Hispanic supermarket chain Cardenas Markets opened its first Tucson location at 902 W. Irvington Rd. on Wednesday, November 20.
Ontario, California-based Cardenas Markets, one of the leading Hispanic supermarket chain in the US, acquired Los Altos Ranch Market in 2017. Los Altos has seven locations in the Greater Phoenix area.
While Tucson already has a significant volume of Hispanic grocers, we swung by Cardenas to see how they stand out. Here are some of our favorite aspects.
1. Build-your-own antojitos bar.
Antojitos, which translates to snacks, have their own buffet station at Cardenas. For $6.99, you combine your choice of crunch, toppings, and sauces. You can grab a bag of Tostitos and fill it with a variety of fruits, vegetables, ceviches, hot sauces, and more.
2. Cardenas Market is one of the cleanest grocery stores we've ever visited.
Even though the store is only a few weeks old, the cleanliness throughout the entire store is impressive. Counters are all shiny and even nooks and crannies are free of debris.
3. You can get everything you need to make your own tamales and tortillas.
While corn husks and steam pots aren't hard to come across, Cardenas stands out with a variety of prepared masa. You can get spicy masa for your red chile tamales, or grab a bag of pumpkin masa and some pineapple jelly for some interesting dessert tamales.
The equipment corner is also well-stocked with various sizes of tortilla presses and comales. The low-walled comal helps with easy tortilla flipping; the long oval-shaped comal helps with oval-shaped foods such as huaraches.
4. The produce selection is abundant, fresh, and affordable. It also features various hard-to-find items.
For fresh peppers, Cardenas features all the Mexican classics along with fresh Thai bird's eye peppers and red Fresnos.
Cardenas also carries abundant dragon fruit and its cousin pitahaya amarilla.
In case you need your fresh sugar cane the height of an NBA player, Cardenas has those too.
5. The expansive carniceria features both obscure and convenient options.
Whether you need cow lips (yes, cow lips) as part of an authentic tacos de cabeza recipe or a variety bundle of marinated meats for the grill, Cardenas has you covered.
6. You can try unique Mexican flavors of instant ramen.
Whether you're an instant ramen connoisseur or just curious, peek at Cardena's Maruchan flavors. Chili Piquin & Shrimp, Chipotle Chicken, and Chicken Tortilla are just a handful of the standout flavors you won't find at an Asian market.
While the reasons above were our favorites, Cardenas also features many other Hispanic market staples that make it worth visiting. We might have spent a full hour there peeking at the pan dulce, tamale bar, grills lined with whole chickens, bubbling cauldrons of carnitas, and fresh tortilla stations. Oh, and they have multiple types of crema too.
Operating hours are 6 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit cardenasmarkets.com.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...