Merced Market is Mexico City’s (and North America’s) largest market and it sells anything and everything that one could possibly need. Located on the fringe of the Zocalo neighborhood, a visit to the Merced Market can be overwhelming, and possibly a bit scary, especially for non-Spanish speakers. As such, Dan and I booked a tour of the Merced Market with a local tour company – Eat Mexico – to eat some good food and explore the market.
Our tour started right in the heart of the Zocalo, across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Our guide was easy to find and quite friendly, speaking perfect English. Shortly after meeting our tour guide, we proceed to the Metro a few stops. I was interested to experience the Metro, but somewhat intimidated to use on my own. However, there was nothing to be worried about; it is easier and cleaner than New York’s metro, and we arrived at our destination easily and quickly.
Our Merced Market tour started with a walk through the general market to get to the food section. This was a little crazy – they seriously sell everything there – from shoes, to communion decor, to literally everything else.
Our first foodie stop was a stall that had ripped off the McDanold’s logo – Tacos McTeo. Tacos McTeo was quite happening and everything was prepared right in front of us. At Tacos McTeo, our guide ordered each of us a cecina enchilada taco with cactus, onions, and french fries. In short, the cecina enchilada taco is a pork soft taco toped with spicy salsa, french fries, and cactus. Just next to the cooking station at Tacos McTeo, there were a variety of salsas, which were so spicy we were all crying. I tried them all. In any case, these tacos were amazing and are a definite strong contender for my favorite dish of the entire trip!
One taco down, we moved a couple stops down (no formal name) for a traditional Mexican breakfast food – fried tamales and horchata! Our fried tamale was deep fried with pork fat (an old Catholic tradition in Mexico) and stuffed with pork and a mild green salsa. The tamale was really good, but also extremely filling! I could not have one of these every day.
To accompany our tamale, we enjoyed a selection of three types of horchata – original, chocolate, and a vanillaish one. Served hot, these were also good and quite filing.
We, luckily for us, did a good bit more walking before arriving at our second taco of the day at 5 Hermanos! During this walk, we really got into the market, including seeing whole, uncooked chickens, raw meat, and lots and lots of vegetables.
At 5 Hermanos, we had the option of tasting a brisket or tripe tacos Not surprisingly, I went with the brisket while Dan ordered the tripe. Like the previous taco stand, 5 Hermanos also had a variety of delicious sauces (not quite as spciy) and a plant (I forget the name) for dressing the taco. While I completely forgot the name (anyone know it?), people either love or hate the plant, kind of like cilantro. While I did not love it, I also did not hate it and would definitely try it again. In any case, these tacos were on point!!
After taco # 2 at 5 Hermanos, we walked though the market a bit more, really getting into the vegetable area. Along the way, we saw lots of peppers and vegetables, and we eventually stopped at a mole stand for a small mole tasting of about 6 moles… Honestly, I am not really certain I knew what mole was prior to this visit, but there are so, so many types of moles! I could not tell you may favorite…
Much more educated about mole, we moved on to our next proper stop, and my least favorite stop of the trip – Señora Edith’s Pre-hispanic Ingredients. I.e., insects and other creepy crawlies. Dan tried a lot of weird things here; I abstained from this particular tour stop… In any case, it was certainly interesting to visit AND a lot of people in Mexico still eat these types of foods! Señora Edith’s Pre-hispanic Ingredients’ is right in the middle of the cactus section of the Merced Market, but no pictures of that allowed (not sure why)!
After the insect portion of our tour, we made our way to a part of the outdoor section of Merced Market, which apparently can be quite dicey after dark. That being said, it was totally fine during the day, even if we were not on a tour. We first stopped at a literal street stand called Tacos de Cabeza where there was quite the line. Turns out, the stand sells beef head tacos – your choice of part of the head. Tacos de Cabeza cooks only a limited number of beef heads a day, so go in the early part of the day. Apparently, they sell out frequently!
At this point in the tour, I was honestly quite full, but there were more stops – the next one just across at street at a sit down establishment called El Pollo. El Pollo is an old restaurant (more like a hole in the wall, without any walls) that is popular with all the neighborhood locals, as well as visitors. Our waiter was super nice and loved practicing his English with us. At El Pollo, we enjoyed quesadillas de Huitlacoche (zucchini flower in English). These were amazing, and something that we had never tried!
The stop at El Pollo was a bit longer than the rest since we had a real table with seats, which was really nice, and after we finished, we left this area of the market and walked through the prettiest courtyard with the prettiest church. Just outside of the courtyard area is the dessert section of Merced Market!
The dessert section of Merced Market is called the Mercado de Dulces and its super old and super famous! While the dessert section is very pretty to photograph and explore, there are tons of bees, as this is old school candy not in any sort of packaging. We got to pick out a bag of candies to go! They were very, very pretty and crazy sweet.
We left Merced Market proper after the Mercado de Dulces, crossing what must be one of the busiest streets (!!) in Mexico city, and then proceeded to walk through the Merced neighborhood, which, contrary to some scary online reading, is quite charming, at least during the day. We saw a real live tortilla factory and tried some tortillas fresh off the line!
We then stopped for homemade ice cream (tres leches with strawberries cotija cheese with black berries) or sorbet (passion fruit or lime). We also got to try all of the flavors. The cotija cheese with black berries was AMAZING, but I ended up going lime sorbet because (i) I was soo stuffed; and (ii) it was really hot! The ice cream is homemade by a family almost every day and one of the sisters sells just a couple streets down!
Our tour ended in Merced at a very cute and hipster cafe called Roldán 37. Roldán 37 is located in an old, restored mansion and its gorgeously decorated. At our final stop, we ordered micheledas (when in Mexico?) and tried the Pastel de Dioses, a mix of avocado, requesón cheese and chapulines. This dish was really tasty and one of my favorites on the entire tour! The requesón cheese was so, so, so tasty!
In the end, the Merced Market tour was awesome and gave us the opportunity to explore a part of Mexico City that we otherwise may have skipped! I would definitely recommend this tour to foodies, but go hungry! I would not recommend this tour to novice travelers or pick eaters.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Eat Mexico: The food tour of Merced Market ($90 USD/person). Book in advance online, as the tours are extremely limited and often book up. The company speaks perfect English and is very responsive. I would note that despite their warnings about the Merced Market tour, it is not nearly as dangerous (or dramatic) as they make it out to be on the website.
Tacos McTeo. Cecina enchilada tacos with cactus, onion and fries. Location: In the banquetón (the large food hall that runs the perimeter of the market), near Aisle 16.
Fried Tamal. Location: Banquetón, between Aisle 14 & 15.
5 Hermanos. Tasty tacos de suadero. Location: Banquetón, at Aisle 9.
Señora Edith’s Pre-hispanic Ingredients. Chapulines, jumiles and more. Location: Nave Mayor (main fruit and vegetable building), between Aisle 12 & 15.
Tacos de Cabeza (Beef Head Tacos!). Location: Outside the Nave Mayor, in the road that runs between the market and the meat section.
El Pollo. Quesadillas de Huitlacoche. Location: In the center of the market Aisle.
Mercado de Dulces. Candied fruits, caramel-filled wafers, coconut-filled limes and much more! Location: Circunvalación, between Misioneros and Ramón Corona.
Ice Cream. Deliciously homemade, tres leches with strawberries, cotija cheese with blackberries, passion fruit or lime sorbet. Location: On the corner of Talavera & República de Uruguay
Roldán 37. A restaurant in a restored mansion. We ate the Pastel de Dioses, a mix of avocado, requesón cheese and chapulines. Location: Roldán 37, between República Uruguay and Repúbica El Salvador.
ON A BUDGET
For Mexico City budget travelers, the Eat Mexico food tours cost a lot of pesos. That being said, the tour is comprised of a lot of food (enough for pretty much the entire day) and is a fabulous way to safely explore Merced Market.