Southwestern Comfort: Northgate Food Markets

Back when I was living in San Diego, California, I often remarked to my out-of-town guests that no visit would be complete without a day trip to Tijuana, México. Whether in search of paletas, guaraches, or street churros, it was once commonplace to find tourists, who had walked across the border, scouring Avenida Revolución for sweet treats and deals.

Unfortunately, a rise in drug cartel related violence, plus the swine flu, have many would-be tourists too fearful to shop and eat their way through the streets of Tijuana. Fortunately, you don't have to go to México for high quality Mexican foods and goods. As an alternative, check out one of González Northgate Market's thirty locations throughout California. The San Diego location features a taquería (taco shop), panedería (bakery), carnicería (butcher), produce, and non-specialty foods all under one roof.

Last month, my mom and I stopped in for lunch and selected our meal from a variety of taco shop items and already prepared hot foods behind the counter. Overwhelmed with our options, it took several minutes of pacing back and forth examining the menu and the foods on display before we settled on chile relleno. To wash it all down, Mom ordered an agua fresca (fresh fruit drink) and I ordered a licuado de fresa y platano (strawberry-banana smoothie). Next, we treated ourselves to some dessert and picked up slices of flan and tres leches cake - both authentic and delicious. To order, we paid for our items first at the cashier and then presented our ticket to the server behind the counter. All of the market's food items can be consumed on site or packed to-go.

Our next stop was the salsa counter, where we chose from a wide selection of red and green salsas of varying intensities. (Ask for a sample or a recommendation if you're having trouble deciding.) To take back home for dinner with Isaiah, I orderd some shrimp ceviche and picked up a package of tostadas.

Mom insisted that I couldn't leave without perusing the produce department, which is one of the most extensive I have ever seen. You can find everything from Granny Smith apples to cactus pears (tunas). Of course, then there was the bakery department, where sweet breads, cookies, and rolls tempt and delight. Some of the pastries are comparable to flaky European-style turnovers, while others are cake-like or uniquely Latin American, such as the sweet empanadas. I also stocked up on chili powder and Guacamaya hot sauce (Isaiah's favorite).

Dining Area

These green chiles will be seeded, stuffed, battered, and fried before they become Chiles Rellenos

Chicharrones, or fried pig rinds

I guess, apart from the Mexican specialties, Northgate Market isn't much different from regular supermarkets and their all-under-one-roof departments. Still, it's those Mexican specialties that bring me so much comfort. When I enjoy these foods, I am back in my childhood. Back to when we would shop at a panedería just off of Avenida Revolución, revisiting the very place Mom used to buy her pan dulce as a child growing up in Tijuana. It saddens me that fear keeps me from visiting Tijuana today, but I am comforted by the traditions my people keep alive while they make new lives for themselves on the other side of the border.

For Your Rolodex:González Northgate Market * 1410 S. 43rd St. * San Diego, CA 92113 * (619) 266-6080


  1. This sounds like the kind of market that I love. Do they sell the powdered horchata mix? I'm headed down to Cozumel on Thursday and I'll let you know how much the Swine Flu epidemic is in effect. It's been downgraded according to all my Mexico expat blogger friends. I doubt if I'll be investigating Drug Cartel news...

  2. Tina - I know, right? Salivating the whole time I was writing that post.

    Fly Girl - Hey there! Not sure about the horchata mix as I didn't go through all the aisles, but this place is huge so they most probably have it.

    As for the swine flu, I didn't hear about it all when I was visiting the States, but ever since I've been back in Europe I've read about it from online news services, plus Tina (who commented before you) had to deal with strict gov't procedures regarding the flu when she entered Turkey. Other countries are definitely still freaked out about it.

    And the violence, well, I wouldn't worry about places like Cozumel (jealous) or Cancun, but cities like Tijuana and Juarez have seen a significant increase in violence. My mom grew up in Tijuana, but refuses to visit. She's met too many clients (Mexican nationals) who have been kidnapped for ransom...


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