Hello. You have somehow navigated your way to mmm-yoso!!!, a food blog. Kirk as well as ed(from Yuma) are both busy with those end of Summer things and today Cathy writing and sharing another local wonderful eatery.
Well. I've mentioned before that everyone has a 'favorite' taco shop, close to home and close to work. People tell me about their favorite place and favorite items sold there. There's a long story as to how The Mister and I found Lena's; know we had this adventure on our own. The condensed version is we walked into the Liquor Store next to Kaelin's Mi Pueblo Market that had the words "carne asada" on the door, thinking they made tacos, found out they were selling carne asada in a freezer next to bags of ice cubes, asked the clerk if he knew of a place to buy some good ready to eat food and he directed us here:
Garcias Puebla Mercado. It's been here since 1995(I'll do the math for you: 17 years).We ordered two burritos, each weighed almost two pounds (there was a scale at the checkout). While we were waiting, we looked around the small store, saw many people coming in, picking up hot tortillas out of the wooden box on the floor, noticed ready made carne and chicken asada, signs for carnitas meals on Wednesday as well as barbacoa and birria meal specials on Friday, house made mole, salsas, hot carrots and fascinating other items. When we did go to the front to pay, the nice lady told us for really good food -Oaxacan Style- to go to the shop just across the street, about a half block North. Both the store and the shop are family owned and run.
For $10.99, you get a dozen hot tortillas, rice, black beans (nicely flavored, mostly whole and without lard), a choice of red or green salsa (I do like both; house made and a blend of complex flavors) and quite a large chicken. The chicken has that delightful mesquite smoked flavor, even the next day.
On one of our visits, we ordered two each of the carnitas and carne asada tacos ($1 each). You can see the tacos were quite full with the meat, guacamole, cilantro, onions and Cotija cheese and both the red and green salsas were brought out. The fresh corn tortillas, which are from Garcia's across the street, are thick, layered and so very fresh.
Also, we tried the 'less than $1 menu', choosing a quesedilla and memelita - a small memela, a toasted masa cake , with a choice of red or green sauce) topped with more Cotija cheese.
One of my favorite items here-from the 'regular' menu, #17, a gordita ($1.99). This is a fresh made masa cake with a few black beans in the mix, fried then cut, filled on the top and bottom with those luscious black beans, a lot of shredded creamy Oxaca cheese, crema, lettuce and tomatoes. Crunchy, fresh, and something I never expected.
On one visit, we ordered a $1.99 memela (this time topped with red sauce; much larger than the 99¢ version, although I don't have a reference point in this photo to show you the sense of scale) and a 99¢ Tlacoyo (an oval shaped baked masa, filled with a layer of black beans, topped with a choice of sauce and Cotija cheese)
You can see the thin layer of beans in this cross section view; this simple 99¢ snack is just perfect. It's larger counterpart on the regular menu, the Tlayuda ($6.99), includes a choice of meats and is more than a meal for me.
We noticed "Tostilocos $2.99" sign in the front window and tried the version here. It's a vegetarian version- no cueritos. Good to satisfy a crunchy, salty, tamarind, spicy chamoy craving. (here's a link to my post about my favorite Tostilocos)
Here's a photo of another gordita ordered; you can see the fried then sliced crispy 'bun'. The other item is another tlacoyo, this time topped with the red sauce.
From the regular menu, #14 Mole negro ($5.99). We have been on the lookout for great home made mole ever since Los Pueblos had closed in May. We found it. Lena told us that it takes three women (all relatives) all day to make the mole used here and sold in the small market across the street. You can taste the variety of spices and so many flavors with every bite. The chicken leg had the smoky mesquite flavor which complimented the sauce. The enchiladas are also topped with this mole.
So many items all made from scratch, just like at home. Another great find in El Cajon.
Lenas is not your average Mexican restaurant, not a taco shop. At all.
Delicias a la Lena 1398 East Main Street (between Sultan Baklava and Kaelin's Market, other side of Main Street) El Cajon 92021 (619)590-1138
Garcias Puebla Mercado 1354 East Main Street 92021 (619)590-1416