FM 517 in Dickinson, Texas is an unremarkable stretch of country road that's the main gateway to San Leon, Texas, and the legendary Gilhooley's Oyster Bar. Oysters lovers from around the world have made the pilgrimage down FM 517 to the little oyster shack on Galveston Bay.
But nearby, other culinary delights await. Lining the route are barbecue and seafood joints, along with small restaurants that reflect the changing demographics of the area. Evidence of the influx of Hispanic residents is everywhere, with one of the best examples being the Oaxaca Meat Market in Dickinson.
Sitting side-by-side with Ronnie's Hog Heaven Ice House ("Boobies make me smile!") in a gritty strip center at the intersection of FM 517 and Dickinson Avenue, Oaxaca is a deli, meat market and convenience store featuring products from its namesake Oaxaca region of Mexico.
The meat market's in the back of the store, behind the impossibly narrow aisles filled with packaged convenience store products. A giant display case stretching the width of the store reveals just about every cut of meat imaginable. And like at many carnecerías, the butchers work directly behind the counter, not in a separate, inaccessible room the way they do in many American supermarkets. There's no need to worry about poor hygiene when you can see the preparation area in front of you.
The stars of the meat display are the giant, puffy sheets of chicharrones de puerco -- seasoned and fried strips of pork skin (known as pork rinds in the US). Also featured are chicharrones de res -- a beef version of the popular snack that's much denser and often has chunks of meat still attached.
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At the front of the market is a hot deli counter serving many standard taqueria favorites such as barbacoa and picadillo tacos. A specialty of the Oaxaca region is the tamale oaxaqueño, an oversize tamale dish in which the masa, meat and seasonings are tied up in a banana leaf and steamed. Oaxaca Meat Market makes a fantastic one. The masa is silky-smooth, moist and well-seasoned. Its generous chunks of marinated pork are falling-apart tender. And what appears to be a mole rojo, or red mole sauce, ties everything together.
At less than $2 each, a couple of these Oaxacan tamales and a Mexican Coke offer a far tastier and even cheaper alternative to a typical fast-food meal. And if you're still hungry, you can always get a bag of chicharrones to go.
Oaxaca Meat Market 4339 FM 517 Rd E Dickinson 281-534-8790