Mexico Life
The entrance to the best seafood and barbacoa in Coyoacán – Mercado Coyoacán. The entrance to the best seafood and barbacoa in Coyoacán – Mercado Coyoacán.

You’ll find art at Mercado Coyoacán, but the main attraction is food

For seafood and barbacoa it’s worth its weight in pesos

Mexico City’s Coyoacán, meaning “place of coyotes” in Náhuatl, is known as the city’s historic artistic center, thanks largely to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s influence on the neighborhood.

At Coyoacán Market, just a few blocks from the Frida Kahlo Museum, the lasting influence is apparent.

On weekends, facing the market at Parque Allende, local artists sell their (often quite good) freshly painted canvases. And inside the market is filled with bright and beautiful Tehuana fabrics, handmade bags and leather goods, and an overabundance of Frida Kahlo t-shirts and novelties.

The real draw of Mercado Coyoacán, however, is the food. Because of the huge tourist draw, everything can be a bit more expensive, but when it comes to seafood and barbacoa in particular, it’s worth its weight in pesos.

Early afternoon on a weekday – when the longest line is for the watch repair and the kid shredding a guitar along with Bohemian Rhapsody barely turns a head – is a perfect time to miss the crowds. But if you’re traveling in a duo or smaller, a Saturday or Sunday afternoon will provide the best neighborhood people watching.

Trapped inside the menu at Tostadas Coyoacán
Trapped inside the menu at Tostadas Coyoacán.

Here are some of our favorite places to snack, or completely overindulge, at Mercado Coyoacán.

El Jardín del Pulpo

Spilling slightly out on to the sidewalk at the market entrance, on the corner of Malintzin and Ignacio Allende, is the gold standard for Coyoacán seafood delights, The Octopus’s Garden.

Although slightly pricey, the lobster and langostino plates are truly some of the best in Mexico City, and their shrimp cocktails and smoked marlin can hold their own against any marisquería. Toss on some of their housemade habanero salsa for an added kick; just be forewarned that it’s HOT.

Ostionería El Limoncito

Known for the big-hearted grace, and sometimes wild antics, of its owner, Don Salvador, El Limoncito has been a Coyoacán Market mainstay for 30 years. They’re consistently lauded for their ceviches and seafood cocktails, but the fried fish tacos are one of the absolute gems of the market. And with a three-course seafood meal for 100 pesos, you really can’t afford to stay away.

Sit at the counter of Limoncito and read the board out loud – nothing there to disappoint
Sit at the counter of Limoncito and read the board out loud – nothing there to disappoint.

Tostadas Coyoacán

One of the best known stands in the Mercado, Tostadas Coyoacán is mostly responsible for the market’s world-tostada-renown, and it’s certainly for good reason. Their bright yellow menus offer dozens of topping choices – octopus, various ceviche and mole mixes, pig’s foot – many with photos.

There are six separate bar-style eating areas, with patrons seated facing each other to spark conversation. Sitting at shining yellow countertops, surrounded by giant blown-up menu items printed on yellow tarps, you get the feeling you’re actually inside the menu.

These are serious tostadas, piled high with goodness, and come out about 45 seconds after ordering – from the heaps of fresh toppings behind the counter. It’s a lively scene, with waiters-cum-barkers shouting, “There’s room over here! There’s room over here!” – a bit Disneyland, slightly crazy, but definitely tasty.

Cocina Mary

For the simple comida corrida (three courses for 55 pesos) or the standard market fare, try out Cocina Mary. It’s busy, even early on weekdays, but there’s always room at the counter. The enchiladas are famed among local workers, and the pozole on Saturdays and Sundays runs out quickly.

Always a happy crowd at the counter of Cocina Mary
Always a happy crowd at the counter of Cocina Mary.

El Borrego de Oro

Barbacoa – whole roasted or stewed sheep — is a long-running weekend tradition in Coyacán, and El Borrego de Oro is a neighborhood favorite. Only open Saturdays and Sundays, The Golden Sheep is located toward the back of the market and most often enjoyed straight from Sunday mass, so be be careful not to drip grease on the good church clothes.

The deliciously tender shreds of meat are usually placed simply on a tiny tortilla or fried in a taquito, with just a bit of onion and cilantro on top. But for the deeply unctuous, full barbacoa flavor, try some barbacoa bone broth consommé with rice and garbanzos – known to be the ideal cure for a hangover.

Mixiotes

Right nearby is the only mixiote stand in the market, also open Saturdays and Sundays. Mixiote is meat (usually mutton, chicken, goat, or pork) seasoned with pasilla and guajillo peppers (and a variety of other spices) and char barbecued on the bone inside the outer skin of the tough maguey leaf – adding a strong, smokey, bittersweet flavor. On a tortilla with a squeeze of lime or topped with onions is the preferred way to enjoy mixiote. Add a cold beer and your weekend is all set.

• Mercado Coyoacán runs along Malintzin between Ignacio Allende and Abasolo, open from 8:00am to about 7:00pm daily.

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

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