Vallarta Supermarket, a Latino chain with a cluster of branches in the San Fernando Valley, has been expanding like a pack of Gremlins. Dirt cheap but scrupulously clean, they’re smart enough to branch out a little bit from the “Latino grocery store” stereotype, so that gabachos can do normal grocery shopping there too, says Das Ubergeek.
Hounds in the know have long headed to Vallarta for awesome aguas frescas, fresh tortillas and cheap produce, but the newer stores (like the NoHo one, having its grand opening) have counter service restaurants, too.
The prepared foods at Vallarta put other supermarket fare to shame. It’s easy to put together dinner for home with luscious carnitas by the pound, corn tortillas freshly made on the spot, tasty frijoles and fresh salsa. Chile rellenos, caldo de pollo and albondigas soup are excellent–all are freshly made and very inexpensive.
You can also get carne asada to grill at home–they’ll squeeze an orange over the meat before wrapping it up–and chicken milanesa.
Make sure to get some tres leches cake for dessert–it’s light and springy, soaked in milky deliciousness and topped with fresh strawberries. Bread pudding is another sure thing. Chongos and arroz con leche are supposed to be good too, but pan dulces are dry, dry, dry–with the exception of the guayaba (squares with guava jelly in the middle).
Serious sweet tooths should try some fresh dulces (Mexican candies).