Taqueria Morita is now open in the Cortex District of St. Louis | Food & Drink News | St Louis | News and Events in St. Louis

click to enlarge Taqueria Morita, from the mind behind Vicia, is now open in the Cortex Innovation District.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

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

As a kid growing up in Southern California, Chef Aaron Hernandez fondly recalls the road trips he and his family took regularly across the border and along Mexico’s Baja Coast. Filled with visits to lobster shacks, taco stands, and a variety of low-key eateries celebrating the area’s bounty, the experiences helped fuel his passion for food and provided the perfect inspiration for Morita Taqueria (4260 Bosparklaan, 314-553-9239)a new concept that he brings to life with restaurateurs Michael and Tara Gallina.

Taqueria Morita is set on the front lawn of Gallina’s chic Cortex restaurant Vicia. According to Hernandez, the culinary director of Gallina’s Take Root Hospitality restaurant group, he and the Vicia team recognized the need for a permanent outdoor structure after being forced to dine al fresco during the pandemic. Not sure how long such a need would last or what the future of indoor dining might look like, he and the Gallinas decided to take advantage of their expansive outdoor space as a way to formalize the pop-ups they’d been doing. when the health crisis closed their dining room.

At the thought of the food he wanted to see in Vicia Gardenside, Hernandez fell for the nostalgic, easy fare of his childhood. Sunny, bright and ideal for alfresco dining, a taqueria made sense as the kind of light-hearted, casual fare called for in such an environment. It’s not the culinary path Hernandez thought he was walking, but it’s one he’s gladly embraced.

click to enlarge Taqueria Morita offers lively cuisine in a beautiful setting.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

Taqueria Morita offers lively cuisine in a beautiful setting.

“If you had told me 10 years ago that I was opening a taqueria, I really wouldn’t have said it,” Hernandez says. “My background is in fine dining, but this has allowed me to take that knowledge of things like acidity, texture and spice and apply it to something more casual. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Although Taqueria Morita may differ from his work at Vicia in form, it is similar in content. In addition to the classic techniques that he has refined over the years, Hernandez also incorporates a significant number of vegetables into the dishes of the taqueria – one of Vicia’s central philosophies. In this vein, guests at Taqueria Morita will find dishes such as carne asada, pork carnitas, and fish tacos, but they will also see items such as carrot tinga tacos, a riff on chicken tinga, which combines the root vegetables with queso fresco, cilantro, and spiced seeds. Oyster mushroom tacos, another vegetarian option, feature cashews, epazote salsa cruda and queso fresco, and Hernandez’s green vegetable aguachile, a vegetable riff on ceviche, consists of kohlrabi, cucumber, Serrano chili and tomatillo.

In addition to food, Taqueria Morita serves a variety of cocktails meant to beautifully complement Hernandez’s dishes. Look for the Margmorita, the restaurant’s namesake on the Margarita, the blood orange, made with raicilla, mezcal, and blood orange juice, and the celeriac, which combines mezcal with artichoke liqueur and pineapple.

click to enlarge Chef Aaron Hernandez took inspiration for Taqueria Morita from his Southern California childhood.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

Chef Aaron Hernandez took inspiration for Taqueria Morita from his Southern California childhood.

“It’s just a great atmosphere,” Hernandez says. “You order at the counter, get your drinks, have chips and salsa and your food comes to you. There’s no pretension; it’s just food that tastes good, and you don’t have to think too much.”

Taqueria Morita is open Thursday through Saturday from 5pm to 9pm. Scroll down for more photos of Taqueria Morita.

click to enlarge Taqueria Morita offers several types of tacos such as fish tempura and carne asada.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

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

click to enlarge The carne asada tacos include crispy chihuahua cheese, avocado, and salsa negra.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

The carne asada tacos include crispy chihuahua cheese, avocado, and salsa negra.

click to enlarge Tempura fish tacos are topped with red cabbage, chipotle crema, jalapeño, and cilantro.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

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

click to enlarge The tacos are inspired by the dishes Hernandez has tasted along Mexico's Baja coast.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

The tacos are inspired by the dishes Hernandez has tasted along Mexico’s Baja coast.

click to enlarge The green vegetable aguachile is made with kohlrabi, cucumber, serrano chili and tomatillo.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

The green vegetable aguachile is made with kohlrabi, cucumber, serrano chili and tomatillo.

click to enlarge Taqueria Morita is located in Vicia's new Gardenside outdoor space.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

Taqueria Morita is located in Vicia’s new Gardenside outdoor space.

click to enlarge The open-air restaurant overlooks the bustle of Cortex.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

The open-air restaurant overlooks the bustle of Cortex.

click to enlarge Guests order drinks and food at an outdoor counter.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

Guests order drinks and food at an outdoor counter.

click to enlarge Taqueria Morita is now open.  -CHERYL BAEHR

Cheryl Baehr

Taqueria Morita is now open.

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