MEXICO CITY — The best time to visit Mercado Roma Coyoacán — the new three-floor food hall made up of 42 different vendors in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán — is during a televised soccer game. As the scent of simmering pork and just-heated corn tortillas lingered in the air, the cries of “gooooooaaaaallll!” from the various TVs echoed through the space as patrons fist-pumped and high-fived one another.
A 15-minute walk from Coyoacán’s leafy Plaza de la Conchita, the market, like its four-year-old sibling in the Roma neighborhood, is an upscale take on the salt-of-the-earth food stalls that have long existed in various neighborhood markets throughout the capital. Here, though, visitors can devour a delicious mishmash of foods and fusions from all over Mexico and the world.
At La Botica del Té you can order a tea infusion based on your astrological sign. An Italian stand serves “Italian tacos” (meat and veggies wrapped in a thick tortillalike piadina, a specialty of Emilia-Romagna). Or at Kome, you can eat a sushi burrito. Then there are regional offerings: cemitas from Puebla, tacos from Yucatán, and, of course, grasshoppers (a classic market snack).
I steered clear of both insects and gastronomical mash-ups. I instead sampled above-average chicken enchiladas smothered in Oaxacan mole and sprinkled with fresh white cheese at Lucy’s. At Kua 32 — the Nahuatl word for “to eat” plus the number of states in Mexico (including the capital) — I scarfed down a taco stuffed with carnitas made from duck instead of the usual pork. At Tacos Áribes Tripoli, I grazed on a taco Arabe: lamb meat shaved off a spit and served on a thick pitalike tortilla, the ancestor of the taco al pastor and a culinary fusion old enough to now be considered “traditional.”
I was largely satisfied. Then I plopped myself on a stool at Tetakawi, a spot representing the cuisine of Sonora, a northwest region hugging the U.S. border and the Gulf of California. Eduardo Arenas, the chef and owner (and a onetime contestant on the popular Mexican version of the TV show “Master Chef”), put a taco filled with grilled octopus doused in a barbacoa sauce in front of me. The taste was sensational: a salty fresh sensation of the sea fused with an earthy smokiness from the sauce.
Next I tried the chimichanga perrona, a deep-fried burrito filled with marlin, shrimp, güero chili peppers and queso crema.
“'Perrona’ could be loosely translated as ‘extraordinary,'” he said.
Indeed. The fried exterior of the tortilla belied a soft and juicy interior: the creaminess of the cheese, the snap of the shrimp, the freshness of the marlin and a slight kick from the chili.
“Chimichangas are really popular in Sonora and northern Mexico,” Arenas said, “and they usually have pork or beef in them, but I love cooking with seafood so I did my own take.”
I capped off my visit by stopping by Cafexolgía, which marries alcohol and coffee. As I sipped on a cup of a mix of rum, horchata, cinnamon and espresso, the televisions began to blare again with cries of “goooooaaaallll!” Finding Mercado Roma Coyoacán was, indeed, a score.
Mercado Roma Coyoacán, Miguel Ángel Quevedo 353; mrc.mercadoroma.com; dinner for two, without drinks or tip, is about 400 pesos (around $20).