Mercado San Francisco has it all. It’s a taqueria, tortilleria, panaderia, carniceria and tienda de abarrotes all in one. That means you can come here for prepared food, tortillas that they make right here, bakery items, a huge selection of meats and a complete line of Mexican groceries.
It’s easy to miss on Lancaster because it is set far back from the road. But it’s across the street from Fred Meyer in the block between Cypress and Market Street.
We came here with a big appetite for some authentic Mexican food. The hard-working proprietor, Abraham, was busy making tortillas when we got there, so we placed our food order with the cook, Rafaela, at the counter. A big sign above the counter has the menu, with helpful English translations. They feature taquitos callejeros. These are, literally, “street tacos” — like you could buy from stalls on the street in Mexico. They are small, but only $1 each with your choice of seven different kinds of meat. Three or four make a meal. We tried the lengua (beef tongue) and carnitas (roast pork). Muy sabroso.
Like most taquerias, Mercado San Francisco had posted some daily specials on pieces of paper at the counter. The tostada de ceviche ($2.25) was a big crisp corn tortilla piled high with fresh ceviche (pickled fish) and topped with avocado. Chopped serrano peppers in the ceviche gave it a good kick without the need for additional salsa. An unusual menu item was sopitos ($2.25). Other places in town have sopes — thick rounds of masa cooked on a grill and topped with a slathering of beans, meat, onions, cilantro and crema (Mexican sour cream). Sopitos are the miniature version, good for smaller appetites.
For big appetites you can order a variety of plates featuring meat and rice and beans served with tortillas. A favorite that we have enjoyed here in the past is costillas de puerco en chile verde ($7.95). These are small pork ribs cooked in a yummy green chili sauce.
After enjoying our taquitos and tostada we were ready for an unusual torta (Mexican sandwich), torta ahogada ($6.00). We have only found this on the menu in three places in Salem and Keizer, and Mercado San Francisco has the most authentic one we’ve found. ‘Ahogada’ means “drowned” and that’s what it is — a pork sandwich drowned in a spicy sauce made from tomatoes and arbol chilies. Rafaela filled a bolillo roll with fresh carnitas and toasted it on the flat top. Then she put it on the plate and poured over a generous ladle of the sauce. The arbol chilies pack a punch, so be forewarned. If you look at the picture you might wonder how you eat this. You can eat it with a knife and fork, but in Guadalajara, where the sandwich originates, it is a point of pride for men to eat it with their bare hands, especially at futbol games, where these are popular.
Abraham has been in business now for five years and works long hours to provide his customers with food from his native Michoacan and many other specialties from throughout Mexico. Once you discover this place you will be back for the one-stop shopping and the delicious, well-prepared food to eat here or take home.
MERCADO SAN FRANCISCO
1584 Lancaster Dr. NE
Salem, Oregon 97301
Monday – Saturday 8 am to 10 pm, Sunday 8 am to 8 pm