas, enchiladas
Prices: Entrees $6–$8.50
Children: Extensive children's menu