Mystery Diner in Spring Valley: Lucero’s offers authentic Mexican cuisine along with grocery staples

Compact space is large on flavor

Tucked into a small storefront on Spring Valley’s St. Paul Street is Lucero’s, a supermarket and Mexican restaurant offering authentic, home-style Mexican cuisine along with grocery staples.

The store has limited eat-in seating, so for this taste test, my crew ordered in-store for carryout, selecting our favorites from a small, yet well-curated menu.

We sampled steak and ground beef burritos; a mixed enchilada platter, offering steak, chicken and cheese enchiladas with red sauce (verde sauce also is an option); quesabirria tacos; and a sampler, featuring steak, roasted pork and chorizo tacos served Mexican style with corn tortillas and cilantro and onion on top.

Tacos alternately can be ordered with flour tortillas, and topped with lettuce and cheese for those who prefer them American style. Dinners are accompanied by rice and beans, or the items can be ordered a la carte. Expect to pay about $10 for a dinner, with most a la carte items modestly priced at less than $6 to $7.

Lucero’s has a small meat counter, allowing patrons to order fresh meats used in its restaurant dishes, in addition to fresh-baked pastries, desserts and pantry staples.

The food is cooked to order in the small kitchen area behind the deli counter, permeating the air with the scent of grilled meat and cilantro.

All of my crew was satisfied with both the taste and large portions. The meats were perfectly seasoned and grilled, the tortillas fresh and authentic. A particular favorite was the quesabirria, with braised beef and melted cheese served on a thicker, almost flatbread-like tortilla, and grilled to perfection.

The burritos were stuffed full, and large enough for the biggest appetites. They were served with a good-sized side of seasoned rice and refried beans. The enchiladas, draped in a seasoned, but not overly spicy red sauce, were simply and freshly prepared. Each of the entrees came with a trio of salsas: verde, roja and a smoked roja, varying in degrees of spiciness.

Wanting to sample a dessert – for research purposes – we opted for a tres leches cake slice from the cooler, which is worth traveling to the store for on its own. Other desserts available include flan, pan dulces and paletas.

While we were there, we picked up a Mexican Coke – the restaurant offers a selection of Mexican soft drinks and beers – along with a couple bags of duros, Mexican wagon-wheel chips often found at street fairs.

Dinners on the menu include quesadilla, gordita, sope, enchilada, arrachera, tamales and fajitas.

Lucero’s is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It also has a food truck that makes regular visits in the Illinois Valley area.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee of Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.


WHAT: Lucero’s

WHERE: 211 W. St. Paul St., Spring Valley

PHONE: 815-663-8425

Lucero’s is located at 211 W. St. Paul Street in Spring Valley and is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.