Cinco de Mayo Mercado in Richfield is a great place for snacks. When little bites are on the brain, Mexican food doesn’t always spring to mind. But the words painted above an arched entrance to the shop suggest otherwise. In Spanish, “antojitos mexicanos” literally means “little whims,” and the restaurant makes small bites and street-style food its business. It opened just this fall, inside its sibling grocery store of the same name. The crew is really good at wielding corn flour, also known as masa. And meat. They make and serve scrumptious meat.
The mercado’s masa-based snacks range from palm-sized to plate-sized, and their affordability and customizable nature make them seriously craveable. The smallest masa cake at the mercado is a sope ($2.50), or a thick fried corn tortilla topped with sour cream, lettuce, and some sort of protein. It’s comparable in size to a pupusa or an arepa. Topped with something like suadero (cubed beef brisket), a sope at the mercado is a scandalously satisfying mini-lunch. The suadero itself is great, full of fatty flavor, not salt. The juicy cubes of beef are crisped up on the flat top, giving the snack a succulent, sort of State Fair-like appeal.
Gorditas ($5) at the mercado are just enormous. They’re more like tall, fluffy masa sandwiches than the stuffed and self-contained tortillas that come to mind. The two layers of masa are light and a little crisp, the top layer teetering on a generous pile of meat, shredded lettuce, and a good salty sprinkling of cotija cheese. Both the carnitas (pork shoulder) and barbacoa de res (braised beef) are excellent protein choices. The carnitas (pictured up top) is dripping, juicy, and a little citrusy, and the barbacoa is plush and just a little sweet.
Finally, there’s the lesser known tlacoyo (say the word aloud, it sounds like trickling water), another fried and stuffed masa tortilla. This type of snack seems fairly rare in the Midwest, though the mercado’s owner, Jorge Robles, says it is common throughout Mexico.
A tlacoyo ($4, above) is more elongated than a gordita and properly stuffed without bursting. It is thick and moist in the way of a pancake. Inside might be soft pinto beans or innocently lactic-tasting fresh cheese, and the whole thing is covered in your choice of meat, loads of fresh cilantro, and more cotija cheese. With puerco adobado (pork in adobo sauce) on top, our tlacoyo was wonderfully earthy but too salty. But hey, that’s just one miss out of 16 different proteins on the menu. For a place meant to serve smallish morsels, Cinco de Mayo Mercado is bringing value and delicious thematic variation in a big way.
Cinco de Mayo Mercado, 813 E 66th St, Richfield, MN 55423; 612.767.2484