Sunday, June 23, 2024

A walk through the Mexico City markets of Colonia La Condesa

If you like to explore or shop in Mexico City’s numerous and diverse markets, the Condesa neighborhood offers three.

In downtown Condesa which, by the way, must be the electric scooter app capital of the world, is the tiny Mercado Michoacán, a beautiful art deco building shared with one of the city’s many iterations of Café Toscano and surrounded by the pearls of modern suburbia: Wing’s Army, 7-11 and Panam Shoes.

Aside from the nearby El Centenario cantina, Mercado Michoacán is one of La Condesa’s few older businesses to survive into the 21st century. It’s definitely worth a stop in for the gringas and sopes, but Michoacán really only provides the basics: you’ve got your chicken guy, your beef guy, some general stores and fruits and veggies.

It’s always surprising there isn’t a larger market in Condesa but maybe Mercado Escandón supplies the need. At Frutería las Delicias, Camelia Ferreyra Olivares tells me that it’s mostly neighbors that come in or visiting foreigners.

“Restaurants will come to buy,” she says, “if they run out of something. But they have distributors, so they don’t buy from us regularly.”

• Mercado Michoacán is at the corner of Tamaulipas and Av. Vicente Suárez.

Every Tuesday, just blocks from Chapultepec Park, on the western edge of La Condesa lies the grande dame of Condesa-area street markets – Tianguis Condesa, the Condesa Tuesday Market.

Running along quaint Pachuca, lined with lush trees and quintessentially picturesque Mexico City architecture, Tianguis Condesa is a foragers’ paradise.

It’s best to come early, when the morning sun still feels good, before it gets too hot and the crowds form. The international food tours are ubiquitous, with foreigners learning about strange new fruits.

Melon and papaya pushers hand out samples and a hard sell, alongside vendors of clothing, cosmetics and housewares, all glowing pink under the CDMX-issued market tarps.

But the vegetables are the best reason to come, some of the most perfect produce you’re likely to find in the area, much of it sourced just outside of the city and likely picked only the day before.

Lilia Hernández has been selling fruits and dried nuts at the market for 40 years.
Lilia Hernández has been selling fruits and dried nuts at the market for 40 years.

• Tianguis Condesa runs along Pachuca from Veracruz to Juan de la Barrera from 10:00am to 5:00pm every Tuesday.

On the other end of Condesa, right of to the side of busy Avenida Nuevo León, is the Condesa Friday Street Market, where the atmosphere is thoroughly upbeat. It’s Friday, very likely payday, and the clientele appear to be feeling fine.

Every tiny plastic stool is occupied at the counter of the simply named Barbacoa, known for its barbacoa flautas and a variety of sopes, quesadillas and tacos.

A spunky gray-haired woman in a double smock, plain white over pink gingham, multi-tasks throughout the stand, quick on her feet – patting out tortillas, wiping down tables, taking orders. It’s incredibly crowded, but even if you can’t find a stool, you’ll be able to eat on your feet at Barbacoa.

The flautas are perfectly golden with the crunch that tells you they’re fresh, topped with crema and queso fresco. Don’t be shy with the salsas – there are buckets full of them behind the counter.

Local workers on lunch break and visiting tourists are the bread and butter of most street market restaurants, and they visit this tianguis about 50/50, I’m told. Rodrigo Reyes, who works in an office nearby, tells me, “We come every Friday to fill our stomachs before going out for drinks after work.”

The Doña holding it all together at Barbacoa at the Condesa Friday Street Market.
The Doña holding it all together at Barbacoa at the Condesa Friday Street Market.

Right behind Barbacoa, Pescados y Mariscos Los Pescaditos is almost equally busy. The fish cocktail “with everything” (meaning extra cocktail sauce, cilantro and avocado on top) is a perfect balance of lime, spice, crunchy bell peppers and a touch of extra sweetness.

Another specialty is the caldo de camarón, a deep red shrimp broth with plenty of richness to line the belly for a night on the town.

Moving away from the food vendors is a bit more of a local scene. At Ian Toys, Alejandro Mendoza washes a newly acquired action figure in a bucket of soap.

He’s been selling at the market for 20 years and specializes in older collectibles, like favorite superheroes and Star Wars and Jurassic Park figurines.

“Mostly adults buy the toys because kids are only into tablets these days — iPads,” he says, guessing that his clientele is about 80% adults and 20% kids.

“Kids don’t want to play with dolls,” he says with a smirk. “Some of my clients come about every week. I’ve had some clients for over 10 years, since they were kids.”

The beautiful fish cocktail from Los Pescaditos at Condesa Friday Market.
The beautiful fish cocktail from Los Pescaditos at Condesa Friday Market.

Most of the vendors move throughout the city, selling at a different street market every day, and despite Condesa’s fame as one of the city’s major tourist zones, I’m told sales are pretty equal on any given day.

But Tianguis de los Viernes is the fun one because everyone’s in a weekend kind of mood.

• Tianguis de los Viernes runs along Campeche from Saltillo to Ometusco and along Ometusco to Nuevo León every Friday until 5:00pm.

This is the second in a series on the markets and weekly tianguis (markets on wheels) of Mexico City.

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