Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - April 30, 2010

The treasures of Mi Pueblo

New Latino market in East Palo Alto offers more than mere groceries

by Sheila Himmel

You don't have to speak Spanish to shop at Mi Pueblo Food Centers. Nor do you need to be in the market for avocados, warm tortillas or pickled pigs' feet. The rapidly growing San Jose-based chain focuses on its Latino core, but carries a multicultural inventory of packaged goods ranging from Allens Mustard Greens to Zatarain's Gumbo File.

At the sparkling new East Palo Alto store, a former Circuit City across from Ikea, you walk in and immediately catch the welcoming scents of tamarind pods and taqueria.

Cynthia Arroyo, 16, goes there for coffee every morning on her way to school. The Arroyo family lives nearby and has hardly been to Costco since mid-November, when Mi Pueblo became East Palo Alto's first supermarket in 23 years. As she says: "If we need cilantro, we go to Mi Pueblo. Apples, cheese: Mi Pueblo. The produce is so fresh, and they don't sell cigarettes."

Tiled tables offer plenty of seating, and there is festive music and Mexican village scenery. The menu is huge and adaptable. Have your carne asada (grilled beef) on a platter, as a burrito or taco, or by the pound. A combo plate of chicken or beef fajitas ($4.99) comes with beans and rice.

The staff is friendly and helpful. Wondering if the earthy mole sauce is too spicy for your palate? Ask for a taste, as at an ice cream parlor.

Here are a few of my favorite things:

1. Deep, rich mole with tender chicken ($6.99 a pound)

2. Chewy, sweet barbecued pork ribs ($6.49 a pound)

3. Chile relleno ($3.29) with paper-thin batter, in light tomato sauce, sprinkled with queso fresco

4. Tender cubes of beef tongue in green salsa ($6.99 a pound)

5. Shrimp ceviche tostada ($2.99)

6. Carne asada soft taco ($1.35)

7. Carnitas ($5.99 a pound)

I didn't love the tamales ($1.49 each), with their high ratio of masa to meat. The fish ceviche paled next to the shrimp, and the grilled pork (al pastor) was a bit dry.

Spotting my group studying the thirst-quenching aguas frescas, another counterperson offered us tastes. These fresh fruit drinks tamp down the heat and herbs of taqueria fare.

Although cheery and fun, Mi Pueblo may not be where you want to dine. But when choosing food to go, consider your travel time. Ceviche tostadas quickly get soggy. Chiles rellenos may need reheating. If you aren't going to eat right away, my advice is to buy the parts and assemble your meal yourself. Such as: a pack of crispy corn tortillas, a quarter pound of shrimp ceviche, some house-made ranch-style guacamole, a little queso fresco to sprinkle on top.

Or match your stews or carnitas with a fresh-baked roll (20 cents!) or a family pack of 50 corn tortillas ($2.49), still steaming. There are green (jalapeno) tortillas, red (chipotle), white and purple corn. The leftover tortillas freeze nicely.

This is only the latest of many Mi Pueblos around Northern California. Best known to Mountain View residents is the much-loved and much-visited store on South Rengstorff Avenue, right near the train tracks.

Mi Pueblo Food Center

1731 Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto

650-248-2171

www.mipueblofoods.com

Hours: Daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Comments

There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields