Mountain View Voice

Eating Out - April 2, 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 Zatarian's Gumbo File.

At the sparkling new East Palo Alto store, a former Circuit City across from Ikea, you walk in and immediately catch 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, 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 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:

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

Comments

Posted by Sal, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

Just a note, Mi Pueblo has been known to take full advantage of the downtrodden immigrants, mostly illegal. A few years back it was rumored they were cashing checks with counterfeit money, knowing full well illegals won't run to the police because of it. They are also know to short change at the cash register.


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

I think I remember seeing an old, old map that showed a store at what is now Central and Rengstorff back before the surrounding neighborhood was incorporated into Mountain View. The area is still labeled Castro City on Thomas Brothers maps.


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