When you walk into Azteca Bakery and study the menu on two big boards above the counter you may be a little mystified. What are these dishes … molotes, garnachas, memelitas, tlayudas, blandas? Just ask the friendly person at the counter. On the day we were there recently, it was Carmen. And she proudly told us that these dishes were from the State of Oaxaca. Get ready for a food adventure.
Azteca is a combination bakery and restaurant that may have the most interesting menu of any of the places we have reviewed.
The selection is huge. We counted 46 choices on the menu. Azteca does not call themselves a taqueria, maybe because they offer so much more. Of course they have tacos ($1.75). They use handmade medium-sized tortillas and offer eight choices of meat, including some unusual ones like tinga (shredded chicken in a chili sauce) and pierna (pork leg). Tortas (Mexican sandwiches) made with telera rolls baked right here are a specialty.
With eleven different varieties on the menu ($5 and $7), it’s probably the largest selection in town.
On a recent visit we were excited to see tamales en hoja de plantano — not on the regular menu, but on a paper sign behind the counter. These are Oaxacan style tamales wrapped in a banana leaf instead of the usual corn husk. They had tamales en hoja de maiz (corn husk) too, but we had to try the tamales in banana leaves. There were three different kinds, two with chicken and one with green chili strips and cheese ($1.50 each or $15 for a dozen). Delicioso!
We also sampled two other Oaxacan specialties: garnachas de mole ($7.50) and molotes ($7.00). The latter is a Oaxacan street food. A combination of mashed potato and chorizo sausage is wrapped in a masa dough and fried crisp like a fritter, then topped with a black bean sauce, Mexican cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato. These are yummy, but very filling. We recommend splitting a plate. Garnachas de mole are like a chicken mole tostada. The quality of the Oaxacan mole made from scratch is really apparent.
On the bakery side of the business there is a good variety of pan dulces (sweet breads) and well made teleras and bolillos (Mexican hard rolls) to take home, as well as specialty cakes, including tres leches cakes ($30).
Unfortunately the owner, Luis, was not there when we dropped in, but Carmen, our server, and Floriselva, who was running the kitchen, were very welcoming and helpful in telling us about their food. The dining area has been remodeled with a large mural and more seating, and the hours have been extended to open at 6 a.m. There are a number of interesting breakfast dishes on the menu for early risers like us. We’ll have to come back to try those.
Our compliments to Luis and his fine staff for bringing their large selection of Oaxacan food to Salem. We recommend you go there for an authentic taste of Oaxaca.
2831 Lancaster Dr. NE
Salem, Oregon 97305
Monday – Sunday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.