Whoever said you can't spend a pleasant afternoon in South Houston hasn't been to Mi Tienda (or to Pho Binh, but that's a different blog post altogether). The Hispanic-centric concept store from H-E-B opened on Spencer Highway in 2006 and has been packing in the crowds every day since then.
Given the enormous popularity of Mi Tienda (1630 Spencer Highway) and competing concepts like Supermercado de Walmart, I wonder why H-E-B hasn't opened more than just this one store. I can think of at least a dozen neighborhoods offhand that would embrace a Mi Tienda of their very own.
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What makes the store unique is how deliberately focused on the Hispanic demographic it is: all employees are required to be bilingual and most are native Spanish speakers; women slice bright green cactus paddles (seen in the photo to the right) and bag them up for fresh nopales; piñatas and fairy lights hang from the ceiling over a food court that serves barbacoa, aguas frescas and all manner of Mexican and Cuban foods; a mechanized tortilleria churns out immense quantities of hot tortillas all day long.
On the down side, the store's low ceilings and dim lights don't showcase the store to its full potential. Despite the 24-hour-fiesta-people aesthetic afforded by streamers hanging from signs and the ubiquitous piñatas, Mi Tienda can be a little depressing when you're crammed into a crowded aisle that's barely lit, surrounded by trampled fruit and discarded samples of quesadillas.
On the other hand, being able to grab a hot churro de cajeta on the way out can certainly make up for a multitude of sins.
For more photos from Mi Tienda, check out our slideshow.