Establos Meat Market
2633 Ventura Blvd.

After your first visit to Establos Meat Market in Camarillo, you may want to kick yourself for not knowing about it sooner. Who knew such a place existed — a place with $1 tacos and some of the best tortas around — tucked into a tiny neighborhood market in the heart of Camarillo?

If you didn’t, here’s the lowdown so you can get there quickly and easily when your next craving for Mexican food strikes.

The market is located on the corner of Lewis Road and Ventura Boulevard, next door to Rocket Fizz and a few doors down from Zzyzx cafe. Getting there can be tricky due to an abundance of medians and no U-turn signs that seem determined to keep you and your hungry stomach from getting there. Rest easy and know that once you get there, there is plenty of parking behind the market.

When you arrive, head back to the counter in the rear of the store. The menu is posted there and you can watch what’s being prepared if you need a little push to decide what to get. Once your mind is made up, make your way back to the front counter where you place your order and pay. You’ll take a number and wait for your food by the counter in the back.

There are only about eight tables in the small dining room, so beware that on weekends there might be a wait and a shortage of tables. Don’t let this stop you. The food is so good here that even if you have to eat in your car or standing out on the sidewalk, it is well worth it. And while you wait, you can wander the market, pick up that gallon of milk you’ve been needing, a piñata for your kid’s birthday party, or a few Mexican specialty items like queso fresco and fresh guacamole.

The menu at the market ranges from tacos to tortas, burritos to quesadillas … and all have the option of a variety of fillings, from lengua (beef tongue) to tripa (beef stomach), chicken, carne asada and pork.

Of the burritos, our favorites are the chile relleno and the alambre. The chile relleno burrito offers a melody of flavors and textures: spicy pasilla chile, thick bites of melted cheese, soft breading, beans, rice and cilantro. The addition of sour cream helps cut the spiciness of the pepper if spice is an issue for you. The alambre burrito is filled with a sautéed mixture of carne asada, sausage, bacon, peppers and onions, in addition to cheese, rice and beans. With notes of smoke and salt, this is a fun and unusual flavor combination for a burrito.

As for the tacos, we have tried them with lengua and with chicken. If you like lengua, it is tender and a bit gamey, while the chicken is flavorful and nicely browned. Topped with mild salsa, cilantro and onions, we finish them with a squeeze of lime. These little treats make a great snack, or a full meal if you order three or four.

The cooks at Establos also know their way around pork al pastor. If you’ve never experienced the joy of al pastor before, it is a Mexican adaptation of Middle-Eastern spit-grilled meat that has been marinated in a mixture of chiles and herbs. The al pastor here is chopped, whereas at some taquerias the al pastor comes thinly sliced.

We love the pastor on nachos or in a quesadilla. What’s fun about the nachos is that every bite is different — some heavy on meat and cheese, others smothered in guacamole and pico de gallo. We love the quesadilla for being minimalist (just meat and cheese pressed in a flour tortilla) and how it gives the meat a chance to fully shine.

And finally, if you are getting your food to go, a torta is a great option. The Milanesa torta is a soft bolillo roll filled with tender beef Milanesa (lightly breaded and fried) topped with guacamole, salsa and shredded lettuce. A full meal in a bun, it offers a great way to enjoy all of your favorite Mexican flavors on the run.

With low prices and a variety of dishes, value and taste reign supreme at Establos. So grab your wallet, even if it’s close to empty, and head on over. Oh, and if you have any room left after your meal, be sure to grab a coconut popsicle from the freezer on your way out the door.

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