Carnival (Mexican) Market’s food counter in Pontiac, MI
Related to the La Mexicana III topic, I also finally made it to Carnival (Mexican) Market in Pontiac (1101 E. Walton ---thx Cw/E and Grue). In fairness to LMIII which I’m glad I visited, I had went there late in the evening (so their food wasn’t at its peak), and they DO have a wider menu and table service. Nevertheless, my experience at Carnival was superior to LMIII.
Carnival’s tacos are just a notch below Taqueria Alameda, which is to say wonderful. On corn tortillas, I had a substantial Carnival carnitas taco and a beef “fajitas” taco ($1.49ea), as well as a side of chips with guacamole. The carnitas meat was simple and naturally juicy as a result of not overcooking, and the reduced braise of “fajitas” beef was deeply flavorful. All the toppings (onions, cilantro, limes, etc.) were fresh and just sliced…benefitting from the stock in the adjoining grocery store which is big, new and excellently run.
Carnival serves only at the counter, where you can watch them assemble your food and often deep fry your chips upon order. There are tables by the front windows viewing the parking lot, in a stark but clean room. Also in that room is a big, free, fresh salsa bar. Four types, each offered in med or hot (4x2=8 choices). ¡Qué maravilla!
You also surely would be welcome to step over to the grocery cooler to pick up a value priced pint of fresh guacamole to slather all over whatever you ordered, if you were so inclined. My only disappointments were the rice and beans, but let’s not get started there again. After eating, peruse the wide selection at the grocery’s meat counter, get some fresh salsa for sure, and swing past the baked goods. FYI—The food counter specializes in family bundles and party packs, so you might consider take-out or bringing in friends.
Next time I’ll expand my sampling to Carnival’s tamales, the chicharron (fried pork rind) soup and an al pastor pork burrito. If you are one who partakes in cattle or hog tongue-‘til-colon digestive tract parts, you won’t find yourself empty handed. Lastly, I’ll add that it seems the manager at Carnival emphasizes the importance of friendliness to all customers, not just to the regulars from the neighborhood with whom reserved employees most easily can relate. If you don’t love this place, you will certainly at least like it. Te garantizo.
I had their tacos a couple of weeks ago--carnitas and beef fajita--and preferred the carnitas as I found my beef to be too gristly (but flavorful). Delicious!
Carnival has great chips/salsa/guacamole and I try to get there every few weeks for a Mexican grocery fix. Also, look for uncooked flour tortillas in the refrigerated case!
They are VERY friendly to everyone that comes in there, and will not hesitate to allow you to sample everything in the offerings until you are full.
My co-worker came back with lunch from their the other day. He had 2 carnitas tacos, and a 1/2 dozen full chicken wings, that ran him $4. All of it delicious goodness.
They are now my first choice of stop on the way home to get pork butts for my smoker on smoking weekends, which tends to be every weekend. Ask Boagman. :-)
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They are sooooo nice! They gave me a free bag of chips and a large container of salsa for free one day. Jason is the owner and he got the idea for the market/food counter from his family in CA. He uses his own recipes and mixes the spices himself. On the weekends they have special menus like barbacoa. Don't be afraid to try the out of the box items like the california burrito (which has fries in it) or the chicken/asada fries. Also, hit up the meat counter...the marinated meat is super cheap and great for tacos at home. Down the road at Walton and Telegraph there is Jesus maria....pretty good....insanely cheap 3 tacos, rice, beans 4.99...also el maguy is decent.
Decided to check this place out today.
Had 3 tacos (beef fajita ,chicken, and carnita). $1.49 each. Chips and guac another $1.49.
The tacos are on par with my recent review of La Mexicana 3, which is just about a mile away.
I preferred the carnita, then beef fajita (was a bit grisly but I'm ok with that), then chicken.
The guac was nothing to write home about, but it was good, I'm just used to what I make ,and rarely eat guac in a restaurant. In order to get chips though, you need to order chips and guac, though maybe you can just order the chips - did not see on menu or ask.
The salsa bar is interesting, with 6-8 offerings, self serve.
I will definitely be going back for barbacoa and tamales.
I've attached some pictures of the counter, tacos (as served with onion and cilantro, plus some pico from the salsa bar), and guacomole.