Hidden in the southside's unassuming Scandia Village shopping plaza off of Reed Market Road is the most authentic Mexican food joint I have found in Bend to date. Reyes Tortilleria owners Carlos and Martha Reyes of Michoacán, Mexico, started the business in 2003 simply as a tortilleria. Their amazing fresh corn tortillas, only $2.70 for a roughly half-foot stack, now sit displayed in the back corner of what has expanded into a heavily trafficked Mexican market, deli, bakery and eatery.
This is truly one-stop shopping for all things Mexican from piñatas to soap, sunglasses to conchas (Mexican sweet bread), calling cards to cabeza de puerco (pig's head). The kitchen is the centerpiece of Reyes, serving a refreshingly less Americanized version of Mexican fare from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
You will find the comforts of burritos, enchiladas and tacos here - which I admit tempted my cautious palate on most visits - amongst the rarer items like tamales de elote (sweet corn), camarones (shrimp) a la diabla, and mojarra frita (fried tilapia fish). It is by no means solely the rarity of some menu items that sets Reyes apart from the myriad Mexican restaurants in town; the difference is clear in the organization of their simple menu and the careful execution of their dishes, which lack the bland drowning of sour cream and greasy ground beef.
My dinning partner pushed me out of the confines of my bean and cheese burrito habit that I have developed after years of forced refried bean abstinence in New England, and into uncharted territory. We chose torta de jamon ($5.25), mojarra frita ($7.99), and a tamale de puerco ($1.50).
Although simple, the menu may intimidate some diners less familiar with the terminology of Mexican cuisine. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more are simply listed as such with a choice of carnes (meats) - many of them likely unfamiliar to most diners on their first trip to the eatery. After ordering, I meandered around the market exploring their unique collection of grocery and household items. The front room houses the convenience items, chips, candies, snacks, sodas, with a small semi-walled off dining area to the right. The larger back room with a ceiling covered in looming piñatas offers the otherwise hard-to-find Mexican grocery items, a deli, and a glass display case filled with bakery items.
In their extensive spice and herb section you will find large whole cinnamon sticks, cones of whole tamarind, backs of Flor de Jamaica (hibiscus), whole avocado leaves (apparently a hidden secret ingredient in some Mexican cuisine), various herbal teas, Arnica flowers, and more common spices like cumin. The deli offers bulk items like jerky, chorizo, queso fresco, fried pork skins, cabeza de rez (cow's head), cabeza de puerco pig's head and manteca de puerco (pork lard). Most customers seemed to be there for the grocery items and nearly each one brought up to the counter a plastic lunch tray with a towering assortment of bakery items.
In just a short time, our food was served to us at our table along with a steaming container of their fresh corn tortillas and offerings of additional sauces. The Mojarra Frita was served on a huge plate, a whole fried tilapia fish as the centerpiece accompanied by beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, queso fresco and Mexican crema salad. The whole dish was excellent with the added fun of ripping the fish apart yourself and constructing delectable bites by rolling each part into a warm tortilla.
I had my doubts about ordering the torta de jamon, but after giving into the cravings of my friend's sandwich-loving ways, I was pleasantly surprised. The bun was grilled yet soft with a smear of refried beans, green sauce, grilled ham and the same salad-like mixture featured with all dishes. And finally, the tamale de Puerco was the best tamale I have had in Bend. It was simple, spicy and warmly satisfying.
Don't be fooled by the signature laminated meal photographs, Reyes Tortilleria is no ordinary Mexican eatery. Best of all, the food is extremely economical. You can mix and match to get a nice variety with $1.50 tamales, $1.65 tacos, $1.65 enchiladas and $1.99 tostadas or leave full and happy with a $5.25 burrito or an entree from between $7.99 to $9.99.
1155 SW Division ST. Suite A5, 541-383-2085, reyestortilleria.com