Daytime “date night” in St. Paul’s East Side

Today was date night. Well, sort of. Last time our sitter was over our two-year-old terrorized her and the baby cried the whole time. So, today I had her come over during nap time.

Andy and I did not have much of a plan for where to go. Long story short, we ended up in St. Paul’s East Side neighborhood where we had lunch at a Salvadoran taqueria in the back of a grocery store.

Tacos al pastor at Cafe La Palma in St. Paul, MN

Tacos al pastor at Cafe La Palma in St. Paul, MN

Behind the counter were a variety of delicious looking things, but there were no labels or prices, so we opted for ordering off the menu posted above the counter. A little wussy, I know, but the woman who took our order was reluctant to speak English and I am always nervous about plunging into a detailed conversation in Spanish without giving myself a private pep talk first. Anyhow, the vegetarian options were somewhat limited so I settled on some tostadas and Andy got a plate of tacos al pastor. Not entirely familiar with Salvadoran food, I was a bit worried our choices were more Mexican than Salvadoran (sort of like ordering cream cheese wontons and chow mein at a Thai restaurant?) so we also ordered a sweet corn tamale, which seemed like a potentially Salvadoran-specific spin on the Central American staple.

Finally, noticing that a lot of other people were ordering juice drinks out of circulating cold beverage dispensers (think 7-Eleven), I pointed to one and asked for what I thought was a lemonade. The woman taking our order explained to me that it was not lemonade, but something called “marañón” and gave me a sample. Although it seemed to be a sweetened fruit juice drink, rather than fruit juice per se, it was wonderful. We ordered a glass and sat at a table to wait for our food. While we did, I tried to figure out what this “marañón” stuff was. It tasted a bit like lychee and a bit like apricot, but the flavor was not readily familiar. A quick Google search revealed that “marañón” is, in fact, cashew fruit and is normally fairly astringent but very popular as a sweetened drink or ice pop.

The food arrived and we were both delighted with what we got–especially for a grand total of about thirteen bucks! The corn tamale was deliciously sweet and buttery (don’t tell me if it was lard). The tostadas and tacos were served with a side of salsa, onions, limes and cilantro. The flavors were fresh and bright.

After lunch we headed to Ward 6, also on the East Side, where Andy had a couple of Hamms and I had a perfectly yummy cocktail with Absolut Hibiskus, prosecco and ginger-pomegranate syrup. Sparkly cocktail + babysitter= bliss.

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