The Mercado Roma, Part 1: Shop Til You Drop
Mexico is a City of markets: big, small, indoors and out. But many struggle to survive. Local governments, in their zest to placate gourmands and support small agri-business, build, re-do or recreate old-time markets. But they don’t always succeed. Lush, once thriving agoras are mercilessly exploited by governments and media hype-sters and become Disnifyed tourist sights; Barcelona’s beautiful but overrun Boquería is a sad example. Architecturally worthy but financially dying antiques are turned into upscale “gourmet” halls: case in point Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel. New York, meanwhile had little market culture, Union Square aside, when the Chelsea Market and Eataly sprung into being. They’re for shopping if you’ve got the dough. The ideal attracts devotees of high quality products, sold by the people that farm/grow/hunt/fish/make them. Some markets have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to lure newer generations with upscale temptations like wine bars and restaurants. If that will win customers over, bring it on. As long as there’s a good balance.
So now we have the Mercado Roma. Designed on the Chelsea/Eataly model as an upscale place to eat and shop, only open as of early June, it seems to be working. The three-tiered space, located on a previously forgotten stretch of Calle Querétaro, is tastefully done in contemporary retro. Black walls, discreet signage – at times too much so, making for confusion in identifying where, exactly, one is – and requisite old-time mosaic pattern floors are well combined. Unfortunately, the layout is designed like a Tepito electronics mart: aisles are cramped and confusing. There seems to be no main entry to the space and weekends are already a no-go time as foot traffic moves like the Periférico at rush hour. The hall houses a combination of chef-run lunch spots and purveyors of up-market foodstuffs. “It’s absolutely LOUSY with hipsters,” B. opined, as he surveyed the sea of bearded, little-hat and tattoo clad denizens who have already taken on the Roma as primo hotspot meeting place. Indeed, it's a niche market, but a welcome one. Generally speaking, culinary level is high. In part one I concentrate on what’s in store for shoppers. Many shops proffer products previously only available downtown, in the Central de Abastos or not at all.
Local cooks will be happy to be able to pick up a kilo of fresh clams, a couple of superb cheeses and a French pastry.
More shops sell imported cheeses, local agave products, Asian ingredients, coffee, and books. So shop 'til you drop. Next week, I’ll review the eating establishments.
Querétaro 225, between Medellín & Monterrey, 1 1/2 blocks from Av. Insurgentes
Open daily from 10-7
A note to my readers: My new video series, Provecho! debuts on Mexicoreporter.com; See: http://www.mexicoreporter.com/2014/06/24/provecho-a-mexican-classic-makes-its-come-back/
Fabienne says: Great Article!!!! A new Market...just when you think you got it ALL!!!! COOL....I recognize the pastéis de nata, To die for!!!!
Michael Parker S. says: I'm into it—sure, you can lament this or that folly, but gentrification means life for an old neighborhood like the Roma that was all but abandoned for dead after the '85 quake. Creating a "fashion" for traditional markets is urgently needed or you and I will end up fighting for the last icy tomato in Superama (a division of Wal-Mart, please note).
Guzina Oaxaca, at Mazaryk 513 (tel. 5282 1820) in Polanco is chef Alejandro Ruiz' venue for great Oaxacan cooking. It's worth a visit.
Casa Virginia is chef Mónica Patiño's latest venture, located above Delirio at the corner of Alvaro Obregón & Monterrey, the Porfiriana house is beautifully restored and home-style food is delicious Tel. 5207 1813
Sesame at Colima 183, Roma, is chef Josefina Santacruz' venue for authenically prepared Asian street snacks. Try the pho, it's divine.
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