Mexican or Latin American grocery stores are nothing new, nor is the fact that many of them operate internal cafeterias. Aside from Fiesta, you'd be hard-pressed to find a chain as big as La Michoacana Meat Market in Texas. The difference between the two major businesses is that not all Fiestas have in-store restaurants. La Michoacana distinguishes itself in that manner. Its stores proudly display on their facades that they are part taquería, and for that reason (and the fact that I needed some quesadilla cheese for enchiladas) I stepped into its Greenville Avenue location, one of several dozen across the city.
From the cashier's line, I ordered carnitas, pastor, lengua, deshebrada and barbacoa, and took the receipt to the grill counter, where the taquera promptly pooh-poohed my request for barbacoa. I didn't want to begin a lucha libre bout with the person who was going to serve me tacos. The menu clearly stated barbacoa was available daily, not just on weekends. To be fair, I later saw a sign showing that barbacoa is a weekend treat. In lieu of head meat, I went for the bistec and asked the woman to remove barbacoa from the menu or qualify it clearly.
The bistec, like the rest of the meats, had been nesting in a steam table all day. It was initially tough on the teeth. Once a piece was torn from the rest, the texture was sufficiently tender, but the taste was overly salty. It's never been one of my favorite taco meats, seeing as it's too often cooked to the consistency of a medical tourniquet. The bistec at La Michoacana offers no paradigm shift.
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The pastor would have been spot on if not for the drying it received from its placement on the steam table. The carnitas fared a smidge better. The cords of roasted pork stood on their own with occasional crunch and little work to chew. Still, to counteract the meat's dry quality, a hefty dose of fire-starting salsa was required.
The deshebrada, a rarity on taquería menus, was a spicy delight. The beef, stewed to shreds, had highlights produced by the chile sauce it was cooked in, giving it an alluring, teasing appearance.
The lengua was so unremarkable, it was nearly forgotten. Really, it was in the paper basket, under the heaps of raw onion and carelessly chopped cilantro from the condiment bar perpendicular to the counter, but nothing set it up apart. It was protein munched at one of tables on the other side of the condiment bar. The lengua, like most of the other mediocre tacos, are better mindlessly consumed as a snack while wandering the aisles of La Michoacana.
La Michoacana Meat Market Various Locations