Mexican eatery offers balanced indulgence with grilled meats, fresh pastries

Tacos at Caminos de Michoacan: Mexican sausage (from left), spicy pork and steak, served with diced onion, radish and cilantro.

Photo by Dave Darnell // Buy this photo

Tacos at Caminos de Michoacan: Mexican sausage (from left), spicy pork and steak, served with diced onion, radish and cilantro.

So many Mexican restaurants have sprung up on Macon Road that it's giving Summer Avenue a run for the money. I recently met a friend for lunch at Caminos de Michoachan and spied her parked about 100 feet from me, waiting in front of another restaurant. We both stepped back and looked at the signs to double-check before we walked in the right place, and were immediately enveloped by the sweet aroma of baking pastry and consumed with carnivorous lust from the smell of grilling meat.

I was at odds, feeling both comforted and primal. But as I indulged heartily, I was back in balance before I left.

Tacos at Caminos de Michoacan: Mexican sausage (from left), spicy pork and steak, served with diced onion, radish and cilantro.

Photo by Dave Darnell

Tacos at Caminos de Michoacan: Mexican sausage (from left), spicy pork and steak, served with diced onion, radish and cilantro.

Dozens of sweet and savory pastries are made fresh at Caminos' panaderia.

Dozens of sweet and savory pastries are made fresh at Caminos' panaderia.

 Mariela Rodriguez delivers a fajitas combo to a table at Caminos de Michoachan. The combination taqueria and bakery is one of many Mexican restaurants springing up along Macon Road.

Mariela Rodriguez delivers a fajitas combo to a table at Caminos de Michoachan. The combination taqueria and bakery is one of many Mexican restaurants springing up along Macon Road.

The salsa verde served with the chips is a particularly tasty version, bursting with not just heat but also the big flavors of cilantro and garlic. It's got a bite, but it is the perfect foil to the creamy guacamole.

There are two basic good guacamole salads (and several bad ones): One is chunky pieces of avocado dressed with lime juice and tossed with onion, tomato, cilantro and peppers. It's sprightly and refreshing. The second contains the same fresh ingredients, but the avocado is first mashed until creamy. This one, lush and soft, is the one Caminos de Michoachan serves. It's excellent, and so generously served that we didn't finish it.

All of the basics are covered: tortas (served on big pillows of bread baked in-house), sopes, gorditas, enchiladas, burritos and so on. All of these (except possibly the burrito, which I didn't try) are exemplary examples of what we've come to think of as authentic Mexican around here. The chilaquiles, tortillas simmered in salsa (verde for me) and served with eggs on top, are a cut above any others. The sauce truly permeates the tortillas, which are served on the dry side instead of swimming in sauce.

Mary and Leo Perez owned a Mexican restaurant in Chicago and moved to Memphis about five years ago to run Taqueria Guadalupana, now owned by Leo's relatives. The Perezes opened Caminos de Michoachan in Raleigh but moved to the Macon Road location in 2008 and combined the taqueria with the panaderia -- the bakery.

Dozens of pastries line one wall. Empanadas filled with dulce le leche, Bavarian cream or fruit; cookies; doughnuts; several varieties of puff pastries, some topped with cinnamon and sugar and some filled; conchas (sweet bread with sugared tops); and the savory desayuno. The latter is a small loaf of soft bread with cream cheese and jalapeno peppers baked inside. For breakfast, the loaves are split and toasted with beans, ham and additional cheese -- and it's $1.50.

Of all the dishes, and we tried quite a few over three visits, the shrimp in garlic sauce is the one I'll find myself craving frequently. It's a simple creation, and not oily like so many versions. Cloves of garlic are sliced and quickly sauteed with medium-sized, yet plump and flavorful, shrimp. They're served on a bed of rice, nestled between refried beans and a simple salad of lettuce, tomato and avocado.

The tacos bear special mention, too. They're served on corn tortillas with your choice of meat (steak, pork, chicken, chorizo or tongue) and topped with diced onion, radish and cilantro. A grilled green onion and on request, grilled jalapeno peppers are served alongside. Two of them will set you back about $4. Combine cheap and good, and it equals muy bueno.

-- Jennifer Biggs: 529-5223

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Caminos de Michoachan

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

Address: 3896 Macon Road

Telephone: (901) 458-5550

Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

Reviewer's choices: Tacos ($1.80-$2); shrimp in garlic sauce ($9.50); tortas ($5); chilaquiles ($7); desayuno ($1 or $1.50 with beans, ham and cheese).

Alcohol: No alcohol

STAR RATINGS

Poor: Zero stars

Good: One star

Very Good: Two stars

Excellent: Three stars

Extraordinary: Four stars

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Comments » 3

8tstrick#408492 writes:

The caption underneath the picture of the pasties reads “sweet and savory.” I would agree with savory, but it has been my experience, as the refined white sugar American that I am, that Mexican pastries and desserts in general are not as sweet as they may appear to be, which is probably a good thing. I have noticed on recent trips to Mexico that some pastries seem to have been made sweeter probably to appease tourist, which I think is bad. It is sad to see “Americanized versions” of traditional Mexican food, especially people wanting to have cheese dip with everything.

Jets writes:

Which Macon Road? There's one in Bartlett by Southwest TN Community College and another south of Summer. I'm intrigued by the radish embellishment on the tacos -- you normally just see radishes served with posole. I want to try this place!

annmulhearn#298449 writes:

the one inside the loop - I googled the address - looks like you turn north off Summer via Graham and then left on Macon - it should be between Graham and Maria St. I plan on visiting very soon!

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