South America

What to expect: Even though Mexico is technically part of North America, many of the generic Hispanic markets and stores in Columbus center around imported Mexican products, and that's why they're lumped together here.

In a typical Hispanic supermercado, you'll find a small selection of fresh produce - load up on cheap cilantro and limes, and check out more exotic stuff like chayote (cactus) - a meat counter and a large selection of canned and packaged goods.

Best buys include chorizo, a smoky paprika-flavored pork sausage that's difficult to find in regular grocery stores, jars of the famously complex mole sauce, and small wheels of chihuahua cheese, a silky-smooth specialty that's great for making Tex-Mex favorites like quesadillas and queso dip.

For a souvenir, pick up a colorful pinata filled with penny candy or a molcajete, a porous stone mortar and pestle perfect for making fresh salsas and guacamole.

WILL SHILLING PHOTO

La Michoacana

2175 Morse Rd., North Side

614-471-4500

There are five locations of this popular Mexican grocery, but the main store, on Morse Road, is also the largest. Lining the shelves are every kind of dried bean imaginable, tons of spices and dried chiles, and ground masa, a cornmeal-like flour used in tamales. Delicious beverages include sugary Mexican sodas, Mexican beers like Pacifico and Sol, and ready-to-drink horchata, a milky beverage sweetened with cinnamon and vanilla. Among the non-food items are tortilla warmers, traditional Catholic relics and a bunch of pinatas. Attached is a small taqueria restaurant turning out homemade tamales, tacos and carne asada.

Terra Brasil

5187 N. High St., Beechwold

614-785-9773

Telenovelas play on the TV at this tiny Brazilian store, which carries imported cosmetics, favorite Brazilian clothing labels and a small selection of groceries. You can sample the popular O Boticaro perfumes, pick up Brazilian pomades and hair treatments or try out the country's favorite drinks, like Cafe Pilao coffee and Guarana Antarctica, an exotic fruity soda. Other intriguing finds were pudding-like powdered mixes for flan and chocolate mole.

La Metapaneca

4421 E. Main St., Whitehall

614-236-8407

This tiny shop markets itself as being "100 percent Salvadorean," though you'll also find a few offerings from neighboring Honduras. Good buys include fresh loaves of semita, a Salvadorean sweet bread; packages of pure cane sugar; and frozen tamales and empenadas. There are also a number of interesting drink options, like Salvadorean hot cocoa spiked with cinnamon and a powdered drink mix in hibiscus, mango, tamarind and cantaloupe flavors. Near the register up front are racks full of El Salvador-themed T-shirts, flags, bottle openers and cell phone cases, as well as a few CDs.

Also worth checking out:

Cuco's Mexican Taqueria, 2162 Henderson Rd., Northwest Side; 614-538-8701

This foodie favorite for authentic Mexican cuisine also has a small grocery section up front with imported candies, salsas and beverages.

La Casa del Pueblo, 796 Bethel Rd., Northwest Side; 614-459-0695

Head to this South American supermarket for your sugar fix. You'll find a bunch of candies and sweet snacks made from tamarind, a sweet-and-sour tropical fruit. There's also a well-stocked bakery case of freshly made sweet breads, rolls and cookies.

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