Walter Mencken 3:39 p.m., June 18
Barrio Logan’s new star: Cocina Doña Tina
Can the new Mercado's restaurant compete with Cuatro Milpas?
They say it has been 21 years coming.
But the Mercado apartments are open, its supermarket is open, and now its first restaurant is open. Cocina Doña Tina sits on the corner where the food section of the Northgate Gonzalez supermarket (an LA-based chain. This is its 31st store) at 1950 Main Street, but you can access it off César Chavez too.
It opened on a lucky day: 12/12/12. But I’ve just noticed it today. I stop in on my way down to the Barrio Logan trolley stop.
It has a pretty good looking patio in a plaza with fountains and trees, right under the bridge. Inside, it’s kinda like an eatery you’d find in, say, K-Mart...
...until you get close up and personal with the food. Man! It goes on forever, steaming chafing dishes with everything from ceviche to chicharron to pork stews. Just how rich the Mexican food tradition is kinda hits you in the eye....
...Plus everything’s in Spanish, everyone’s speaking Spanish.
No question: this is by the Barrio for the Barrio.
...helps me out in English when I stutter a little. I ask for an al pastor taco (pork) on corn tortilla. Costs $1.99, $2.15 with tax. Take it to a huge condiment display and lad up with chopped onions, cilantro, couple of salsas, and take it out to eat.
Hey, this terrazza is cool. You’d never know it had been an open field beside Chuey’s, the bar-eatery that was a landmark in this area for decades.
And the al pastor taco? Hot, deeply rich in flavor. I have it down in five minutes. Not quicker, because the flavors are so strong, you can’t hurry it. Man this is good. May be competition for La sCuatro Milpas, a block away.
And with the whole, like, encyclopedia of Mexican food waiting to be tasted in there, I’m coming back.
Sort of school myself in How to (Really) Eat Mexican.