There are treasures out there for all of us to enjoy. Sometimes you find them yourself. And sometimes they are handed to you. This time my boss gave me a cilantro flavored emerald that I foolishly hoarded for the better part of the past year.
I know I’ve done my friends and family a huge disservice by withholding the name of the best Mexican food joint in Lakeland for so long. Well, I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what the name of this place is. as it sits inside a Spanish food store called Mega Mercado. I guess that’s the name of the restaurant too. In any case, I’m too busy chugging Mexican sodas to bother with non-essential formalities such as the name. So let’s get into a typical meal, you can either have your waitress bring you a drink or you can walk over to the cooler of the grocery store and pick out whatever you want. Or….you can walk to the far end of the store, and grab an aguas fresca. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, its kind of like fruit juice and water mixed with little bits of the pulp of whatever fruit your agua fresca is flavored with. The staples tend to be cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberry, watermelon, hibiscus, and horchata, and if you don’t know what horchata is…let me take a breath to compose myself…Horchata is a rice based beverage that’s mixed with cinnamon, spice and sugar. Basically it’s liquid rice pudding. If you don’t like the sound of it, just get a Mexican Coke or Sprite, that alone will take you back to childhood bliss.
All these choices and you haven’t even looked at the menu, but before you have a chance, you’re waitress will have already brought you chips and salsa. I don’t know how they decide what kind of salsa to bring out at any given time, but it’s always a surprise. Sometimes it’s red sometimes it’s green and sometimes you might just get both. Not to worry, they both taste superb and completely unlike any salsa you will find at the store or at your local Americanized Tex-Mex chain sinkhole. The chips are fresh cut from the tortilllas and made locally from corn and lime water, that’s it. They don’t use lard for their tortillas which is good to know.
My relationship with Mega Mercado is based on two things. Love of food, and trust. Trust me when I say not to bother ordering anything but the following: tacos with everything (everything = onions and cilantro) guacamole, tortas, sopes, menudo, cocktail de camerones, and galdo de moriscos (very limited quantities and not always prepared daily but it doesn’t hurt to ask.)
The meat selection is immense. You can choose any of the following proteins to include inside your selected vehicle: carnitas, al pastor, cabeza, chicarones, barbacoa, grilled beef, lengua, braised chicken, grilled chicken, and chorizo
A torta is a sandwich. If you are a sandwich aficionado, this is where you’ll want to pay attention. You sandwich people get a bonus in the form of milenesa. Breaded and fried steak, topped with lettuce, tomato, avocado, onions, pickled jalepeño and what appears to be mozzarella cheese and a squirt of créma. All this in between a bun with a crisp exterior, yet ultra soft inside. This sandwich is just unreal. I’ve had many tortas at many a restaurant or taco truck, but they all fall short compared to the mercado. For the timid, it’s a great starting point to jump into authentic Mexican flavors. To us veterans, it’s more than just a guilty pleasure.
I know for many of you, Mega Mercado might be a little out of the way. It’s in a strip mall basically in the middle of nowhere. However the money you might spend in gas will be more than refunded to you by way of value. On a recent visit, a family of 4 1/2, which included myself and another “healthy eater”, cost a mere $27. Everyone of us left satisfied and mucho gordo. One pro tip you need to know, you have to leave a cash tip because they don’t give you the option to leave one if you pay with credit. Besides, the waitresses at the mercado are more than deserving after having to deal with us bumbling and stumbling fools, so do the right thing and
don’t be a jerk be a sweet boy.