El Noa Noa - Mexican Grocery (Armenia Ave., Tampa)
This place deserves recognition. Tampa doesn't have many straight-up Mexican groceries (Acapulco is the only other one I know of in the central/West Tampa area), but the Noa Noa really fills that void well.
In addition to having the largest selection of dried chiles I have seen anywhere in the area (and many in bulk bins, for small purchases), the produce section, while small, is clean, well-stocked, well-lit, and carries many vegetables. My latest obsession are the ALWAYS RIPE Haas avocados bin. The bin is clearly marked, in Spanish: "RIPE avocados, please do not over-handle". They always rotate through the eat-today, not-too-soft/not-too-firm black avocados that are simply *PERFECT* for that days' guacamole, or for eating in wedges with salt. And they're only $1.19 each. I can't tell you how impatient I get when I crave that creamy Haas, only to go to the store and see that I will have to wait 3 days. NEVER a problem at el Noa Noa. Instant gratification, and not squishy or overripe.
To be sure, I have seen other Latino groceries have separate bins for eat-today-ripe avocados, but never for Haas avocados (the only kind worth eating, IMHO).
Additionally, their nopales always look fresh, and they even had the most beautiful watercress I've ever seen a few weeks ago. Like the Acapulco grocery, they also have fresh, warm tortillas, but the Noa Noa has house-made chicharrones, which I don't think the Acapulco has.
There is a small make-shift taqueria in the parking lot which feeds the masses, but it has not been there every time I've gone. I don't know what that schedule is.
Either way, the Noa Noa has entered our weekly rotation, if only for those avocados, but if you haven't gone, it's also worth the trip all the other Mexican goodies in stock.
I ended up at Taqueria Mi Mexico (next door to and owned by El Noa Noa) this afternoon as a result of this thread lingering in the back of my head. I eat there once every couple of years just to remind myself why I don't eat there more regularly. I don't think I have ever complained about a place being dirty, but Taqueria Mi Mexico is just filthy. The food is passable but the experience is sharply diminished (for me anyway) by the environment. As for El Noa Noa, I didn't look around as much as I should have but it seems nice enough. The baked goods look appealing but my experience with Mexican baked goods is that they tend to be dry and lack sugar. For the record, there are larger Mexican grocery stores around (Waters & Armenia/Hillsborough). Noice, if you haven't been to Acapulco yet, you must go. It doesn't compare in terms of a grocery store, but the food is inconceivably better.
Thanks for the report. Nice to mark the taqueria off my list.
We love the Acapulco tacos, and we are there as often as possible. I am very familiar with the place, and I like it.
Do you know the names of the mexican groceries on waters/Armenia you refer to? I've seen general Latino stores there, but never any specific Mexican places. Thanks.
I can't wait to check it out! This is pretty close to my new place as well; have been looking for a decent Mexican grocer to buy fresh dried chiles and good tortillas. Something like Acapulco Tropical in Bradenton would be a dream. I noticed the taco truck that Kevin mentioned; glad to hear a positive report on them; will be checking them out soon!
Thanks for sharing! It's right down the street from my new location so I am slowly but surely exploring these few blocks.
If you want great tacos, there is a little truck called Taqueria La Costena, on the same side of Armenia, a little bit south of MLK. Good stuff.
Not sure of the hours, but I always go there for lunch. When I pass by in the morning, they are not open, so no breakfast. Thinking it might be a lunch only place.
I speak very little Spanish but I eat a lot of Mexican food. Because I am a stereotypical Gringo, I get offered lettuce and cheese, like a taco bell taco. So if you get offered, just make sure to correct them for the good stuff. They also put grilled green onions on their tacos and have really good salsas. Tacos are $2. Still working my way through the menu.