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Stalking The Aisles

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We always were a sucker for the ones who play hard to get.

By most indications, La Michoacana Meat Market doesn't really care if you want to shop there. Its low-key Greenville Avenue storefront (one of numerous area locations) sports an ancient-looking sign and the front door, covered in metal burglar bars, doesn't even really like to open--and once you do open it, good luck getting it closed. You won't be greeted by a cheerful senior citizen in a colorful smock, and nobody's passing out free samples on toothpicks.

Nonetheless, we were drawn like fat to a mother-in-law (to borrow a Steve Martin line) after just one taste of their signature fajitas. A friend of ours swears by those pre-marinated cuts, sold by the slab, ready to grill. We had to agree they were pretty damn good (both the beef and chicken varieties), so we headed down to the nearest location of this Hispanic grocery store chain to see what other goodies might be in store.

It was love at first whiff. The aroma of freshly-baked bread filled La Michoacana on the afternoon of our visit, pulling us in past the taco counter that sits just inside the door. (Small and cramped, the store didn't look as good as it smelled--but the opposite holds true for a few of our exes, so we soldiered on.)

Pan dulce in all shapes and sizes filled the bakery case, along with fresh-baked rolls and muffins. We also spied giant palmiers and cinnamon sugar-dusted churros and wicked huge sandwich cookies decorated with sprinkles. Scribbling furiously in our notebook so as not to forget a single detail of the encounter, we then made our way to the tiny but impeccably clean produce section. Dazzled by piles of parchment skinned tomatillos ($.39/lb.), rosy red potatoes ($.69/lb.) and gumball-sized key limes (35 for $1), we shrugged off the fact that avocados were pretty much the same price and quality you'd find elsewhere.

After all, relationships are about compromise.

Moving on, large displays of herbs, spices and dried chiles proved downright mesmerizing. Bags of alum stone and yerba buena (it's not what you think) cozied up to granulated garlic, cumin and achiote--all for shockingly low prices. We may never resort to those expensive little bottles again. Examining a packet of menudo mix ($.99--just add tripe?), we hardly noticed we were being followed until the group of employees was almost on top of us...

Seems they don't take kindly to pesky reporters La Michoacana. We explained how much we loved the store, and how we just wanted to catalog the wealth of unusual products--but our pleas fell on deaf ears. The workers smiled and nodded, but it was clear we'd overstayed our welcome. Grinning like idiots and loading our arms with snack cakes in a last-ditch effort to "act natural," we scurried up to the counter, paid with a card ($5 minimum) and made our way back out the sticky door.

We were home before we realized that we'd been stopped short of the meat counter--the holy grail of our pilgrimage. No matter. Like a watch "accidentally" left on a bedside table, it only gives us an excuse to make contact with our intriguing new friend again.

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