Super Latino Markets of Highland Park, California

Through the hilly neighborhood of Highland Park just west of the Arroyo Seco runs York Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main commercial thoroughfare. It supports not one, but two supermarkets, within blocks of each other, that serve the mostly Latino community. When my daughter lived in New Zealand, she rued that she couldn’t get Mexican products readily (or inexpensively). In Christchurch, there was one Hispanic market, but a can of black beans for $8 was a bit much. She even went so far as to buy a tortilla maker so she could make her own. She finally gave it to a friend over there before her family moved to Highland Park last year; she knew she’d never have to make a tortilla in Southern California.

El Super and Super A Foods not only have tortillas galore but every imaginable item for cooking Latino food. The usual staples are sold that are available in any well-stocked market, except that the quantities, choices and sizes are much more extensive. Where Safeway might carry one, maybe two, different brands of canned pinto beans, the Supers have many more and in sizes you won’t find outside of Latino neighborhoods. How about cases of Corona stacked to the ceiling? Or an entire aisle section devoted to Goya products? Or Mexican wines? More kinds of Mexican cheese than I’ve ever heard of? Chorizo made not only from pork but beef? A wide variety of dried chiles and beans in bulk? Fresh zucchini blossoms? Panaderia? Such is the surprise and awe that a shopper will feel when first surveying these markets. And the prices are laughably inexpensive. A pineapple for 99₵, 2 pounds of tomatillos for 99₵, a 2lb 12oz package of tortillas for $2.39. Whole Foods prices these are not. (As wondrous as these markets are, the most jaw-dropping I’ve seen is Supermercados Mexicano in Hillsboro and Portland, OR.)

Highland Park is becoming more of a hipster area, yet the commercial district seems to have kept its old character. There are no big name chain stores or franchises along York, only small shops and little restaurants, including several taco trucks. Gentrification can change things forever for the locals. For now, the community can only hope for some kind of balance and that the main character of the area will not eventually serve only the latté crowd.

Related post

Super A Foods
5250 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042

El Super
5610 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042

Floored by a Mexican Market in Hillsboro

Once in a long while, you stumble across a store so phenomenal that it takes your breath away.

After lunch at Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa’s, four of us were trying to kill some time before the start of Star Trek: Into Darkness at a multiplex. There used to be a market attached to Ochoa’s, but it had shuttered its doors. We searched for another on foot and noticed the sign for one only a block away. The storefront didn’t reveal anything unusual; the roofline listed carniceria, taqueria, panaderia, pasteleria, among others. But as soon as we stepped inside and started to browse, it became clear that this had to be the most complete Latino market we had ever seen. That a Mexican market should be located in Hillsboro is not so unusual when you consider that there is a large Latino community here. What is unusual is its size and completeness that rivals anything expected to be found in Mexico or California.

Let me start with the meat counter. There were the usual meats and seafood, but also chorizos and seasoned and marinated chicken and pork cuts ready to cook, such as adobadas (chile-vinegar marinade) and slices ready for al pastor rotisserie cooking. The cheese section carried a considerable variety of Mexican cheeses. The cooked meat counter had pollo asado, fried fish, roasted ribs, different styles of chicarrones, chiles rellenos, barbacoa, carnitas, and more. There were assorted salsas, too: salsa roja, salsa verde, pico de gallo, one made with avocado, even a salsa for making your own molcajete.

The end caps had an enormous selection of tortillas and the inner aisles offered all manner of canned, jarred and bottled Latino products you can think of (and some that you’ve probably never seen).

The bakery was well stocked with bolilloschurrospan dulce, all of which you can bag yourself.

While summer will bring many more items, the produce section was still filled with tropical fruits, chiles and other vegetables.

In case all this got you salivating, a café inside sold things you could either take out or eat inside. The menu included tacos, quesadillas, flautas, burritos, tortas and tostadas. Tubs of cut-up fruits were also for sale, as was a variety of aguas frescas.

As I stood in line to make my purchases, I looked up and noticed the ceiling covered with piñatas of all kinds. Walking away from the market, all four of us were awestruck at what we had seen and experienced.

Supermercados Mexico
970 SE Oak St
Hillsboro, OR 97123