In his new restaurant in LynLake, chef and owner Alejandro Castillon Prieto is keeping it simple.
At Prieto Taqueria, the new Mexican eatery he is opening Friday, June 21, at Lake & Lyndale, the menu is short, the food is handmade from scratch and the meat is smoked.
“Here, the most important thing for me is the meat, tortillas and the salsa,” he said.
All of it is made fresh daily by staffers who are solely dedicated to each task. Prieto uses the freshest corn they can find at the market for the tortillas. That means on any given day the tortillas might be white or yellow or blue. Regardless of color, the tortillas will be hand-pressed that day and cooked fresh for each order.
Castillon Prieto grew up in Sonora, Mexico, and moved to Minneapolis 15 years ago. He worked in the kitchens at Barrio and Bar La Grassa before opening Sonora Grill at Midtown Global Market in 2011. He later moved the restaurant to the Longfellow neighborhood and sold his stake in it to a business partner in November.
When the Hasty Tasty closed last winter, he started poking around the building. Now, he and his staff are putting the massive meat smoker in the kitchen to good use. The meat served at Prieto is smoked, from the pork carnitas and beef brisket to the fish used in the ceviche. The peppers for the salsa get a smoking, too.
“Smoke and fire have always been a part of food for me,” said sous-chef Nich Malia, who mans the smoker at Prieto and formerly owned Bullwinkle’s Saloon and Funbar near the University of Minnesota.
The menu is fairly straight-forward, with nine tacos that can be purchased individually, a selection of tortas, a la carte sides and small plates like chicken flautas, ceviche and empanadas.
Prieto will be open for lunch and dinner throughout the week, and will also have brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays. They have 16 beers on tap and four tap cocktails in addition to a number of mezcal-based drinks such as the Oaxacan Negroni and an agave version of an old fashioned with tequila and mezcal.
The restaurant has seating for 99 people inside and an additional 28 on its patio.
Inside, Castillon Prieto opened up the space and dedicated with items that remind him of loved ones. One wall is covered with photographs taken by a friend and a wall in the back is decorated with colorful tops that remind him of his childhood in northwest Mexico.
“I try to make the restaurant for my family and friends,” Castillion Prieto said.
Prieto, 701 W. Lake Street