At luxury hotels in Latin America, you are often shielded from the local marketplaces. In Quito’s UNESCO world heritage colonial center, which is not an upscale district by any means, there are now a half dozen beautifully restored colonial buildings turned hotels, though only one that I know of is encouraging you to step out and see how the locals really live.
The Mercado Central in Cuzco is in giant warehouse a few blocks away from the main plaza. Unofficially, it also stretches towards the railway tracks, becoming more gritty as it does. The warehouse houses a lot of food stalls, with large sections devoted solely to either fruit drinks, snacks and… Read More →
If it is Friday in Puerto Rico head to the highland village of San Sebastian near the northwest corner of the country, where the local Farmer’s Market is in full swing. It’s not nearly as well known or trendy as San Juan’s Santurce market, rather it’s a rural outdoor collection of stands nowhere near a luxury beach resort
For more than 120 years Mendoza, Argentina’s Mercado Central (central market) has occupied the same place a few minutes from the center plaza. Not overly polished or touristy, it’s an inexpensive break from the slick eateries that dominate central Mendoza. There’s no glossy finish, just the raw, grit deal. Butcher’s chop up bloody innards. Spice stalls intoxicate. Old school yellers push fish or meat or slices of pizza.
Peru’s capital of the south of Arequipa, the country’s second largest city and an agricultural powerhouse, is part of an extremely gastronomically unique region. Arequpeñan cuisine is renowned the country over for its high quality prawns, rocoto peppers, cheeses, piscos, oilves and olive oils, beans, grains, and alpaca meat. The city is full of great restaurants and talented chefs, but it’s the San Camillo market that really grabs the pulse of the city. The sprawling market that sits just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas is one of Peru’s most lively.
Brazil’s traffic clogged city of 20 million is one of the best restaurant cities in Latin America and it also has one of the best public markets. The 135,000-square-foot Mercado Municipal Paulistano near estación São Bento, was built in the 1930’s and recently renovated, is my number one choice for a meal downtown.
The markets of Oaxaca, Mexico draw tourists from across the world who come to shop for the unique and wide array of traditional Mexican crafts, foods, and to soak in the enchanting atmosphere.
Not far from the Señor Frog’s restaurant and jewelry shops where the more than one ginormous cruise ship docks each day in Cozumel’s main town of San Miguel, there’s a small market serving the local population. Few tourists venture past Avenida 10, so the market sits several blocks beyond the border of where real Cozumel begins.
Amazonian markets tend to be either great or terrible. Some rely heavily on local produce and gather fruits and vegetables from the surrounding rivers, while others seem to be just drop off points for processed and packaged food. Pucallpa’s Mercado Numero 2, just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, is great.
The foodie set in Lima, particularly Gaston Acurio, has been pushing for special status of this market in Surquillo, a few blocks from Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. Products from around the country can be found here: fruits from the Amazon, chiles and potatoes and buckets of quinoa from the Andes, fresh seafood from the coast. You can buy kitchen utensils. I spent the equivalent of $10 a year ago on wooden spoons and other handmade tools. If I picked up the same items in the States, I would have spent $100 easily. Other things I’ve found here include a beautiful 2kg octopus for a backyard grilling, a bottle of cumari peppers from the jungle, and Andean potatoes that are far too rare for the Supermarkets.