Everyday options for authentic Mexican food in the Twin Ports have vastly improved. Earlier this month, El Oasis Del Norte food truck started serving up items like tacos, burritos and tortas at Average Joe’s Pub in Superior.
The mobile and seasonal business has been a regular at area festivals and events like Food Truck Fridays outside the Duluth Public Library for four years. But owner Eduardo Sandoval has been on the lookout for a brick-and-mortar location to bring his business to the next level.
Sandoval learned from a friend that Mike Lemon was looking for someone to serve food from the kitchen at Average Joe’s. Lemon, who also owns Rex Bar at Fitger’s in Duluth, opened the bar in December in the former High Fives on Fifth location at 1310 N. Fifth St. in Superior just across the Blatnik Bridge.
It’s a mutually beneficial agreement. Now Lemon’s bar patrons can order up a side of tacos with their beer, and Sandoval has use of a commercial kitchen both for bar service and to prep food for his ongoing pop-up and food-truck gigs.
Sandoval is in the process of rebranding his business to “Taqueria El Oasis Del Norte.” Though he serves a number of dishes, the main emphasis is on what he calls “real tacos.”
While Sandoval is careful not to criticize Americanized tacos, he notes there’s a distinction between the type of taco most people here are accustomed to and the type he grew up with in Mexico.
He started the business, in part, because he was craving the flavors of his homeland. Authentic Mexican tacos are “clean,” “simple” and “fresh,” he explains. The idea is to be able to taste each of the layers of flavor.
Del Norte tacos are served up in a corn tortilla with marinated meat sprinkled with cilantro, onion and lime juice. Customers can choose from six meat options, including adobo marinated chicken, carne asada (marinated steak) and carnitas (pulled pork marinated in local craft beer).
More unusual ingredients are available too, like lengua (cow tongue), which Sandoval says people compare to roast beef. The taqueria also has nopales (cactus) tacos for vegetarians. A trio of homemade salsas, both red and green, can be added as needed. Note: the “hot hot” isn’t for the meek.
Nearly everything is made from scratch at the fast casual eatery. The restaurant sources local ingredients when possible. Meats are marinated in local craft beer. The cow tongue comes from an area farmer and the tomatoes are from Bay Produce in Superior.
Restaurant life is familiar for Sandoval. He was brought up working in his mother’s restaurant, El Oasis in Jerez, Zacatecas in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Though she passed away, he remains inspired by her food and entrepreneurial spirit. “Her recipes are in my veins,” he says. “I brought some of her recipes here.”
This family tradition is being passed onto Sandoval’s children now. They sometimes help out with the taco truck.
A familial, friendly philosophy extends to customers too. Sandoval says he enjoys cooking for people and treats patrons like he would a guest in his home.
Sandoval’s ultimate goal is more ambitious than feeding people tacos. He sees himself as a humble ambassador of culture. “I want to share my culture with the northland through my food. They can experience a part of Mexico through my cooking,” he says.
Taqueria El Oasis Del Norte is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Plans are in the works for a monthly salsa night at Average Joe’s with dancing instruction and a DJ playing Latin music.
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