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Richmond: El Campesino Market ... Flame-kissed chicken and ribs plus live music

rworange | Feb 17, 200801:33 PM

There’s something elemental and almost primal about the slabs of ribs and little chickens turning on the spit with the flames leaping up and licking the meat.

It might not be chicken greatness like Lola’s … but it is simple goodness … flame and chicken… that’s it.

What elevates this $4.99 bird is that spinning on the spit with the meat are skewered jalapeno peppers and whole onions. A bite of charred jalapeno, a little onion that is gooey in a very good way and a bite of bird … nice, very nice.

Those onions are really good. They leave the papery outer coating on and roast them until they are black. Peeling off the charred outer layer there’s a meltingly rich, flavorful onion … a thing of beauty.

There’s always something cooking here … sometimes a pot of carnitas … sometimes cobs of corn … elote. I had a cheese tamale which was very large, not too dry with a generous filling of cheese and pepper.

In about a week or two they will be selling tacos at the cart parked across the street.

There’s always music playing. Sometimes on Friday’s they put up a sign to let customers know that one of the men who works at Kragen across the street will be stopping by to perform in person.

The recorded music can range from soulful to annoying. Not too often the later, but on the most recent visit when I bought the chicken, the butcher was slicing up beef for carne seca which was drying on the counter and singing along with a love ballad. I walked out humming myself.

The warmth of fire, passionate music, roasted meat ... comfort to the stomach and soul ... what's not to like?

I’m glad that this market re-opened just off MacDonald on 23rd (near McDonald’s and across from Plaza Ghiradelli). I don’t know who owned it in the past, but it was painted so prettily with fruits and veggies. It is nice to see it come to life again after being closed for years.

It is relatively new but I have high hopes for it and stop by and throw some business at it whenever I pass by. It is starting to get discovered by the neighborhood.

There’s a huge parking lot and outside there’s a big black stove and a table.

Veggies are rock bottom priced and actually quite good. The mushrooms are the least expensive I’ve seen in the Bay Area … $2.25 lb. If you hit them on the right day it is quite the deal.

Oranges are 3 lbs for a dollar and tomatoes are 49 cents a pound. Granted these are your supermarket variety tomatoes … but no one in the area is coming close to that price.

They have the most beautiful squash there that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Huge green striped squash with crooked necks. I’m working up the ambition to cook a squash that large.

The rest of the market is a work in progress and I’ll be interested to see how it develops. There’s a little panederia case and for Valentine’s Day they had some heart-shaped red velvet cake.

The people there are so very nice too. The guy at the cash register who might be one of the owners speaks excellent English. A lot of these Mexican markets near me call me “Mrs.” … “How are you today, Mrs.?” … “Can we help you, Mrs.?”

At El Campesino they call me “Miss” … without irony. That alone is worth the stop.

El Campesino Market,
Carniceria, abaroltes, frutas y verdures
Productos de Mexico, Centro y Sudamercia
The business card at the register has a calendar and a nice picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the back.

El Campesino Market
232 23rd Street, Richmond, CA 94804

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