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Jul 4, 2011 11:13 PM

Mexican in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Ok 2 weeks ago one of my students wanted me to experience Mexican culture here in suburban Philadlephia. Kennett Square is about 45 mins away from Philadelphia and 30 minutes from where I live. My student is from Mexico and his mother works in the community in Kennett. He said that the food is outstanding and just like home. He mentioned that there is shop that makes a mean Tres Leches Cake. So after class I told him to call his mom and tell her I was going to find this Tres Leches cake.

It turned into an adventure that I'll never forget. We found the Mexican Bakery in Kennett Square Panaderia Lara. I saw the Tres Leches cake and nearly fell over. I haven't had Tres Leches dessert in over 20 years.

It was a dense cake with peaches in between the layers. The frosting was light and you would expect it to be overly sweet. That wasn't the case the cake was moist from all the tres leches being soaked in and the it was perfect not sweet at all. I asked my student how this compared to Mexico he said it was the real deal. I was like a kid in the candy store. Panaderia Lara serves Mexican Food also, tacos, burritos, and many more things. When I was in the store there were lots of people buying up the pastries. I didn't get to try the pastries but next time I will.

Having satisfied my sweet tooth, I asked my student Erik where the best tacos were. He mentioned La Pena Mexicana on Cypress street. I said lets go over and try these tacos. I had 3 tacos, chorizo, bistec, and Al Pastor.

The chorizo and bistec were ok nothing to cry home about. The Al Pastor taco was the best I have ever had. The salsa on it was insane and the pastor has so much flavor. I even got 1 more pastor taco to satisfy my taco craving.

After all of this eating Erik mentioned a mexican ice cream shop. I couldn't fathom eating anymore food. So we decided to head over to La Michoacano Ice Cream shop on the main drag in kennett. I sampled the cajete ice cream and just couldn't believe the flavors. I didn't try the other flavor combinations, but I heard from erik mom that the corn ice cream with cinammon sprinkled over it was out of this world.

I was so happy to have done this food journey. If you guys want to try true mexican cuisine come out to kennett square pa.

PS I have done many mexican place in philadelphia and Kennett really blows them away. My 2 cents, if anybody trys these place you'll be hooked like me. They are in a 5 minute drive away from each other.

Viva La Mexico

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  1. We tried Panaderia Lara on thursday evening, after reading your review. Very nice little mexican bakery. The Tres Leches Cake is very good. I cannot compare it to any other tres leches, as I have not had any others here in the area. That said, we liked it enough that we will order a larger cake for a summer cookout we are having in a few weeks.

    We also tried a few of their other pastries; they have a one/two portion cake that is made of jello with a flan base. Inside the jello is a flower made out of some type of edible bakery goodness. It actually looks like a flower!! We haven't tried it as the S.O. is saving it for her mother on Saturday. We also purchased a pineapple turnover, a custard filled eclair and a raspberry filled jellyroll. All were very good.

    What is really neat about Panaderia Lara, is that they open at 4:00 am for the people that work in the mushroom factories. Great little place and highly recommend if you are looking for a mexican bakery or something different from the usual american bakeries.

    Afterwards, we tried La Pena Mexicana. When we drove up to the place, the S.O. smiled and giggled, because the outside is so festive looking. When we walked inside, we were greeted to a wonderful mexican hole-in-the-wall. The place is what I would call a mexican joint. There are pictures of mexican actors, Pancho Villa and Aztec Indians lining the walls. The place is wonderfully decorated and spotless!!!

    We ordered the carne asada, fried pork and al pastor tacos. All three were very good, except for one slight misstep on our part; we forgot to tell Jullian (owner) to use the mild sauces. He used one of his house specialties which was delicious, but a little warm for the S.O. That aside, the tacos were overflowing and delicious. We ordered a Horchata that was very good also.

    I will definitely come back to La Pena Mexicana. This looks, feels and tastes like an authentic mexican taco stand/joint. They have a large screen TV that had the futbol game on, which was nice. I could certainly see myself coming back and trying some other dishes and sitting there in the restaurant (I would guess they can handle about 18-20 people inside). I could also see myself heading over there and watching the next mexico -v- usa futbol match and having a blast!

    Four tacos and a 32 oz. horchata for $10.70 is a bargain in my book.

    As for La Michoacano Ice Cream, we have tried this place once. The S.O. had the corn ice cream and didn't care for it. She has had corn ice cream before and didn't think this was that good. I also didn't think the ice cream was that special. That said, this place was crowded inside and people were walking the streets with ice cream cones all over Kennett Square. Maybe we had a bad night or were not really in the mood for this type of ice cream. Whatever the case, we will give it another chance later this summer.

    3 Replies
    1. re: genevapics

      Wow glad you tried most of the places I reviewed. The ice cream joint is hit or miss, I usually go in sampling various flavors before I settle on one that hits the spot. The cajete or burnt carmel is amazing give it a try next time.

      1. re: genevapics

        Visited La Pena Mexicana this past Sunday as we were in the area. Ordered some fish tacos (tilapia) and pork tamale; very delicious. This place is quickly becoming our mexican goto. Jullian's cooking can't be beat.

        1. re: genevapics

          I have to agree I might make the trek this sunday for mexican also...La Pena, I have heard from others who have gone and say this place is amazing, I don't mind it's 45mins from where I live, worth making the trip really....

      2. While I haven't been to the restaurants you mentioned, I too have treked to Kennet Square for authentic mexican. My grandmother's family is from Mexico, and she swears by the tamales from Red Sombrero. We drive up there a few times a year to stock up on them. Well worth the trip!

        5 Replies
        1. re: cmp82

          Is Red Sombrero in Kennett? I know there's one in West Chester -- Gay St., I think.

          1. re: CindyJ

            Le spiga de oro makes amazing tamales, I believe they only have them on the weekends, you have to call to reserve or they will be out when you get there.

            1. re: CindyJ

              El Sombrero in Avondale....just confirmed it with my father!

              El Sombrero
              501B E Main St, Wrightstown, NJ 08562

              1. re: cmp82

                Is that still open? I kind of remember reading somewhere (probably here on CH) that the restaurant had closed. Or maybe I'm confusing it with another place. I've shopped at the grocery store, which is one of the best Mexican grocery stores in the area.

          2. La Michoacana is SO delicious. I really love the texture of their ice cream. I haven't been in about five years (moved away) but I remember really loving it. The plain ol' vanilla was really good, as was the chocolate.

            6 Replies
            1. re: mleighn

              We used to eat at Panaderia Lara all of the time and enjoyed their burritos in particular. Until...

              1. re: bluehensfan

                ...until...? I am on the edge of my seat!

                1. re: travelmad478

                  Well 2/3rds of our party had a "problem" a little later.

                    1. re: travelmad478

                      Not good... Like I said I liked the food but not the end result.

            2. I drive past La Pena several times a week. I stopped in once, several years ago, maybe it was shortly after they first opened, and from that one experience, didn't feel a need to return. But I read your rave review and as I passed by at lunchtime today, thought I'd give it another try. All I ordered was three Al Pastor tacos. Now, it's probably true that I don't know what a good Al Pastor taco is supposed to taste like. But I can tell you, the tacos I had today were nothing to write home about. The meat seemed dried out -- as though it had been sitting in the pot for far too long. The tortillas were, well, tortillas -- nothing special. The two salsas, one red and one green, were tasty, and maybe gave me a reason to eat the tacos. What I liked best about the tacos was the small piece of pineapple and the radish slices that garnished each one.

              My take on La Pena was pretty much the same as after my first visit there. I'm in no rush to return, but if I do, it'll be only to sample the chimichanga that Craig LaBan wrote about in the Inquirer a couple of months ago.

              2 Replies
              1. re: CindyJ

                Maybe I had a different experience from your visit. I have had al pastor tacos from California,Florida, the Southwestern states, and even had them made from my friends who were from Mexico and other latin american countries. The al pastor I had at La Pena was juicy full of flavor and the salsa were just on point. The addition of pina & radish made it all worth it. I will have to try the al pastor tacos again to compare.

                1. re: 808eater

                  Went to La Pena last night with my brother. Order the 2 Al Pastor Tacos and 2 steak tacos. Yes they were awesome indeed, meat was juicy on both and the salsa were out of this world. Even tried the Chimichanga with Al Pastor of course. The chimichanga was fried to perfection not greasy at all, filling was on point beans and rice inside were very well seasoned. Finished up my meal with a glass of agua de pina. Pineapple juice, I was very satisfied with my visit.

              2. This may be a silly, non-answerable question. I am not a big fan of Mexican least what is served in the USA in most places. Have been to Mexico several times and eaten in upscale restaurants that were wonderful.

                I"m not a fan of Guacamole, re-fried beans, or other "mush". Love Salsas. Cumin is a so/so spice for me.

                The question is, since i live 4 miles from Kennett..............Where to go...and what to eat? Seriously....since this taste oasis is so near, I really should try, but alwyas back-off when some suggests "mexican"

                3 Replies
                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                  I'm not sure, I heard tacqueria moroleon has great flavor, my student's mom who works with the Hispanic community in Kennett swears by La Pena's, simple food like the tortas, taco, and etc she mentioned it is just as good as it is served in Mexico. She is from Mexico and knows what true mexican flavors is. Tamales from Espiga de Oro is a must she told. That's all I know...Hope that helps...

                  1. re: 808eater

                    thanks very much..will give it all a try

                    1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                      Just tried the tres leches cake from Panaderia Lara, Oh My goodness, it was 10 x better than I had it the first time. My student Eric got it for me as a surprise for my bday a couple days ago. You have to try it ....