How often do we find ourselves shopping for a quick selection of baked treats, often times some very inexpensive and truly unique produce, a particular cut of marinated chicken, pork, beef or the unusual catch-of-the-day; or even needing a specific brand of hard-to-find tequila?
These Mexican supermarkets or ’mercados’ in Southern California have become rather commonplace to get various goods that we may have, over the years, become accustomed to preparing, eating and sharing with guests at our home; even taking such goods to the workplace for fulfilling the monthly office potluck requirements. A Tres-Leche cake, some pastries to accentuate the workplace morning coffee, or a prepared hotel pan of carne asada, beans and rice. These mercados have become a mainstay in our lives and you should consider including as a mainstay in yours.
Vallarta Supermarkets began in Van Nuys in 1985. El Super began just outside of Los Angeles, California in 1997. Since their early beginnings, these stores have grown and multiplied throughout the Southern California region. Another mercado that had started and grown throughout this region is Northgate Market founded in 1980.
There are a number of these mercados that have found their way into our hearts, wallets and our lifestyles. There are also a number of individual carnicerias, tortillerias, and panaderias that all seem to do rather well and have sustained over the years; but the super-mercados are the ones we find most appealing, were you can sit and enjoy a caldo (soup) on a cold winter day, a fresh-made shrimp, fish, octopus or other ceviche to cool your soul in the summer, or just a larger variety of interesting Latino cuisine like chiva (goat), fresh-made chicharones (pig skin) or some great carnitas. These markets are also where you’ll find fresh-made salsas and terrific traditional guacamole along with house-made tortilla chips for the big-game crowd. These markets have full-blown kitchens where you can also get your California traditional (not so Latino-traditional) burritos, tacos and quesadillas made to order along with the California commonplace salsa bar, all while you sit inside and enjoy your food and watch the local Telemundo soccer match.
The selection and cuts of meat, fish and deli items are different with each market, as are the items available at the kitchen/grill ordering counter. As you shop in these stores, you begin to find the items that you prefer at one store over the other, or that one store has an item that the other does not; but you’ll soon begin to realize that you go back to the same store and buy the same items over and over, because some are that good and you won’t find those items in the other larger traditional American supermarkets.
These Super Mercados are much more commonplace in Southern California than in other areas of the United States. And if you can’t seem to locate some good Mexican food or groceries where you are at, perhaps in an area like St Louis, Missouri, you can always just settle and order from the drive-thru at a convenient Taco Bell probably located just a block or two away. Have fun with that one.