Sunday, June 23, 2024

MercadoRoma, a Mexican public market reimagined for the 21st century

Following the common custom of contemporary Colonia Roma, MercadoRoma begins with a pet boutique — Woow Guau, a flash of colorful, artisan-influenced collars, vests, sweaters and capes for the most fashionable and patriotic of Mexico City’s tailed citizenry.

Sure, nearly every mercado has pet supplies, but MercadoRoma is a bit different, modernized, curated.

MercadoRoma opened its doors in 2014 as “the first gourmet market in Mexico City, where product, quality, food, and architecture coexist.” It’s the Mexican public market reimagined for the 21st century, chock full of newfangled foods, handcrafted goods and other artisanal offerings.

The market opens up into an opera of world culinary fusions set behind bright orange counters that elicit the old-school Mexican lonchería, with a chic repurposed warehouse vibe and more angles than a graduate level geometry class. The winding, offset counters encourage you to get lost in food discovery.

Dive into sweets and treats like Theurel & Thomas macaroons, La Otilia gluten-free bakery and the insanely gorgeous chocolate creations of Chef José Ramón Castillo of QuéBo! Or travel the world of taco fusion with La Taque or ITALIANTaco.

The entrance to the Roma Norte's market of culinary delights, MercadoRoma
The entrance to the Roma Norte’s market of culinary delights, MercadoRoma.

Eat at the restaurant counter or one the large and lively communal tables in the back. MercadoRoma encourages its patrons to try something (or many things) new.

Perfect prime beef cuts, paella, handmade sausages, Hindu, Arabic and Italian classics, and nearly every region of Mexico are represented. MercadoRoma is also great for vegan and vegetarian options with, among others, Gold Taco serving some of Mexico City’s best rated vegan tacos.

“The idea of introducing this format of social food was inspired by other similar spaces around the world,” explains public relations director Fernanda Vasconcelos. “And the objective has always been to offer the public the best gastronomic experience, changing the dialogue between chef and diner, to create a unique and special social moment.”

The communal tables buzz with laughter from a mostly 20-something crowd. English, French and Russian mix with Spanish to give the impression that we’re on some kind of university Esperanto retreat.

The smiles are big. There doesn’t appear to be a bummed customer among them as we sit down to our salmon bowl with chile morita and peanut dressing from Kome Comida Oriental. It’s fresh and spicy, with toasted sesame seeds, avocado, rice and pickled cabbage, carrots and scallions.

Beer and mezcal cocktails flow heavily for a Monday afternoon as the staff of Palomiux takes advantage of the patrons’ altered states to push weird and wild gourmet popcorn flavors from table to table.

The fresh tuna bowl from Kome
The fresh tuna bowl from Kome.

At Tinto MX, the passionate oenophiles serve up specialty boutique wines and cocktails. Their wines are all Mexican, mostly from Baja California – particularly the new international hotspot of Valle de Guadalupe. But Tinto MX works to support the tiniest, hardest-to-find wine producers from around the country, many of whom don’t even have proper distribution.

Tinto MX has five to six reds, three whites and two rosés always available to try out by the glass, or take home the bottle of your choice. They serve up classic wine cocktails like clericots, kalimotxos and tintos de verano, but the current favorite is the white wine mojito with lime, mint and a touch of sugar, topped off with sparkling water.

If mezcal is more to your liking, Finca Robles offers a generous variety of the maguey distillate. They too specialize in small producers, some creating as few as 100-200 bottles at a time.

Gustavo Faro tells me his customers are mostly foreigners. “They often know more about mezcal than most Mexicans,” he says. “And each time they come to learn a little bit more.”

Finca Robles’ bottles change completely about every three months, depending on what styles are currently in production, and they bottle their own brand in Sola de Vega, Oaxaca.

Just above, on the mezzanine, are some of the gift-worthy goods, like Botanicus natural soaps, scents, and lotions; the wonderful salsas, spices and marmalades from Chilipines; and Uchiya, with chef-quality Japanese knives and cute home goods.

Finca Robles offers a number of boutique mezcal producers
Finca Robles offers a number of boutique mezcal producers.

All the way upstairs, on the roof terrace, Grüner Hof Biergarten, overlooking Calle Querétaro, is a pleasantly shaded, mellow respite from the afternoon sun. Their craft beers go deep, and the bratwurst and blonde tourists give an authentic taste of Germany.

Next door, Cigar Point tends to a bit more of an upscale audience, with a fully-stocked humidor and mid-century modern design in leather and dark wood. They have one of the largest, very serious, scotch and whiskey lists you’re likely to find outside of Polanco, along with other cigar-sipping favorites like tequila, rum, cognac and all the French and Italian liqueurs that can be hard to come by in Mexico.

The terrace begins to heat up when the post-work, happy-hour crowd files in. And it can turn into a pretty big party well into the night. Adds PR director Vasconcelos, “MercadoRoma always keeps our audience excited about events, happenings, activations and other content we offer, to create experiences beyond the culinary.”

They have stand-up comedy nights, a monthly card of classical and contemporary jazz groups and regular DJ sets that are well-rooted in the local community.

“As more gourmet markets and similar culinary projects have developed,” says Vasconcelos, “it’s led to an increase in local gastronomy, and more brands and independent projects have emerged that seek to leave a mark on the history of the kitchen.”

Stop in for some sweets, have a bite to eat while you shop for gifts or come to party on DJ nights – you can find it all at MercadoRoma.

• MercadoRoma is located at Calle Querétaro 225, Roma Norte, open daily at 9:00am till late. Check the website for actual opening and closing times for each market level and business.

This is the fifth in a series on the bazaars, flea markets and markets of Mexico City:

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