La Michoacana offers flavors of Mexico
By Avery King
Want to explore Mexico without leaving Dayton? Forget the traditional Mexican cantinas and make your way up Troy Street to La Michoacana, just north of downtown Dayton. La Michoacana is a Columbus-based chain of Mexican grocery stores that specializes in Mexican and Latin American goods. Walking through the Dayton store, one sees a produce section peppered with hard-to-find fruits and vegetables, an extensive meat counter, a Mexican bakery and shelves lined with products ranging from dried beans and rice to coffees and teas.
One corner of the market is reserved for the restaurant. The bright orange walls are adorned with sombreros; flags from Latin American countries hang from the ceiling, demarking the dining area. The tables and booths are also festively decorated with colorful fabric tablecloths (covered in clear plastic so as not to be stained). The set-up is simple – a handful of booths on either side of the aisle, a short-order window open to the kitchen behind it, and a couple of coolers to hold sodas and beers.
We arrived late one Thursday night, sometime around 8 p.m. The establishment closes around 9 p.m., but there were still several tables full of diners. My girlfriend and I were excited because the restaurant’s website promised a special on margaritas. After taking our seats, our waitress – who was working all of the tables – took our drink orders. We were disappointed to discover the website was not accurate: while some of the Columbus locations served margaritas, the Dayton one did not; they served only beers. Resolved to make the best of it, I ordered a Dos Equis. Beer is rarely my date’s first choice, so she ordered water.
With our drinks came the customary basket of chips. Unlike many establishments that serve light, white tortilla chips, ours were made of yellow corn and slightly heavier. A bit light on salt, the chips were still satisfactory. The standard salsa was about what one would expect, but we both really enjoyed the hot and verde salsas, delivered tableside in condiment bottles. The hot sauce had a nice pepper flavor. The verde sauce was a bit less acidic than other sauces, but it, too, had a nice bite and smoky nuances.
We had a bit of trouble ordering our main courses. My girlfriend is a vegetarian and, unfortunately, the menu is very meat heavy. She was hoping for something more exotic, but settled for a beans and cheese burrito. I was feeling hungry, so I ordered a chicken burrito, as well as two tacos as appetizers – one steak and one chorizo.
The tacos were traditional style – soft corn tortillas loaded with meat, cilantro and onion and served with a wedge of lime. The steak was tender, but not overly flavorful. The chorizo packed more of a kick – salty, but not overly so, with a hint of spice that did not overwhelm. The lime accented the tacos nicely, and I loaded both of mine with the verde sauce.
Each burrito was loaded with beans, rice, chopped lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro. The vegetarian burrito also contained large chunks of avocado, sour cream and Mexican queso blanco. My burrito was ordered without the dairy, but contained generous pieces of moist, tender chicken. We both enjoyed the burritos, but wished that the kitchen used something other than iceberg lettuce. The burritos were enormous – more than we could eat in a single sitting.
Although we ordered fairly traditional Mexican-American fare, the menu is extensive and offers more exotic options, especially for those interested in trying cuts of meat that the typical Midwestern diet may not encompass, like beef tongue and beef tripe. Note, however, that as was the case with the margaritas, the online menu does not accurately reflect what is available at the restaurant. Your best bet may to go armed with the knowledge that there are likely at least one or two things for everyone on the menu, even if the kitchen has to improvise a bit.
The service was clunky. We had to repeat our orders a few times, and I had to send a burrito back because it came with ingredients we had asked to have left off. The tacos arrived much later than the burritos, and only after our prompting. However, despite the issues, the server was courteous and kind, her attitude helping to make up for the ordering issues.
We skipped the dessert specials – neither of us are huge fans of flan and we were too full to enjoy a sopaipilla. Instead, we explored the store after dinner.
Overall, La Michoacana was a fun experience. We enjoyed wandering through the market. While the food wasn’t blockbuster, it was inexpensive and left us satisfied, and the staff was kind, even in spite of the service errors.
La Michoacana is located at 748 Troy St. The restaurant is not readily visible from the ample parking in front of the store, but can be seen immediately to your left when you enter through the front doors. For more information, please call 937.220.9600 or visit michoacanamarket.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Avery King at ContactUs@DaytonCityPaper.com.