Mercado de Abastos is one of the large covered buildings crowded with small shopkeepers in Guadalajara, a smaller cousin of the Mercado Libertad. I love these places—bustling, chaotic, friendly and often exotic. I'm here with Clint and our hostess Moni for breakfast.
You can't order a grand slam breakfast in a place like this. Or yogurt and fruit. People here work too hard to survive on such light fare. They know that breakfast should consist of meat and something made out of cornmeal. Anything less is simply inadequate.
The reason for my visit is to try a dish that is new to me: enfrijoladas. My order starts out with slices of ropy-looking beef. The meat is broiled over a charcoal fire until nicely browned and infused with a wonderful smoky flavor.
The cook chops and rolls the meat into a large, freshly-made corn tortilla. You can see the uncooked beef stacked in front of her chopping block.
The rolled tortilla is bathed (bañado as Mexicans say) in a sauce made of beans. Sounds unexciting, doesn't it. That's what I thought before I tucked in.
Usually when I wrinkle my nose at some Mexican dish, I turn out to be wrong. Enfrijoladas turned out to be one of the tastiest meals I have eaten. Better yet, they'll last you until dinnertime. This is substantial food.
Regulars at this stand who have tired of grilled beef enfrijoladas can opt for other fillings; say, beef tongue or tripe.
I'll stick with the grilled beef, thank you.
Food concessions in mercados consist mostly of kitchens with narrow counters and stools jammed next to each other. They're not the French Laundry by any means, but in my opinion, they're much more fun, and cost approximately 97% less than exclusive Napa Valley restaurants.
Photo: CLint Hough
Mercado food used to frighten me. But I've never had any trouble with it. I've contracted food poisoning and other ailments any number of times in classier, sit-down restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, but never at one of these lunch counters.