Taqueria Morita is now open in the Cortex area of ​​St. Louis | Food and drink news | Saint Louis

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cheryl baher

Taqueria Morita, from the minds behind Vicia, is now open in the Cortex Innovation District.

As a child growing up in Southern California, chef Aaron Martinez fondly remembers the road trips he and his family regularly took across the border and down the Baja coast in Mexico. Filled with visits to lobster shacks, taco stands and a variety of low-key restaurants that celebrated the benefits of the region, the experiences helped ignite his passion for food and provide the perfect inspiration for him. Takeria Morita (4260 Forest Park Avenue, 314-553-9239)a new concept he brings to life with restaurateur Michael and Tara Galina.

Located in the front garden of Gallina’s upscale Cortex Vicia restaurant, Taqueria Morita is a casual outdoor concept located under a newly built pavilion called Vicia Gardenside. According to Martinez, culinary director of the restaurant group Take Root Hospitality in Gallina, he and the Vicia team realized the need for a permanent outdoor structure after they were forced to switch to outdoor dining during the pandemic. Not sure how long this need will last or what the future of indoor dining will look like, he and Gallinas decided to utilize their sprawling outdoor space as a way to formalize the popups they were making when a health crisis shut down their dining room.

Thinking about the food he wanted to see at Vicia Gardenside, Martinez was drawn to the kind of easy nostalgia and taste that prevailed in his youth. Sunny, bright and perfect for al fresco dining, Takeria makes sense for the kind of casual fare that’s ordered at such a venue. It’s not the culinary path Martinez thought he’d go down, but he happily embraced it.

Click to enlarge Taqueria Morita features vibrant food in a beautiful setting.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Taqueria Morita features vibrant food in a beautiful setting.

“If you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to open a small restaurant, I would have said no way,” Martinez says. “My background is in fine dining, but this allowed me to use that knowledge of things like acidity, texture, and spice and apply it to something casual. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Although Taqueria Morita may be a departure from his work in Vicia in terms of form, it is similar in substance. In addition to drawing from the classic techniques he’s honed over the years, Martinez also incorporates a plethora of vegetables into his takiriya dishes – one of Vaisha’s central philosophies. In that spirit, diners at Taqueria Morita will find dishes like carne asada, carnitas, and fish tacos, but they’ll also see items like tinga tinga tacos, and the riff on tinga chicken, which pairs root vegetables with queso fresco, cilantro, and spiced seeds. Oyster mushroom tacos, another vegetarian option, features cashews, epazote cruda sauce and queso fresco, and aguachile green vegetable martinis, a vegan rustic on ceviche, made with cabbage, cucumber, serrano chile, and tomatillo.

In addition to food, Taqueria Morita offers several cocktails designed to beautifully complement Martinez dishes. Look out for Margmorita, the restaurant’s name for Margarita, Blood Orange, made with ricella, mezcal and blood orange, and Celeriac, which pairs mezcal with candied artichokes and pineapple.

Click to enlarge Chef Aaron Martinez has drawn inspiration for Taqueria Morita since his childhood in Southern California.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Chef Aaron Martinez has drawn inspiration for Taqueria Morita since his childhood in Southern California.

“It just feels great,” Martinez says. “You order at the counter, you get your drinks, you eat chips and sauce and your food comes to you. There’s no pretension; it’s just good-tasting food, and you don’t have to think much.”

Taqueria Morita is open Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. Scroll down for more pictures of Taqueria Morita.

Click to enlarge Taqueria Morita features several types of tacos, such as fish tempura and carne asada.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Taqueria Morita features several types of tacos, such as fish tempura and carne asada.

Click to enlarge Carne Asada tacos feature crunchy Chihuahua cheese, avocado, and black sauce.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Carne Asada tacos feature crunchy Chihuahua cheese, avocado, and black sauce.

Click to enlarge Tempura fish tacos are garnished with red cabbage, chipotle crema, jalapeño and cilantro.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Tempura fish tacos are garnished with red cabbage, chipotle crema, jalapeño and cilantro.

Click to enlarge The tacos are inspired by the dishes that Martinez lived along the Baja Coast in Mexico.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

The tacos are inspired by the dishes that Martinez lived along the Baja Coast in Mexico.

Click to enlarge The green vegetable aguachile is made from cabbage, cucumber, serrano chile, and tomatillo.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

The green vegetable aguachile is made from cabbage, cucumber, serrano chile, and tomatillo.

Click to enlarge The Taqueria Morita is located in an outdoor space on the side of the New Gardens in Vicia.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

The Taqueria Morita is located in an outdoor space on the side of the New Gardens in Vicia.

Click to enlarge The outdoor restaurant overlooks the hustle and bustle of Cortex.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

The outdoor restaurant overlooks the hustle and bustle of Cortex.

Click to enlarge Guests order drinks and food from the outside counter.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Guests order drinks and food from the outside counter.

Click to enlarge Taqueria Morita is now open.  - Cheryl Baher

cheryl baher

Taqueria Morita is now open.

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