Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pacific Northwest >
Apr 20, 2006 05:36 PM

de Leon Moves to Spokane -- You lucky SOBs....

  • e

Just caught this article in the Columbian. There's a hilarious bit of spin:

The departure of a Mexican food store and tortilla "factory" [Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon] on Vancouver's Fourth Plain Boulevard might be viewed as a setback for development of the area as an international shopping district.

"Businesses seem to be turning over at a clip that allows new business to replace the old ones, and that's a dynamic climate," said Kurt Creager, executive director of the Vancouver Housing Authority, the city's lead urban renewal agency, of a strategy planned to revitalize the area.

Err..."dynamic"...yeah not "volatile".

But then we learn this bit:

De Leon, who closed his store in January, said he struggled to keep the Mexican grocery afloat, despite the area's diverse population, which includes a large percentage of people from Mexico. The store sold handmade tortillas and groceries and had a Mexican deli in a 7,450-square-foot space at 2519-20 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

"There just wasn't enough business," said De Leon, an affable businessman who opened the store in 2003. De Leon co-owned the store with his sister, Lucy De Leon, and their parents, Anselmo and Francisca De Leon of Portland.

He is relocating the business to Spokane, transferring merchandise, fixtures and $16,000 worth of tortilla-making equipment to the new location 343 miles away.

I highly recommend that those of you in Spokane watch for its opening. I love this place and they make great guisados (Mexican stews) and wonderful salsas, tamales, carnitas, and beans. Search here on Chowhound PNW or on for descriptions and pictures of their stuff.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. b
    Brian Spangler

    They still have the NE Glisan @ 162 Ave location in Portland. Bought some carnitas just a couple of weeks ago.

    1. My husband works nearby and was terribly upset that de Leon was closing, so he stopped by and got the real scoop from the owner. The guy said he couldn't compete with some nearby Mexican grocery that could sell beer, cigarettes, Mexican foodstuffs, etc, at below-cost prices because they were actually a front for a meth-making operation. Oh well. My poor husband is heart-broken over the de Leon closure -- any ideas where he can go now for decent Mexican in Vancouver? He's been eating at Muchas Gracias, because he can't figure out where else to go.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Juliarls

        Taqueria Colima isn't too far away on Fourth Plain and they make their tortillas by hand. Also, Don Paco (formerly La Michoacana) is pretty good and often has interesting specials. (Not Don Pedro, which is only okay.) Muchas Gracias is probably the worst taqueria on that street. Actually, that's not true. There's one in the square over by the other Mexican grocer (perhaps the alleged meth-maker) that makes absolutely horrid Mexican food. Check the link below.


        1. re: extramsg

          Thanks, MSG! I've passed the link onto my husband. You've done your good deed for the day, saving him from Muchas Gracias. Meantime, we may have to venture to the wilds of Gresham for the original de Leon. At least it's closer than Spokane. (And believe me, we used to live in Spokane. de Leon will instantly become the city's best restaurant, unless things have vastly improved from four years ago.)

          1. re: Juliarls

            Just remember that de Leon is a breakfast/lunch place, so don't go too late. I think they start cleaning up pretty early in the evening. They make all those stews and beans early in the morning around 5am or so. The flavors do well to sit, like with most stews, but stuff may be gone later in the afternoon. Also, the tortillas are usually fresher earlier.

        2. re: Juliarls

          Does ANYONE know where this De Leon guy is going to surface in Spokane? We feel like the Donner Party out here when it comes to Mexican food.....ANYONE PLEASE!~

          1. re: mike

            So you all must know by now but De Leon Foods is in full swing!
            I wanted to check out the new store and tortilleria this past weekend. What a nice clean store. They have a nice meat section in the back even carrying marinated flank steak.
            There's a fruit and vegetable section including Key Limes, Cactus Fruit, Tomatillos, tamarind, etc. A refreshing decanter of Orchata nearby....a small pastry section - I tried one that had toasted coconut on yummy! Inside was a filling reminiscent of pecan pie but with a few chopped walnuts instead. They were handing out warm tortilla samples.....yummmmm! Looks like they're still adding new things too.
            Of course there where lots of tortillas. The ones labeled 'Mario's' are from the owners father in Portland. One of the owners told me Portland is still open, it's Vancouver that bit the dust.
            A large spice section, and even a aisle of Mexican collectibles.
            They are friendly, clean and reasonably priced. I hope they are here to stay.

            1. re: Beka

              Do you know if they had their deli items, such as the stews, tamales, frijoles, and carnitas? Or is it more of just a store and tortilleria?

              1. re: extramsg

                Hi sorry for the delay...but yes the little cafe is open!
                Skip the Barbacoa though!
                I liked the Cactus dish (spicy) and the Chicken the best. The Barbacoa was wayy too greasy.

                1. re: Beka

                  de Leon makes Mexico City/South Texas/Northern Mexico style barbacoa. They steam the head of a cow overnight and shred it in the morning. I'm surprised it was too greasy since there's no grease involved in the cooking process. But I've always found this style of barbacoa too gamey tasting.

                  1. re: extramsg

                    Huh okay...that explains the taste. I just worry that people that are used to Chipotle's Barbacoa would think it was gross!
                    Meanwhile it was seeping with fat, looked a lot worse after a night in the fridge....yuk!
                    Thanks for the info though.

                    1. re: Beka

                      Chipotle's barbacoa is much more like what is done in western Mexico with lamb and goat. Chipotle uses beef, however. If you got lots of beef cheek in your barbacoa, it could definitely have a lot of fat. That's usually what taco trucks sell as cabeza. I always ask, though, if it's cachete or not because I love beef cheek, but not much else from the head of the cow. But I also ask for the fatty side of the brisket when I get BBQ and love pork belly. Me likey the lipids.

                      If de Leon there is making the same dishes as they have here, look for a dark brick/maroon colored stew with chunks and shredded pork. It has a very complex flavor with an undertone of sweetness. It's definitely one of my favorites and most people I take to de Leon love it. Also, I don't know if they'll have the same salsas since Leonora who makes them is down here, not up there, but look for a fluorescent orange looking salsa. It'll melt your teeth, but it's creamy and has the wonderful fruity/floral aroma of habeneros.

                      1. re: extramsg

                        Interesting background info....the dish you mention sounds like the one we tried with the cactus. It looks like chunks of meat with bell pepper but we learned ahead of time that it's really 'Cactus' leaves. It had almost a tanginess to it. Very Spicy but good. Maybe we're referencing the same dish.

                        1. re: Beka

                          No, the dish I'm talking about doesn't have cactus. They probably have two cactus dishes, one in a tomato-based stew and another in a tomatillo-based stew. I usually prefer the tomatillo.

                          If you look at this picture, it's one in the middle:


                          The one at the left is the tomatillo and pork with cactus, though the cactus is sitting under the pork so you can't see it. Here's a closeup of the one I'm talking about:


                          And here's the tomatillo-pork-cactus:


                          Here's a picture of all their stews in the deli case. The one in the middle is the pork in red sauce that I really like:


                          1. re: extramsg

                            all that looks much better than what I saw...think they might be still working out all the kinks.
                            I'll look fr the red one next time.

            2. re: mike

              Oh and you wanted to know where it is...

              DeLeon Foods
              102 East Francis Avenue
              Spokane, WA 99208
              (509) 483-3033

              1. re: mike

                btw when it comes to Mexican Food have you tried La Milpa on Sprague? It's very good especially the Carne Asada.

                1. re: Beka

                  As an update to my last comment: La Milpa is still good but I recently noticed something was different and not liking it as well. I asked and the cook and ownership has changed. So beware. We still go because it's convenient but the Carne Asada has lots it's wow factor. Good but not wow...missing something. Happy hour is 5-7pm daily I think now and there's half-price Appetizers.

            3. carne asada at Rancho Vejio in( spokane valley) at evergreen& sprague is tender, succulant, flavorful delite. The rice is so good I googled a recipe for mexican rice as I was intrigued by the balance of fat and flavor that set there rice apart, the beans creamy & tasty. All the classics are terrific, I don't venture into the seafood side of the menu, as most people order standards, i.e. enchiladas etc.and I want fresh when it comes to seafood. Hands down Rancho Viejio also in Post Falls east of Spokane.