I've just discovered a place where I can purchase a fresh papaya, a pinata and a full-size ceramic statue of a basset hound all at the same time.
In order words, a Mexican grocery store has just opened up in my 'hood.
Abarrotes Aguilar opened its doors at 1001 Court St. about a month ago. There, you can purchase all types of packaged tortillas and dessert items but good luck finding a loaf of bread. The refrigerated cases show a vast assortment of beers and soda, of Mexican origin or otherwise. However, I noticed they didn't have milk in stock.
That's OK, all of those things will come in time. And chances are you probably wouldn't go to a neighborhood Mexican food market for an emergency milk or bread run.
Abarrotes Aguilar advertises itself as being an abarrotes (Spanish for "grocery") a restaurante ("restaurant," of course) as well as a carniceria ("butcher shop").
This is exactly what it is.
But glancing at the layout of the store, Abarrotes Aguilar seemed surprisingly familiar to me.
The reason is simple. I've been an off-and-on regular at the 1001 Court St. store since I was a little kid.
To be honest, I am part of the post-Hy-Vee and post-Fareway generation. Both chains were in Sioux City -- as well as a few long-forgotten supermarkets -- when I was just a rugrat.
However, there were still some stalwart independent groceries who stuck around in spite of the increased competition.
While my mom and dad shopped at the big supermarkets, they continued to buy certain items at Polaykoff's Food Market, which was located at 1001 Court St., years prior to Abarrotes Aguilar.
This was my parent's go-to place for picking up spicy Italian pork sausages, which was unusual since brothers Ben and Able Polaykoff were Jewish.
While the Polaykoff Brothers owned the place for many decades, other groceries took over the spot.
In my estimation, Abarrotes Aguilar is at least the third Mexican grocery to open up on the corner of 10th and Court streets over the past decade.
Walking into the newly opened Mexican store, I immediately compared it to the Polaykoff's of my youth.
The cashier was an the front of store, of course. Plus the canned goods section made up the middle aisle. I noticed that Aguilar's carniceria was located on the north end of the store while Polaykoff's butcher shop occupied the west end.
Instead, Abarrotes Aguilar's restaurant -- a very small sit-down or take-out eatery -- was located where Ben Polaykoff once sold Italian sausages to my parents.
To say the food at Abarrotes Aguilar was fresh would be an understatement. For Pete's sake, the kitchen was literally 20 feet away from the meat counter.
The carne asada taco and chorizo quesadilla that I ordered were nothing less than extraordinary.
The meats were well-seasoned and delicious. But here's a word of caution. Both came packed with a whole lot of cilantro.
I know cilantro is loved by some and despised by others. But this controversial herb pairs perfectly with the fried meat.
Even better, the house-made green salsa packed a terrific punch, making my meal both memorable and economic.
This place gives you plenty of food for six bucks plus some change.
If anyone is leery about going into a Mexican grocery, don't be.
Will you see products with familiar names? Yes, buy plenty of the Mexican Coca-Cola because it is sweetened with cane sugar and is phenomenal!
Will, you see plenty of weird stuff, like pottery, pinatas and papayas? Yes but, who knows, you may need a ceramic dog statue in the future.