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#1
Posted July 5th 2012, 5:09pm
I could of sworn there was a thread devoted to the tacos of Michigan's Wine Country ala this 'Burgers of Michigan's Harbor-Wine Country' thread here. But I cant find it. But tacos are today what burgers were in the 1950's and these days theres quite a few Mexican Carnicerias that serve them while supplying groceries to the local Mexican population whom work for the farmers in the fruit fields of Michigan's Wine Country. I've been going up around the Sister Lakes area for over a decade now and have always noticed them. I usually go up there in August and I hope to see what else is out there this time around. Here are a few I've been to.

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El Supermercado in Sister Lakes Michigan (Keeler Township)

This place is located right on US 152 and along with the other grocery store nearby and the gas station, it makes up for most of whats around as far as food and groceries go within a five minute drive from Big Crooked Lake which is where my friends place is. Otherwise you gotta make the 15/20 minute drive into town which is Benton Harbor. This place has some good things as far as groceries go such as the good tortilla chips (green bag ones) and also some nice skirt steak and limes and other things you need when cooking a fiesta. Foodwise their tacos are just ok. I tried the steak and chicken ones last summer and they're just not that good when your as spoiled as we are in Chicago. But they do make made to order pico de gallo and guacamole and both of those are superb and perfect for the summer season. Not to mention they're a great deal pricewise. They make it so good for so cheap you don't feel the need to make your own. Its vacation.

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The Tacos (top) -- Lady behind the counter making the pico to order (bottom)

I found Arellano's Fresh Fruit Market and Restaurant while cruising down M-140 thru Covert which is a small little town which served as a stop on the underground that I have posted about before. The sign mentioned the making of their own tamales got me wanting to stop in and try some.

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Along M-140 in Covert, MI

It wasn't the weekend so they had no tamales but they do have a taqueria so I decided to try a couple tacos while I was in there. I got a steak and tripas and they too were just ok. The tripe wasnt fried crispy like I like it to be. I hate it when its soft. Although I think this place was just getting started when I stopped in so I may check them out again this summer if I get the chance to do so.

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Tacos from Arellano's Fruit Stand and Restaurant

So far my go to taco joint and place to eat at for that matter in the Sister Lakes area has been La Perla which is in Benton Harbor but more inland towards the farms. Its located on Napier avenue which is the exit you get off at on the highway and take into the area of Sister Lakes after about a 15 minute ride. En route sits La Perla at a bustling, for these parts anyway, intersection with a gas station opposite corner of it.

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Benton Harbor, MI

This place has a very steady flow of customers of all races. They have meats and produce and other Mexican grocery needs like bottled pop and assorted chile peppers, fresh tortillas and the rest of the good stuff. They also serve tacos in back and on weekends they sell carnitas and set up an al pastor spit outside.

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The setup outside under a tent on weekends at La Perla

Their al pastor tacos are very good and as is the case with the greats, even better when you get those freshly cut charred pieces which come after the lunch rush. But for me its their carnita tacos that I just cant get enough of. I haven't found any as juicy and tasty in Chicagoland. They sell the fried bits of pork by the pound but I like to get a handful of tacos with the usual toppings of onion and cilantro along with fresh sliced avocado. I don't know if its the fact that I'm in Michigan away from the hustle and bustle for my annual August trip with good friends I've known since High School that makes these almost magical but I do know that it's the expertly fried carnitas and fresh tortillas and toppings that make them taste great.

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Carnita tacos from La Perla

El Supermercado
68010 Michigan 152
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
(269) 944-4140

Arellano's Fruit Market and Restaurant
36197 M-140 HWY
Covert, Michigan 49043
(269) 764-0615

La Perla
8080 E Napier Ave
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
(269) 944-4096
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#2
Posted July 6th 2012, 12:46am
The last pic has me drooling like crazy! As usual thanks for sharing your trip with us!
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#3
Posted July 6th 2012, 4:36pm
Tnx again, Beef, as always! But you're driving me crazy with this one—we've got NO *real* Mexican in Montréal. None. Nada. Zilch. Etc. I'd basically kill for a taquito like the last pictured. Ouf.

Geo
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#4
Posted July 16th 2012, 11:42am
Beef, thanks. I'm up there frequently and said I'd document the tacos scene, but alas never got 'round to it. Your coverage is good.

I've mentioned some of this before, but I'll repeat so it's easy to find:

The Supermercado I agree isn't tops for tacos, but it is notable for a few things. The house made slasa and guac are actually made to order, as in an old abuelita typically dices tomatoes, onions and cilantro when you order. During busier periods they sometimes have a batch pre-made, still good. The abuelita also makes fresh requeson, which I've enjoyed a lot. Basically Mexican ricotta.

La Perla is a very cool place and serves lots of functions for the migrant labor force in SW Michigan. It has the best tacos, particularly when the outside stand is up and running and the teenage kid is manning the griddle and trompa. La Perla has a vast array of tortillas trucked in from Chicago, but also from Grand Rapids and K'Zoo. Probably the best flour tortillas I have had outside the Southwest come from Las Brazas, which I believe is in G.R. or Battle Creek. When fresh, they are the best. But they turn quickly - flour, lard, and no preservatives. My favorite thing about La Perla is the selection of Yucatecan items, particulalry achiote-based pastes and rubs, plus bitter orange etc. for cohinita pibil. These things can be tough to find even in Chicago and are a great resource for those who roast pigs in their backyard, like I do.

Changing gears, I saw you are doing a perch crawl. I'm a huge perch fan and always eat it out there. The range is vast, from horrible (Zeke's in Dowagiac) to sublime (Thirsty Perch in South Haven, Clementines in S.H. and St. Joe, and, improbably, BT's near Sister Lakes). Keep up the good work!

PS, I should mention that La Perla has an interesing assortment of Mexican breads and pastries - most notably for me a good, anise-tinged cemita/semita. Throw some of the house made carnitas one one of those and you've got a good meal.

Last, the Supermercado is the place to get well-seasoned, well-machined arrachera for the grill and menudo on the weekend. They also make cecina, which is the taco filling of choice there.
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#5
Posted July 6th 2014, 10:02pm
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Coloma, MI

A random pit-stop for some fuel led to the purchase of some fresh freshly grown Michigan asparagus, a pair of freshly baked donuts and a couple tacos to go with them. Jollay Orchards has a dairy bar/taco shop/fruit and vegetable stand right off exit 39 on I-94 that called my name. Having had nothing for breakfast I ended up trying both a steak and a chicken taco. Steak was good, mainly for the quality of the beef. Chicken was bad, tasted like it was seasoned with raw McCormick brand taco powder, the made on premises spicy salsa couldn't save it. The donuts and produce bounty were better.

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Farm-stand Tacos

Jollay Market
3401 Friday Rd
Coloma, Michigan 49038
(269) 468-4800
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