It’s not just churros at Panadería La Michoacana
Chico’s one-stop Mexican market, bakery and meat counter
Panaderia La Michoacana1414 Park Ave.
Chico, CA 95928
Panadería La Michoacana is more than just a bakery. It’s also a carnicería—a meat market—and it’s my neighborhood grocery store.
I go to the friendly mom-and-pop Mexican market almost every afternoon for a delicious, fresh cono—a flaky pastry shaped like a cone, filled with custard (75 cents)—or some squash candy, a can of pinto beans, a Mexican Coke (no high-fructose corn syrup) or a pound of fresh chicken and beef fajita meat ($2.99 per pound) to cook for dinner. On Saturdays, the fresh carnitas and slabs of chicharrones (both $5.99 per pound) from the carnicería are simply—sinfully—to die for.
Located in south Chico, in the Park Avenue strip mall behind Nobby’s, La Michoacana has been in existence for two years, and is owned by Sergio Alejandre and his wife, Lilia, who hail from the Mexican states of Michoacán and San Luis Potosí, respectively.
Lilia is a cheery fixture at the front register as she rings up the countless customers (many of whom she greets by name) who line up every weekday at about 4:30 p.m., their silver trays piled high with an assortment of the various breads, pastries and colorful cakes and cookies made seven days a week by Valentín, La Michoacana’s busy baker. The bakery case at the rear of the store is rarely depleted (except maybe after a particularly fierce run of customers lined up from the cash register to the back of the store).
Pan de queso—or “bread burrito,” as 20-year-old carnicería employee Sergio Alejandre Jr. calls it—is a fresh-baked bread roll filled with thin slices of ham, cream cheese and jalapeño peppers. Substantial, and terribly delicious, they are priced at an unbelievably low $1.25. Likewise for most of the pastries and cookies in the case, including chocolate and vanilla conchas; pig-shaped, maple-flavored puerquitos; assorted polvorones, churros and strawberry-coconut-covered “besos”—three can be had for only a dollar. Small wheat rolls called semas also run three for $1. Cortadillos (pieces of cake with whipped cream and colored sprinkles) are 50 cents, and loaves of raisin-chocolate-chip bread run a modest $2.50.
On weekends, Valentín is busy filling special orders for Tres Leches cakes ($45 for a half-sheet; $85 for a full sheet—order a day in advance) for birthday parties, weddings and quinceañera celebrations. Tres Leches (or “three milks”), for the uninitiated, is a divinely scrumptious cake soaked in evaporated and condensed milk and heavy cream, and topped with a light, creamy frosting.
But that is not all. Oh no. La Michoacana’s meat case is full of delicacies as well. There’s the fresh pico de gallo ($3) and spicy, red salsa ($3.49), ham, head cheese (queso de puerco) and the various Mexican cheeses populating the case at one end of the meat counter. There is also an array of fresh meats and fish begging to be bought—a variety of cuts of beef, pork and chicken (and whole chickens), including espinazo de puerco (pig neck bones—$1.99 per pound) for the making of posole, tripe and whole cow heads ($45). Also on hand is chuleta ahumada (smoked pork chops, $3.39 per pound), chivo (goat meat) “for barbacoa,” as Sergio Jr. explained, as well as quail, shrimp and squid.
Add to that the well-stocked shelves full of hot sauces; pickled pig’s feet and ears, peppers and carrots; dried and canned beans; nopales (cactus); spices and teas, including whole chiles and remedios for fever and lactation; ice creams, including nuez (walnut-flavored); and all manner of Mexican chotchkes. Don’t miss the fresh-weekly flan ($2.50 per individual serving; $15 for a whole flan) in the refrigerated case, which also contains Mexican yogurt and every kind of Jarritos soda made.
It’s more than enough to make a customer very happy.