500 Tacos: La Michoacana Meat Market
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
La Michoacana Meat Market
Hours: 8am-9pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.22.15
The most important thing to know about tacos at La Michoacana is how to order them. You don’t just walk up to the cafeteria-style line, where women in hairnets hover over a dozen unlabeled steampans filled with meats and stews in shades of red, brown and green. First, you go through the cashier line and announce how many corn and how many flour tortilla tacos you want at $1.89 apiece. You pay, the cashier gives you a receipt, and only then do you approach the lunch ladies. Hand over your receipt, and they’ll drop tortillas on the flat-top, then ask what you want in them. This is all done in Spanish. Buena suerte.
The taco: Chile relleno
It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma, this pepper stuffed with white cheese, fried in egg batter, then folded into a flour tortilla with Tex-Mex rice. Starch on starch on starch, with cheese. The oversized pepper stays crisp, a counterpoint to the pillowtop textures around it. This is a taco for novelty’s sake, and it carries the same low-spark buzz as food at the State Fair. ($1.99)
► Lunch Lady Land: When the steampan wranglers ask what to put in the tortillas you paid for, answer with sweet al pastor cooked with onions and peppers. Or dark-meat chicken fajitas with grilled onions and bell peppers. Carne guisada is roasted in big pieces with dusky red spice. Or if you’re up for it, try green chili stew with chicharrones cut in fat cross-sections with a little meat still clinging to the underside. Next time, I’ll skip the bland, mushy barbacoa and greasy stewed pork. ($1.89 each)
► Tortillas: You might think a grocery store chain big enough to have its own piped-in music station would make its tortillas onsite. You’d be wrong. These are the same bland, stiff flour tortillas and pale, flavor-free doubled-up white corn tortillas you’d find at places that don’t know any better.
► Salsa: The salsa bar is as colorful as the serving line, stocked with limes, fresh pico de gallo, onions, cilantro and four salsas, including a cool, creamy avocado salsa and a spicy tomatillo verde. The house red is a jar-quality salsa dominated by vinegar and onion; the better red is a smoking hot chile de arbol.
► Ceviche surprise: Ceviche tostadas on special at 2 for $2.99? I had to try for myself, especially after a customer caught my sleeve on the way out to recommend them. Each freshly fried corn tortilla carried a big scoop of ceviche made from chopped whitefish marinated in lime with crisp red and green pepper, finished with pico de gallo, avocado and crema. The fish was clean and tart, the vegetables bright and crunchy, and it all made me wish ceviche tacos were a thing, because they’d put the half-hearted fish taco cartels out of business.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)