“Who wants a taco?” “Yo por favor, si por favor! (Me please, yes please!)”
Ted and I are obsessed with Mexican food; we have it at least twice a week. Why wouldn’t we? As writer Isabel Quintero has said, “Tacos are like what the voices of a hundred angels singing Bob Dylan while sitting on rainbows and playing banjos would taste like if that sound were edible.” Well, it sure seems an accurate description to me. We recently found just that when we met our besties Dean and Jeanette Embry at Limon y Sal Mexican Kitchen, located at 10000 Brownsboro Road in Louisville’s East End.
Let’s Taco ‘Bout It
What is it about tacos that make them so special? For us, it’s because tacos are all of our favorite flavors nestled between a delicious folded tortilla, which is why Ted is compelled to randomly shout, “Who wants a taco?” (It’s something he picked up from an Oprah commercial several years back. Everybody loves Oprah.) For Limon y Sal co-owner Diego Carmona Velasco, though, it’s because a Mexican meal means a sense of family and fun — which is exactly how we feel too.
“Limón y Sal means ‘lime and salt’ in Spanish, key ingredients in Mexican cuisine that are typically accompanied by tequila and margaritas,” Diego told us. “It’s a fun take on two common ingredients, and it is something Mexicans say a lot. There is even a popular song by the amazing Mexican singer Julieta Venegas, who sings ‘I love you with lime and salt,’ an idiomatic expression meaning I love you no matter what.”
Diego and his fellow co-owner Porfirio Ledezma met at a restaurant and have been friends for 20 years. They opened Limón y Sal together in July 2018. Both men were born and raised in Mexico and have a combined 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, from washing dishes and bussing tables to catering and management.
Their experience is, in part, what makes them so successful. Both Diego and Porfirio are behind the concept, recipes, and organization of Limon y Sal, and it is Diego’s wife Rachel who brings in the creative elements to the restaurant. But cooking is also in their blood. “We both remember our mothers and grandmothers cooking since we were very small,” Diego said. His grandmother runs a small restaurant in an Oaxacan market, where she has cooked local coastal favorites for as long as Diego can remember. That sense of family and tradition shines through everything they do.
The Right Ingredients
Diego and Porfirio wanted Limon y Sal to be a place where you could grab a burrito, but also where adventurous palettes could taste more authentic dishes. Their menu also features recipes from Hidalgo, where Porfirio was born. Their enchiladas hidalguenses, for example, are crispy enchiladas traditionally made with potato or stewed chicken, and topped with tomatillo sauce, queso fresco, and a boiled egg. They are so proud to use authentic Mexican ingredients throughout their menu, such as jicama (a crisp vegetable similar to a potato but slightly sweeter and crunchier, usually served raw) in their Mango Jicama Salad, and Elotes, or street corn, prepared traditionally.
Our visit started off with a delivery of chips and salsa, both mild and medium. Of course a house margarita was a must: Ted ordered his on the rocks, but I’m a frozen girl. They were flavorful and delicious with a nice tequila punch. Jeanette went with the strawberry and Deano had a Negra Modelo.
One of their signature margaritas is the Oaxacan-inspired “El Sol de Oaxaca,” which is made with a fruit native to Diego’s hometown called Mamey (a melon-like fruit that grows on trees, similar to papaya in color, but with a richer, creamier, sweeter taste). A traditional drink from Hidalgo can also be found in their menu, “El Cantarito,” a refreshing cocktail made with silver tequila, fresh-squeezed lime, grapefruit, orange juice, and grapefruit soda.
Their most popular drink, however, is their margarita flight, which Limon y Sal was the first to offer in the Louisville area. Diego told us it has been a favorite since they opened. You can choose four flavors between lime, strawberry, raspberry, huckleberry, passion fruit, blackberry, peach, mango, and blood orange, just to name a few. The four of us couldn’t resist, and shared a flight with peach, blood orange, passion fruit, and blackberry. Each concoction was distinct to its own flavor and brought joy to our taste buds.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Guacamole Preparado, which included fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, and of course avocado, with a squeeze of lime to top off the flavors. The service was quick and our entrees arrived just as we were finished with the Preparado.
A Taste of Home
Their recipes are significant to both Diego and Porfirio, traditionally and culturally. Diego is from Oaxaca, a southern state in Mexico, famous for its seven types of regional mole dishes, among many other culinary specialties. Limon y Sal’s menu features an Oaxacan mole dish, inspired by Diego’s mom’s recipe, which takes days and even weeks to create. She grinds each spice by hand in her molcajete and tejolote, and allows the sauce to simmer until it is perfected.
That labor of love in their spices can also be detected in their Ground Beef Taco Salad, which was my choice for an entree. It was served in a crisp flour tortilla bowl, filled with perfectly seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole. I’m pretty finicky about my meat and I love flavor. Ted always says I’m a flava fiend — “mo flava, por favor.” It was so good!
When we try a new Mexican restaurant for the first time, Ted always orders the Street Tacos. He went with the Carne Asada, which were served in a warm corn tortilla shell with onions and cilantro accompanied by lime wedges and sour cream. Ted also ordered a tamale, which he loves – beautiful corn masa filled with pork and homemade salsa topped with salsa roja, a spicy red sauce with onion, garlic, and chili then steamed in a corn husk. It was very delicate and full of flavor.
Jeanette went with the Carne Asada, which was a nice-sized piece of meat and cooked to order, with grilled onions and jalapenos. It came with refried beans and rice, with slices of tangy noales (cactus) and served with warm tortillas. Jeanette said the steak was very tender.
Although all of our food was delicious, Dean’s dish was by far the star of the show. His Molcajete Azteca was a giant Mexican stone dish sizzling with big pieces of steak, chicken, shrimp, and chorizo sausage, along with grilled jalapenos and scallions. Underneath it all was spicy charro beans cooked in a broth made from bacon, pinto beans, ham, onions, garlic, chipotle peppers, and tomatoes mixed with spices of oregano, paprika, and cumin. Be hungry if you order this. Dean ate and ate and there was still enough for two meals to take home. He enjoyed every bite!
For dessert, we enjoyed two of their top sellers: their churro bites, which come with a trio of dessert ganaches, including cajeta (caramel), chocolate, and sweet cream, and their dulce de leche ice cream. Diego proudly shared that the ice cream was custom-made for the restaurant by Food Network and Food and Wine award-winning, locally-owned Louisville Cream, and it’s now even offered in their store. Scrumpdillyicious!
Their entertainment at the moment includes a playlist that they update to keep new and fresh. Prior to COVID, though, they had several local artists play live regularly, like award-winning Magda Sanchez and local favorite Petar Mandic. Hopefully, they will be able to bring performances like that back before too long.
At Limon y Sal, it’s a celebration every day! I asked Diego what he wanted his customers to know, and he said, “We are so thankful to have had so many amazing guests who have become like family. Louisville is a special city with incredible support for the local restaurant industry.” Support: that’s what Bluegrass Travelers is all about.
We love this restaurant, we love Diego and Porforio, and we love their incredible family recipes, and we know you will too. “Who wants a taco?” You do! So head down to Limon Y Sal and tell them the Bluegrass Travelers sent you.