San Pablo - La Loma #11 – tacos w/tortillas pressed to order, nuts & dried fruit with chili, different beer, hot sauce, canned butter etc.
This market with a restaurant in back has over 25 different bottles of hot sauce, from the humble Tapatio to Dave’s Insanity. Bottles of Jones green apple soda are next to Sidrel apple soda from Mexico.
It is a surprising market for carrying not only the Mexican market standards but also groceries that can be found in Whole Foods like the Jones soda and the Dave’s Insanity sauce.
There are items from Mexico, Central and South America that are not seen that often. There are five different kinds of Champagne cola. Milca Soda Roja; A "red soda" from Nicaragua was on sale this week.
Along side the bottles of Sierra Nevada beer are Central American beers that I haven’t even seen in many restaurants – TJ Morena, Regia Extra, Famosa Lager with a red rooster on the label, Pilsner of El Salvador, Gold of the Incas and a few more.
And in the back of the store is the restaurant ... sort of.
No English is spoken. No signs. There a steamer filled with tamales to one side and a soup pot big enough to bathe a Saint Bernard ... a LARGE Saint Bernard ... or two.
The store sells its own tortillas and a woman was filling plastic bags, pressing them one at a time. She found someone who spoke English and he confirmed they sold food. There was no soup today, so I got a beef taco. They give you a receipt, pay at the register in the front of the store where it is stamped and trot back to the restaurant.
A handful of masa is scooped up, placed in the press and the tortillas are flipped on the to the grill. It was topped with thin chewy beef, cilantro, onions and salsa fresca with two whole bright red radishes on the side. It isn’t as good or as refined as La Guarecita, the gold standard for tacos around here, but it was good and satisfying.
I think it might be a matter of looking at tables and pointing to what to get. Two men were having some deep red meaty dish surrounded by molcajetes with peppers, salsas and condiments. I was just feeling proud to learn they served food.
This place reminds me the most of the no-name places in nothing neighborhoods in Mexico City. Tables covered with plastic table cloths and a TV in the corner with bare-bones kitchens.
The soup part has me interested. Some place on Rumrill sells excellent soups that Roberto brings home occasionally. I can never pin him or the family down on the address ... just that market on Rumrill near the church. One taste should confirm it.
And again, the grocery has suprising items that can be found at Whole Foods next to bottles of corn condiments from Brazil.
There are bins of usual and unusual dried peppers, grains, fruits, nuts, candies, etc. So far I’m not wowed by the dried pineapple, mango, papaya and tamarind covered in chili because the chili powder could be better. Thin pieces of dried mango rolled in sugar are delicious.
The chili-covered nuts and beans are addictive ... dried peas, japonese peanuts (candy coated and rolled in chili ... mmm) , nutty roasted garbanzos and my favorites, habas which are translated as lima beans but these are larger than any lima bean I’ve ever seen.
There are also roasted and plain pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, shelled and unshelled nuts with a nice selection of pistachios. There are even a few dried peppers that aren’t that usual like junnam, cascabel and guarillo.
The panadria case also sells items I haven’t seen before with some items from local Central American bakeries. Huge white rolls are 4 for $1. I had a decent bread pudding too.
They have one of the nicest and largest cheese selections including some Central American cheeses. The butcher counter is extensive. I haven’t tried the chorizo yet.
In the evenings there is a vendor selling raspados, elote, duritos, potato chips and duro con cueritos.
Hmm, I’m at the bottom of my bag of dried fruit and it grows on you, especially the soft, sweet/tart/hot tamarindo ... watch out for the seeds.
La Loma #11
1313 Road 20
San Pablo, CA 94806-3401
Phone: (510) 235-6783