The most common parts of the Central American diet are beans, rice, pork, beef, chicken, cheese, salsa, avocado, and a bottle of one’s favorite flavor of Jarritos soda. All of these things are pretty easy to pick up at the supermarket and prepare on your own, but nothing beats going to your local Latino eatery and piling up on tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chips with dips, and sweet pastries with los primos, el hermano, and los padres (especially mamá).
And while I used to be able to do this just about every weekend with my ma after her Sunday mass, I hadn’t been able to find a single decent place in Rochester to eat like I do at home. That is, up until I came back for this semester and found out that one of my favorite Rochester food trucks had opened up a shop in the comfy Corn Hill neighborhood. Fittingly, they call it: Mi Barrio, or “My Neighborhood” in English.
Mi Barrio is a labor of love that’s been long in the making. The place is the brick-and-mortar grounding of a food truck, called Paola’s Burrito Place, which I stumbled upon while hitting up the Rochester Food Truck Rodeo last year. The food truck being the mobilization of a now closed-down shop by the same name, owned by the same owners.
Waiting in line for my order at Paola’s for the first time, I was beyond happy to see that some Latinos in the community had set up shop in town. I’d spent a good portion of my freshman and sophomore years eating at tons of different places in Rochester, but finding anything resembling a good Mexican food place was practically impossible. The couple places that were easily accessible from campus weren’t all that great. They missed the at-home feel that makes a Mexican food place a Mexican food place. And, if we’re being honest, the food at those places wasn’t anything like what I could whip up in my own kitchen back home.
Paola’s was different though, and it took me by surprise, like a sucker punch. The guy running the truck had the biggest smile on his face when he handed me my tacos and told me that he hoped I’d like them. He didn’t have to wait long to know that I thought that they were amazing. Only about 10 feet away from the cart, I completely devoured the al pastor tacos I had just received, without even stopping to take a breath. They were the most beautiful little snug packages of shaved pork, cilantro, onion, sour cream, and guacamole that I’d ever had in this town. The tacos were so good that I jumped back into the line to get some chips and guacamole, much to the delight of the truck owner.
Today, you can have the same chance that I had with my first time at Paola’s, but every day, instead of just on Food Truck Rodeo day. With Mi Barrio serving as home base for the owners of Paola’s, you can now sit while enjoying your tacos. They even threw in some new stuff on their menu, like mini flan cakes, slices of tres leches cake, and a monster-sized, three-pound burrito challenge, where anyone who can eat the whole thing in one sitting gets to have their photo taken and posted on the Mi Barrio Facebook page.
I’ve gone to Mi Barrio about six times since the semester started, and every time I go, the food just tastes better and better (not sure if this is a placebo effect, or if they’ve been focusing more on the quality of the food as they get more customers). I know I always tell you all reading this to go out and try eating at the places I talk about, but this time I mean it with a level of seriousness I can’t really express through text. Seriously, go to Mi Barrio and try something there, even if you’ve never eaten Mexican food before in your life. This place is a rare beast in Rochester. It’s another sign of the ever-growing boom that Rochester’s been seeing recently from young people and people of different ethnicities, beyond those who have been here for the last 20 or so years. These kinds of places don’t pop up often, and they deserve all the love and support that the community can give them. So please, go and give them some love, they’ll return the favor with some of the most bomb-ass food you can get for less than $10.