Life & Leisure

Uruguay’s oldest market embraces global gourmet cuisine

By Alejandro Prieto

Montevideo, Aug 7 (EFE).- The oldest food market in Uruguay has reinvented itself in line with the global vogue for bringing together the best of the culinary traditions of every culture.

Established in the 1850s in the center of Montevideo, the Mercado de la Abundancia (Market of Abundance) was destroyed by a fire in the late 19th century, but resumed operating in 1909 in a new steel structure erected on the same site.

Inspired by Les Halles in Paris, the building has come to be regarded as one of this capital’s architectural gems.

In 1996, new management decided to broaden the mission of the market, adding cultural and artistic elements that include a crafs market, writers’ space and dance classes.

While those enhancements drew people, trade at the food stalls dwindled and five years ago, the merchants opted for a new approach that culminated in 2019 with a grand re-opening as Mercado del Inmigrante (Market of the Immigrant).

One entrepreneur who clearly believes in the global gourmet concept is Gonzalo Santos, owner of the Cafe Central coffee shop and Octopus Sushi & Wok.

Tucked into a new wing of the market, next to a nearly complete mural with images of Uruguay’s national bird, the tero, and iconic figures such as Carlos Gardel, chef Matias Franzini offers up local dishes at El Bodegon de los Orientales.

Another of the market’s restaurateurs, Mauricio Palacios, tells Efe that he decided to take a chance on relocating his Q’Paso Pana eatery to Mercado al Inmigrante after the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible to stay open in its home of eight years.

Q’Paso Pana features a mix of traditional favorites from Mexico, Venzuela and Colombia.

“This is a new stage for us and for any of us who are in the market because it’s post-Covid and its a risky investement, we don’t know what is going to happen,” he says.

Santos, while also realistic about the prospects for success given the absence of foreign visitors because of the pandemic, points out that the market is seeing plenty of foot traffic.

“We think that as right now, what’s left for people to do is go out to eat or have a coffee – because you can’t go out to party (in clubs), you virtually can’t travel – people are going out a lot to share moments,” he says. EFE


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