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¡Si, Estamos Abiertos!: Mexican markets spice up Bend's culinary scene 

Mexican markets spice up Bend's culinary scene.

click to enlarge dining_reyes_tacos.jpg
For a relatively small place, it's impressive how well Bend replicates the benefits of big city living without any of the hassle that usually goes along with it. Per capita, Bend probably has more musicians, artists, galleries, readings and performances, microbrews, bars, gourmands and restaurants than most large urban areas. And while a backyard of snowcapped mountains and wildflowers makes up for most everything else, like a grocery store I can walk to and reasonable public transportation, the only real loss I have felt from my former big city life is diversity. I feel this acutely in many aspects of the day-to-day. But as an appreciator of food, its impact can be devastating.

There is, fortunately, one steadily growing ethnic enclave in Central Oregon and with that has come culinary treats. The Mexican community has more than doubled since 1990 ushering in a stream of taquerias and ristorantes. More exciting, since the population reached a critical mass about 10 years ago, Bend has seen the opening of its first ethnic markets.

Probably most fun for browsing and comprehensive for chefs is Greenwood Avenue's Colima Market, "Su Tienda Latina" or "Your Latin Store." From fresh cactus, tomatillos and plantains, a dozen kinds of dried chilis and a wall of spices to specialty items like pickled cueritos (pork rinds) and orejitas (pig ears) to the tamarind candy and Jumex guava nectar that you'd find in any market south of the border, the gamut of Mexican groceries can be found. In an adjacent room are racks of Spanish language music, movies and magazines as well as a variety of colorful piñatas, rancher hats and boots and the requisite plastic Jesus wall hangings. Only blocks away you'll find a newer addition, Rico's Market, not to be confused with Rico's Tacos, its sister restaurant just north on Highway 97. With a stock similar to Colima's, Rico's stands out for its expanded CD/DVD and clothing selections, as well as a rack of unlabeled Ziploc bags filled with mysterious noodles and other dry foods.

With a much smaller array of packaged foods and no produce, Tortilleria Reyes, in the Scandia mall near the Jackalope Grill, looks more like a corner grocery than supermarket, but it has the distinct benefit of offering a menu of authentic Mexican prepared foods. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a restaurant, though there are a few tables, and Reyes probably does its best business as a supplier of fresh-made tortillas. However, with those tortillas they make some of the best and cheapest Mexican morsels I've had in town. The menu board hanging over the counter is a little confusing, but if you'd rather not decipher it, just ask for what you want in the standard taco, burrito, quesadilla, torta family and name your filling. Whatever you get is going to be good.

Tacos are only $1.50 each, so get a bunch to sample the variety (warning to the uninitiated: lengua is beef tongue and buche is pig stomach - not that you shouldn't try it). I highly recommend the al pastor, an absolutely delicious filling of seasoned pork served simply on a double corn tortilla sprinkled with onions and cilantro and served with a wedge of lime and a wonderful smoky hot sauce. The carne asada taco was a very close second. Basic burritos are $4.99, but we went for the burrito de huevo y chorizo ($6.99). The king of all breakfast burritos, it was enormous and loaded with beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, cheese, eggs and an excellent ground chorizo that resembled the texture of hamburger meat.

With only a handful of ethnic restaurants and no sign of any pending influx of immigration, I doubt Bend will be a culinary melting pot any time soon. But I'm grateful that at least we have these few Mexican markets as sweet relief from the sometimes unbearable whiteness of being that comes along with all the joys of life in a small city.

Colima Market

228 NE Greenwood Ave, 617-9250

Rico's Market

342 NE Burnside Ave (off Hwy 97), 312-3237

Tortillaria Reyes

1155 SW Division St (Scandia Square), 383-2025

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