Spring is hinting around and what better way to enjoy the coming weather than a short weekend excursion in search of great authentic Mexican food, right here in Middle Georgia?
Smiley's Flea Market has become a mishmash of several different cultures, from Southern to Asian to Mexican. We focused on three Mexican food stalls, in search of the best they had to offer.
We started near the carousel around the center of the complex, at Antojitos Mexicanos Malinalli. Housed in a little red food truck, the kitchen serves up excellent made-from-scratch sopes, pambazos and popusas -- the kind of food you might find at a Mexican family reunion. Once you decide on your format, choose between azada (grilled beef), chorizo (cured pork), pastor ("shepherd-style" pork), carnitas (slow cooked pork), barbacoa (slow cooked chuck roast), tripa (tripe), lengua (beef tongue), cabeza (beef cheek) and papa con chorizo (pork sausage with potato) for your meat.
We started with a couple of tortas, one filled with steak and the other with papa con chorizo. Both were tender, flavorful and very satisfying. For $6 each, the tortas are pressed diamond-shaped sandwiches. Even better was the fresh sope for only $2.50, a grilled corn cake that we had topped with stewed chicken. I would pass on the elotes, a $1.50 cup of corn mixed with mayonnaise, chili pepper and salt, unless you already like it.
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We washed these down with a soda and a cold horchata, a traditional drink made of rice water, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. They have picnic table seating and their health rating is 98.
Our next stop was La Bella Morella Taqueria y Frutas in the front of the main building. Everyone had this gorgeous drink that looked like a fiery sunset and ice, so we ordered the mangonada for $4. The orange was the naturally sweet mango, but the red was a spicy mix of chili powder and salt. They also have several agua frescas, water mixed with blended pineapple, cantelope, hibiscus or mango.
Starting to feel full, we kept it simple with a small steak quesadilla for $4.50 (a large is $6) and a Texano burrito for $6.50. The burrito was loosely filled with fresh avocado, shrimp, chicken and steak with a lime squeezed over it all. Our server highly recommended the tortas and sopes for next time. After dining at one of their six tables or bar stools, you can get dessert at the little bakery stall nearby. La Bella Morella's health rating is 90.
Since we had been to it before, we saved the best for last. Authentically Comida Hispana is at the west end of the building, near the back parking lot. Their health rating is only 86, but our Mexican expert said this was the most authentic of the three.
Papusas, a Salvadoran pocket sope for only $2 each, come with cheese, beans and pork stuffed inside a corn meal ball and are patted down to a pancake before being fried -- delicious! They even come with a bowl of pickled cabbage if you ask for it. We saw lots of customers getting plates of these and the $2 tacos. The tortas here are the largest we found during our visit, still at just $6, and the chorizo was fantastic.
Smiley's is a great stay-cation with so much good food just waiting for you to visit.
Mexican food stands at Smiley's Flea Market
Address: 6717 Hawkinsville Road, Macon
Hours: 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Payment: Cash, credit
Kids Menu: No
Noise Level: Low
Price range: $2-$6
Rating: 3.5 stars