Restaurants & Bars

Chorizo crawl - El Mercadito San Juan (Richmond) - fresh juices, house-made salsas & queso fresco

rworange | Aug 9, 200605:16 PM    

Continuing my crawl checking out the small Mexican Markets from Richmond to Pinole ...

This market also sells Brazilian food. There is a respectable, if not huge selection. A freezer case is stocked with the ‘fancy’ Brazilian chorizo ($5.99 a pound compared to the $3 store-made). They also have Amazonias ice cream in Brazilian flavors like lucado and guava. I was going to buy some,but they have corn syrup.

This seemed like a nothing place. It is never busy. However, it has some impressive goodies.

They make their own salsas and guacamole ($2 a pint). There are stunning pints of mole, deep chocolate brown, as brown as rich soil. Definitely on my list to buy next time I buy a chicken.

The hot red sauce is very good, with a nice heat and not overbearing . My favorite was the salsa fresca full of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, heavy on the fresh lime juice accent. The guacamole is the thin-type and has a nice spicy tingle. The salsas are on top of the counter with a bowl of chips, so you can sample.

This shop excels at aqua frescas and fresh juices. There is more juice than water and the fruit is fresh from the produce bins. The deep orange-red beautiful fresh papaya juice I had was excellent - $1.50 ... try getting that at your frozen, over-priced Jamba Juice joint.

Next to the juices are tamales, corn (elote), chicken and pork. At first I thought the tamale a little dry, but the nice touch of lard in the masa rescued it. The pieces of chicken were in a very pleasing spicy red sauce with a hint of cinnamon $1.45. While this is not at the very top of my tamale list, it is pretty high. It was a pleasing breakfast one morning.

There is also a little coffee bar serving exspresso drinks and Mexican hot chocolate. Nothing to go out of your way for, but decent enough.

They have a nice selection of dried chiles, pretty comparable though to other area markets. Always look under the produce shelves at these Latino markets where there are additional bins of chiles - $3.99 a pound.

It was a coincidence, but shortly after asking about duritos, I noticed that this market has their own duritos, a little redder than most, both in squares and the wheel shapes. From the Chow Digest link ...

“ a snack of fried flour made to look and feel like fried pork skins. They are called "duritos" because they are "duro" - hard. You pop some hot sauce and lemon juice in the bag with the duritos, shake it all up, and eat. They're delicious, all light and crispy - sort of like a more subtle proto version of Cheetos.”

The duritos at this market are the raw material and you would need to fry them up yourself at home before eating.


The market makes its own queso fresco, a lovely light cheese with almost the texture of goat cheese. A big hunk cut off the wheel was $1.50. The sample I was given was huge too ... almost lunch, at the least a snack. I used some of it in a nice summer salad with fresh peaches. There are other little containers on the counter of other house-made items that are unidentifiable to me at this point.

Their house-made dry and fresh chorizo was ok, but so far the at the bottom of the list. I liked the dry better. The chorizos lack spice. The deep brown dry chorizo was better. It was irregular in the casing with some sections skinnier than others. I didn’t like it hot, but eating it cold the next day, it had a nice meaty, almost beefy taste. The fresh chorizo, again lacked spice, and I’m guessing this was heavy on the organ meat since there was a liver flavor and texture to it.

The grind was medium-fine. Like most fresh chorizo (Valley Produce excepted), there was lots of oil when fried. The dry chorizo, very little oil. At the very least, I've learned how to fry chorizo without burning it.

There are some fruits and veggies, a small case of panedria baked goods and groceries that include a few Brazilian items.

El Mercadito San Juan
12899 San Pablo Avenue
Richmond, Ca

Could actually be San Pablo. It is near the border next door to the now closed Alvarado Gardens BBQ,.

Chorizo Crawl Recap – What’s your favorite chorizo?

*** Note: Edited Aug 11, 2006 at 10:50 to add link for recap

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